Monday, January 19, 2009

There's a very specific hierarchy in any newspaper. Essentially it's this: The publisher is boss. If he or she doesn't like it, then it changes. For a while now, we've also been relying on this power to get journalism out of this mess. This obviously hasn't amounted to much.

It's time to admit that the responsibility of saving the media really lies in every journalists' hands. Gina Chen at Save the Media blog has a post entreating journalists to step up to the plate. Most of us have been fully happy with waiting until our company gets around to asking us if we want to learn anything new. But a large problem seems to be that companies aren't there yet. They don't have the funds to train all employees, nor the psychic powers to know which ones are willing to train for new media jobs. To solve these problems, Chen points out steps that every journalist can take to help save the media:

  • Educate yourself: Only you have the power to jump-start your training in online journalism. It can be a simple as playing around with your newspaper's video camera (with permission of course) to starting your own blog, just to get a feel for the medium.

  • Reach out to others: There's likely to be someone at your paper with the knowledge to give you some unofficial training. It's all about experiencing something new so you can be that much more prepared to blow your editors away with an innovative suggestion.

  • Read, read, read: There are hundreds of blogs out there with wonderful tips on journalism and even more on the basics of navigating the online world. See my blogroll for some of my favorites. You can use those to find others and so on.

As Chen writes at the end of her post: "Be part of the solution."

Friday, January 16, 2009

The wonderful Bill Bryson

For the past couple months (and believe me you'll need that long if you don't have that much time to read) I've spent much of my free time reading the perfect book: A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson. I've blogged about this author before and have since spread an interest in him by using his books as gifts for several people.

To put it succinctly, this book is perfect. As the back of the book says, "Bill Bryson confronts his greatest challenge: to understand - and, if possible, answer - the oldest, biggest questions we have posed about the universe and ourselves." Though on the long side, it's chapters are written in more of an anecdotal form. This means you can pick up pretty much anywhere and not feel lost. And his anecdotes are a mixture of amusing and informational. With chapter titles such as "How to build a universe" and "The restless ape," readers get a sense of his simple, succinct wit and ability to dilute years and years of scientific history into a relatively short 475 pages in the paperback copy (we're talking billions and billions of years here!).

Bottom line
This is the book that will make you fall in love with Bill Bryson's writing style and make you welcome scientific and mathematical insights, even if you don't have the best handle on the two subjects.

Monday, January 12, 2009

New media

I've always been enamored with print journalism (as a previous post attests). The smell of the ink right off the press, the crinkle of newsprint, the inherent trust that I have for the printed word...It all brings me back to my roots. But print is heading out of style, mostly because of the price of upkeep. And what is replacing it? Online journalism, at its finest. What started as a bunch of uploaded articles from the print version, has turned into a dynamic feed of news that offers almost immediate updates and brand new ways of looking at news. From New York Times' dynamic feature on Election Day that showed how the audience was feeling about the election in real time to the Salt Lake Tribune's effort to put news on the map for readers, journalism is evolving at a rapid pace. And in fact, many traditional print journalists are, understandably, jumping ship to online.
The one thing that must be said is that we still need journalism. That much is obvious. But the creators of the new world of online journalism need to tread carefully. We can't fully abandon the principle of print just because we are working in a new medium.
According to Virginia Heffernan, writing her column The Medium in the Dec. 5 issue of the NY Times' Sunday Magazine:
"The third argument says we have to change. We have to develop content that metamorphoses in sync with new ways of experiencing it, disseminating it and monetizing it. This argument concedes that it’s not possible to translate or extend traditional analog content like news reports and soap operas into pixels without fundamentally changing them. So we have to invent new forms. All of the fascinating, particular, sometimes beautiful and already quaint ways of organizing words and images that evolved in the previous centuries — music reviews, fashion spreads, page-one news reports, action movies, late-night talk shows — are designed for a world that no longer exists. They fail to address existing desires, while conscientiously responding to desires people no longer have."

Her argument revolves around the assumption that readers don't want to see the features of a newspaper placed directly online. This argument is fundamentally true. But what we do need is to figure out how to translate the principles of newspapers to online media.
A new study sponsored by the Reynolds Journalism Institute and the Associated Press Managing Editors explores the so-called "online credibility gap" and what readers want from their online news. The report discovered many things, but one thing that is surprising is that many of the people surveyed said that online journalism benefits from the principles of print journalism. According to the report:
"Both the public and editors thought all the basics such as 'verifying information,'
'getting the facts right,' 'correcting mistakes,' and both journalists and users 'taking
responsibility for accuracy' should be practiced to support good journalism online."

