May 1, 2009

True Life thoughts

After watching the full documentary and doing a presentation on True Life and the girls featured who spent their identities online, I thought about recurring patterns of identity formation in relation to the articles and readings on the issue.

Shayla Thiel-Stern's book describes how girls adapted a different lifestyle simply through instant messaging, only to transform through more advanced communication techniques online. Even I assume a somewhat different identity online; I refer to myself in most of my online sites and memberships in online communities as The Sports Brain, a nickname I selected because of my passion and knowledge of multiple sports. However, I manage to balance my online activity with things people were accustomed to doing long before the rise of the Internet (going to movies, games, etc.)

A theory I developed about why men and women become so addicted to online ventures, based on the materials I read in class and articles outside of class, is a lack of acceptance in the regular community. Judy in True Life had a social anxiety disorder and would often seclude herself in the real world, leaving her family at a young age. Others had problems with family relationships and saw the online community as a way to fill in the blanks. If online users struggle to excel in certain skills, it may increase the chance of them turning to online addiction to RPGs or virtual networking sites in order to achieve acceptance and achievement in their lives. Using the Internet to promote yourself is not a problem, but it can be difficult to detect if someone has a problem with "overlogging on." I'm sure there's some scholarly research with online addictions and real world feelings. I just haven't found them yet.

April 30, 2009

In the name of democracy

The HBO documentary Hacking Democracy providing an interesting insight into the possibility of an election being hacked by people who didn't necessarily have to know software code. The fact that Bev Harris, a person who had little computer experience and no experience as a journalist discovers this could make people wonder why the professionals were unable to find what Harris did. However, their concern over vote tampering echoes the skepticism from some registered voters over electronic touch-screen systems.

While the findings, including the Hursti Hack, present a real problem in ensuring that votes do indeed count, the lack of any concrete examples of an election being hacked (which is complicated in itself as hackers can alter data without detection) likely won't change anything. The human consensus tends to follow the leader and ignore any problems they aren't familiar with until something drastic happens, causing things to change (talk of security holes circulated after 9/11 as people wondered how the attackers slipped through unnoticed). However, Harris' investigations did attract attention in some areas and she was contacted in 2006 to test touch-screen voting systems. Dan Gillmor might user Harris and Black Box voting as an example of interactivity giving power to the people and affecting change, especially given her lack of computer expertise prior to finding the vote tabulation software online.

March 13, 2009

A rise in the dollar means a drop overseas

In relation to globalization, a New York Times article reported on how a strengthening U.S. dollar can actually hurt foreign markets. In a nutshell, dollars invested in American government bonds means a dollar is taken away from eastern European and African markets as both regions also cope with a global recession.

The article is a clear-cut example of the dangers globalization can have; whatever happens in one geographic region will affect another, including a slumping economy. While focus in the United States targets job losses and the shrinking economy domestically, news outlets will occasionally provide reports of what's happening overseas, where the picture isn't much better. In fact, many economists now rely on Asian market activity (they're ahead in time zones) to predict what will happen with the Dow Jones.

Although the class discussion on globalization has passed, it doesn't mean the topic is irrelevant as many students eye graduation and fear the future with most of the world hurting economically.

Follow-up on "Growing Up Online."

Prior to the midterm, I watched the remainder of the Frontline documentary "Growing Up Online" to see if there was anything interesting to note before the exam. Although I was watching it with a purpose to immerse myself with the knowledge necessary to score well, I found one segment peculiar.

Cyber-bullying is still new, but the segment I watched mirrored another case of suicide caused by cyber-bullying in the news, where a 13-year-old girl hanged herself after someone else's mother played a cruel joke on her. In many ways, I believe this form is more dangerous because if the perpetrators can cover their tracks, it can be very difficult to stop (people can simply switch screen names or use the screen name of another person on their buddy list to evade detection).

The documentary also touched on school fights and other forms of bullying uploaded to YouTube. Unfortunately (due to their own negligence), those responsible are sometimes arrested and charged with assault as they essentially upload evidence of their own actions; as was the case in Florida where several girls participated in attacking another teenage girl.

I'm aware that cyber-bullying gets media coverage here and there, but the topic itself could make a solid episode of Frontline, because unlike sexual predators who try (and usually don't succeed) luring children, bullies may be harder to ignore because teens are generally dealing with peers and won't see them the same way as total strangers.

February 20, 2009

The state of newspapers

Watching segments of the Frontline episode on the changing dynamic of newspapers and reading the related texts was nothing new for me. The material wasn't boring, but I've followed the continuing decline of newspapers where nothing seems to work to make them profitable again.

To elaborate on the discussion proposed Wednesday, I believe local ownership is necessary for news quality and management. Avista took over the Star Tribune without much media experience, and the paper has since filed for bankruptcy, compared to its McClatchy days when it weathered the storm beating on other papers. Corporations operate nationally and have difficulty targeting local demographics; they have to cater to a more generic group.

However, even if all ownership was local, the future looks bleak for newspapers. Two fatal errors was lack of anticipation for new media and offering all its content for free. That's not to say readers should pay for it, but a model where bloggers and other aggregates would pay a fee to link a newspaper's stories online would certainly help bring dollars in. However, solving declining readership is even tougher. While stations and websites do link to newspapers, the speed that news can be transmitted often makes newspapers obsolete as far as getting there first. By the time you read the morning headlines, you likely heard about all of them either on TV or online.

The whirlwind continues to blow and the outlook is grim. For now, most media outlets will likely limp through the recession until things get better, and that is a serious threat to the quality of journalism.

February 17, 2009

Critiquing Andrew Keen

Keen was the focus of last week's lectures with his general criticism of new media, including citizen journalism and other user-generated content. He claimed that these people only add clutter to the Internet because they don't have the professional training that working journalists and other masters of the field have.

Keen does have a point in that regard. The most popular videos on YouTube aren't those created by professionals, but amateur-quality videos that offer little substance, including "Evolution of Dance." Other popular videos include music videos and other content that entertains rather than informs.

However, Keen overlooks the impact users have with mainstream media, as people like Dan Gillmor are ready to point out how the citizen is proving to be an influential force. It was the blogosphere that caught Trent Lott's pro-segregation comments in 2002 and CBS' reporting mishaps regarding George W. Bush's military record in 2004. YouTube became a household name when a campaign opponent of George Allen posted a video where he used the term "macaca," costing Allen his Senate seat.

Keen's arguments certainly position him as an elitist or stuck to old ideas. New media can be a successful counterpart to the traditional forms if they're utilized for democracy and not simply as a space where people can watch babies laughing and cats playing pianos. While they may get a laugh, they support Keen's argument about new media hurting us instead of helping us.

December 10, 2007

International Story 12/9 EU ministers debate Kosovo's future

Kosovo remains a province of Serbia, but ethnic Albanians are threatening to declare independence once a deadline posted by the United Nations passes. Ministers from the European Union will meet to discuss its future and NATO will keep its 16,000 troops to deter any clashes.

The BBC uses a direct lead and follows an inverted pyramid format, spending most of the story on the recently failed negotiations and reporting on a previous flare-up three years ago as the BBC mentions the myriad of plans from foreign ministers regarding Kosovo's status. In the final news bloc, Iran's nuclear programming, an unrelated issue, is also reported.

Middle East news outlet Al-Jazeera also uses a direct lead, but uses it to report an assertion from Russia that the deadline is not a binding one. The first news bloc then follows the same direction as the BBC version. Al-Jazeera, when quoting sources, also uses partial quotes more frequently than other outlets, often mixing paraphrasing with a quote. The majority of the Al-Jazeera story focuses on the effort to make Kosovo an independent nation before the pyramid style directs readers to highlight which EU members fear recognizing Kosovo as a nation.