Journalists should take note and realize that we can't abandon print journalism principles just because we've gone online. While we can stretch our creative processes and come up with some great ways to present the news, we will never have to worry about not being needed or wanted by the public. Offering accurate, unbiased news will always be considered important.

All that being said, I am now trying to decide whether to continue to pursue a print-heavy career, or to completely immerse myself in online journalism. I'm beginning to lean towards online just because of all the new and creative potential it offers for bringing the news to readers.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The plans

This is basically an update to this post, which was my original introductory post. Quite a few things have chanced since 2007, including my plans for this blog.
A few things you should know:
  • I graduated from college in May 2008, where I was the Editor in Chief of the school's weekly newspaper.
  • Since then I've been working as a copy editor at the Daily Press, a community-minded paper covering Hampton Roads, Virgina
  • I've also segued into page design and uploading stories/pictures to our Web site.

So with all that said, my purpose is to chronicle a young journalist's beginning in an industry that is quickly evolving. Through the journey I'll share my reflections on the medium and my experiences learning the new tools that journalists will need to survive. I'll begin by updating three times a week (MWF). Monday and Wednesday will always be about journalism and my quest to find my place in it, while Friday will be a grab-bag day. Friday's will include random finds on the net, reviews of books I'm reading, an exploration of a really neat article I've read or some photos I've taken recently.

So, welcome to the new Search for Truth.

Monday, January 5, 2009

I'm back...Cue the resolutions

Whew! Why that was a lovely break. Why did I need one? Well I was getting really obsessed with feeling the need to blog about every little thing that I see on the nets and feeling guilty when I do no have the time or energy to do so. I also needed time to remake this blog into what I want it to be: A voice on journalism and a young journalist's place in it.

I am sorry if I scared anyone with my last post. I'm never leaving journalism! I'm just unsure what my specific path in said career will be. I am currently enjoying my growing responsibilities at the Daily Press. I have quickly learned that being tasked with one specific job throughout the night makes for a very boring eight (or nine or 10) hours. But when I have many jobs (editing, designing, etc.) the night seems to fly and I am able to just enjoy working, instead of thinking about all the things that are worrying me.

So, I'm sure you're waiting eagerly for my conclusion. Well, to be honest I have finally made peace with the fact that I will not know where my path lies until I trip over it (Literally. I'm quite clumsy, you know). I can only try to prepare as best as I can. With that in mind, I am working on a few things:

  • Online Journalism: For Christmas I was given Adobe CS3 Design Suite and a couple of manuals for learning the programs within this package. I am working to become a pro at Dreamweaver CS3 and have a good handle on HTML and CSS so that I can then market those talents. In a side note, The Missing Manual series is really good. It manages to be succinct yet in depth, as well as serious yet, at times, amusing.
    My goal? To build an online resume of my work that I could then use in my job search as well as an example of my expertise.

  • Design: My version of CS3 includes InDesign. While this is the best program (in my opinion) for design, the industry is definitely using a few other programs. I have a version of Quark (basically the off-brand version of InDesign) that I hope to begin learning on soon. The Tribune company uses CCI (basically a publishing/linking system) that has its own program called LayoutChamp. My job has been letting me get more and more experience with this program and I can pretty much do everything necessary to function as a full-time page designer elsewhere.
    My goal? To begin building up my design clips so that I will be able to prove that I am qualified for such a position.

  • Teaching: The first step before I can become a professor is to get into and complete graduate school. Preferably I'd like to get all the way up to a Ph.D. in one fell swoop, but I know that may not be possible. So, right now I am trying to come up with alternative education routes that will take me closer to becoming a professor. My goal? Retake my GRE. I know I said I never wanted to take it again after I took it once and got a great score. But I barely studied for the first try and I'm curious to see how much my scores will improve if I actually buckled down to study. I'd also like to decide on a grad school now so I can plan my job search around places near the schools I'm interested in.

  • Photograpy: I'd like to return to my roots and get back into photography. I have so much around me to be inspired by. It's time I gave myself a chance to receive that inspiration. I'm also looking at building my skill in Photoshop so I can also edit my digital photos and eventually market those skills.

So I guess we can look at this list as a list of journalism-related resolutions. Good luck to me! And stay tuned for how I will soon be organizing this blog better and getting it in shape to be a good example of my work.