December 9, 2007

National Story 12/9 Oprah seeking to lift Obama

Talk show host Oprah Winfrey joined Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama on tour Sunday in South Carolina as Obama competes with New York Sen. Hillary Clinton, the front-runner for the Democratic nomination.

Although Oprah's support could bring the South Carolina primary to a dead heat, Clinton leads Obama in the polls, the main news value in theAssociated Press report of the story was Obama's remarks towards his audience. The article is developed in the style of covering a speech, where observations on the mood of the crowd, estimates of crowd size and anecdotes from speeches made by Obama and Winfrey occupied the first half of the article. The second half of the story examine's Winfrey's feelings about going on the campaign trail.

Reuters uses more of an anecdotal lead to drive the story with its main news value reporting predictions on black voter turnout in South Carolina. Obama is not attributed until a few paragraphs later. Both articles interviewed a speech attendant, but the Reuters differed by interviewing an institutional source after introducing data showing Clinton's lead has shrunk in the last few months.

Local Story 2 12/9 Vikings win fourth straight

All the scoring happened in the 1st half and Adrian Peterson was held to three yards rushing on 14 carries, but the Minnesota Vikings got the job done with a 27-7 win over the San Francisco 49ers Sunday, forcing five turnovers.

Beat reporter Kevin Siefert uses an anecdotal lead and discusses what he believes are two groups of teams that emerge as the season comes to a close. Some interviews with Vikings players and head coach Brad Childress are used, but the article is more of an analysis describing the transformation of the Vikings since they were 3-6 four weeks ago.

There were also two Associated Press feeds of the game. The first was a short piece where the key plays were reported, very much like a highlight reel on newspaper. The second was more of a mix between reaction and reporting, although neither article interviews anyone from either team. A detailed breakdown follows the main news value in the second AP article.

Local Story 1 12/9 Chisholm woman killed in Colorado shooting

A 26-year-old Chisholm woman was killed from a gunshot wound at Youth With a Misson Center in Arvada, Colorado. Another person died and two more were killed in a separate shooting in Colorado Springs. An investigation is underway to see if the two are related.

Julianne Olsen of KARE 11 wasted no time developing an obituary style story for the 10:00 news, where an anecdotal lead featuring the aspirations of Tiffany Johnson, the Minnesota woman who was killed. Olsen gets a lot of information about Johnson despite only talking to one source and breaks her story up with details on the other victims in the Arvada shooting.

The Associated Press stuck with a direct lead on the Arvada shooting before briefly reporting on the Colorado Springs shooting. After using the first main news bloc, two more supplement the story. The first was a description of the gunman and reports from people who talked to students at Youth Wish a Mission Center. The following news bloc goes into the obituary style that Olsen composed for KARE-11.

December 3, 2007

International Story 12/2 Venezuelans reject Chavez's referendum

In a fiercely contested referendum on Sunday, voters said "No" to reforms that would have scrapped term limits on Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez's rule, given him control over foreign currency reserves and boosted his powers to expropriate private property. About 51 percent of voters voted against the referendum as more than nine million of Venezuela's 16 million registered voters went to the polls.

CNN goes with a direct lead, mixing quotes from Chavez throughout the story, only getting one quote from the opposing side. Details on what Chavez did and observations, including thousands of people who gathered to sing the country's national anthem, make up the bulk of the story. The article ends explaining how the referendums would have affected power in Venezuela had they been approved.

Reuters reported their version of the story in a way not often seen in articles; their lead is almost split into two paragraphs. The first simply states that voters rejected Chavez's referendum, the second gives more details about when and what happened. Like the CNN story, Chavez remains the main news value for the duration of the article, ending it by informing readers that despite the defeat, Chavez still holds enormous power in Venezuela.

National story 12/2 BCS selections made, it's LSU vs. Ohio State

On the national sports scene, Ohio State will get a chance for redemption after last year's blowout loss to Florida in the Bowl Championship Series National Title Game where they will face LSU after BCS selections were made Sunday. Ohio State, who plays in the Big Ten conference where no championship game is held, got help from losses by No. 1 Missouri and No 2. West Virginia on Saturday. The title game will be played January 7th, 2008.

The San Francisco Chronicle took an approach many newspapers did following the BCS selection; sending a reporter to cover the story and reaction from college personnel on the results, followed by analysis of the selections with arguments for and against them. For the article, the lead plays out the dichotomy of no college football games on Sunday when the results are released. Only two sources are used for the story, with the article focusing more on the controversies that have surrounded the BCS selections in the last few years.

Pat Forde of ESPN offers more of a columnist recap in his article, reflecting on the college football's never-ending fountain of upsets that began when Appalachian State defeated Michigan in the first week. The second half of the story offers his opinions of the BCS selection system. A lot of games are attributed, although no interviews are conducted.

December 2, 2007

Local Story 2 12/2 Vikings back in playoff race

Three weeks ago, the Vikings looked like they were headed for the exits. Now, after a 42-10 victory Sunday over the Detroit Lions that was fueled by scoring 28 points in the second quarter alone, the Vikings are in a three-way tie for the second NFC wild card playoff spot with a 6-6 record.

An Associated Press story focused the lead on star rookie running back Adrian Peterson, who returned after suffering a leg injury three weeks ago against Green Bay. Typical with recaps of NFL games, the writer mixes in statistics with storytelling, reporting on the reversals of fortune for both teams (Detroit was 6-2 four weeks ago and now have lost four straight). Once the storytelling is done, the key stats are listed for those interested in player performances.

Kevin Siefert, beat writer for the Star Tribune, makes a joke for his lead as the Vikings by saying they were clinging to a 32-point lead midway through the third quarter, an almost insurmountable margin by that point. Continuing on the "fun" aspect of ripping the opponents apart, Siefer brings the human element of the story into play when the article talks about Kenechi Udeze's interception return that was halted by his slow-motion run; he got tackled from behind. He ends the article on a more serious tone with another player reaction as safety Darren Sharper commented on how good the Vikings can perform if running on all cylinders.

Local Story 1 12/2 Pipeline explosion kills two

Two welders were killed Wednesday in an oil pipeline explosion in northern Minnesota. The cause is still yet to be determined, but the explosion isn't expected to affect oil prices, although crude oil did rise $4 on Wednesday before fears were settled.

An Associated Press feed was brief, a quick surface story going over the most vital details of the case. The lead begins with an update on the news and then recapping what occurred on Wednesday before elaborating on further details about the section of pipe that will be investigated.

Scott Goldberg of KARE-11 emphasized his story on the victims who were killed, reporting it as something that can't be repaired. A few paragraphs are spent reflecting on the victims from Enbridge's vice president (Enbridge owns the pipeline) and one of the victim's father before shifting focus to how oil prices would be affected in the explosion, tailoring the story where people not related to the victims would be impacted.

November 26, 2007

International Story 11/25 Chess legend arrested for protest

A judge sentenced chess legend Garry Kasparov to five days in jail for organizing an unsanctioned procession Sunday. Kasparov's coalition, Other Russia, has accused Russian President Vladimir Putin for turning the country into a dictatorship. Kasparov believes the government is trying to harass him.

CNN wastes little time getting Kasparov's side of the story, one of his quotes makes the fourth paragraph after a set-up paragraph by the writer. It then follows with an explanation of just what is happening in Russian politics: Putin, who was elected twice, cannot run for president again, but many feel he will retain power in some form. The article ends with a United States perspective from the spokesman of the National Security Council.

Clifford Levy of The New York Times doesn't mention Kasparov's arrest until the second paragraph, instead giving a broader picture of the situation in Russia to put in the lead. There is a more thorough explanation in the article on Russia's affairs, reporting on Putin's popularity that has been aided by Kremlin control of government agencies and news media. However, interviews with sources are not very plentiful, although an opposition leader is quoted in the story. The overall tone suggests that Kasparov's arrest was only one branch of the main news value.