Advising · Social Role

Week 6: The Modern Journalist

The battle between the press and the President has been mind-boggling to those of us who understand journalism and the need for it. Seeing your profession, something you believe in, tarnished by the most high-ranking citizen is gut-wrenching and infuriating.

The lack of trust in modern media is disheartening, but at the same time, I understand it. When so many publications focus on the need to be first and make careless mistakes, I understand why the general public is losing faith in our media. When publications choose to cover flashy celebrity gossip rather than focus on world trade trends or the effect humans have on the environment, I understand why people lost interest in current affairs.

The issues are two-sided. People ask for entertainment with their news, and the publications try to make it happen. People want their news fast, and the publications race to make it happen. People don’t want to read longer stories because they get bored or don’t have time, so publications cut their words short and enlarge their graphics and photos to pull the reader in.

What’s the result?

“The media isn’t what it used to be.” “Journalists only care about entertainment and being first.” “They make so many mistakes and never get it right.” “There is no depth any more. Publications all use the same quotes and just reprint each other.”

Because of what the people asked for, modern media found itself in the worst possible position when the term “Fake News” erupted. Because journalists let the people decide what they wanted to know about rather than what mattered, our society has had to struggle through media distrust and confusion. It’s really frustrating to look at where journalism is right now and how the general population chimes in with criticism when the general population is largely responsible for why media is the way it is.

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Advising · Social Role

Week 5: Sensitive Topics in Journalism

Opioid addiction. Racism. Gender equality. These are some of the topics my students have tackled in their In-Depth section of our monthly newspaper over the past few years. As the editors running the section get the feel for what topics they can address, they tend to get more ambitious and critical of the administration and the adults who run their world.

It’s definitely not a bad problem to have. I love their ambition, drive and feelings of moral responsibility and obligation to their peers to find and deliver the truth. These are the ingredients for strong journalists and free thinkers.

The issue of covering sensitive topics doesn’t come from my students, but rather the administration. The year before I was first hired, there had been a lawsuit against a teacher for ignoring bullying in her classroom. The students had tried to cover bullying issues in the newspaper and were immediately shut down. They lost their spirit for awhile, from what I could gather. When I came into my district, I found a group of intelligent students who were too afraid to take on sensitive topics in fear of losing their paper. I quickly went to work to mend relations between the admin and my program, and we have made some major strides which have allowed the students to feel comfortable covering sensitive topics.

I think one of the most important factors to covering sensitive issues is that you recognize it is sensitive and cover it accordingly. You don’t confront the administration with a list of accusatory questions. You don’t set out to ruin someone’s reputation or get someone fired. You set out to inform your peers in hopes of making your community a better place. Sensitive topics need to be covered, but they often require a sensitive touch and the ability to understand other people’s perspectives and the potential consequences of publishing content on such stories.

Advising · Social Role

Student Press: Information Collection

When it comes to training our students on how we want them to collect information, I think we advisers find ourselves in an interesting time. Ideally, students will collect their own information. They will go to an interview with a recording device, a list of potential questions, and a pad of paper and a pencil. They will do their own research, look through databases, read through records and meeting notes. When they write their stories, they will have a nice stack of notes from their research and interviews that we can reference and revisit, in case anyone needs to confirm information.

However, that is not what happens in my newsroom.

My students text other students last minute to confirm information. They hop onto Instagram or Twitter to message their prospective subjects. They would prefer to email a list of questions to the person they are covering rather than sit down for 20 minutes and ask them face to face. As technology advances, it has become increasingly difficult to convince my students of the need to collect their own information in a reliable and first-hand way.

When I teach my introduction students, I explain the necessity of having real interviews. We talk about how text can be misconstrued or misinterpreted. We look at how easy it is to miss important information without follow-up questions. As I think more and more about this issue, I see how it relates to the fake news dilemma and the struggle to find reliable sources in this day and age. I know we, as journalism advisers and responsible consumers of the media, will continue to try to teach students how to consume and create responsible news, but it seems like we keep getting further and further into this rabbit hole…

Advising · multimedia · Web Design

Journalism adviser finally embraces multimedia

Ten years ago, at the age of 16, I remember one of my fellow editors in the newspaper classroom adamantly explaining to us why we needed to create a website for our publication. Even my adviser at the time didn’t understand how, or more importantly why, this needed to happen, but Adam insisted, and off he went to create FHNtoday.com, now a Pacemaker award-winning site that is updated daily and visited by thousands.

As I stepped into the advising role nearly four years agoago, I always knew web and video would be something I would have to conquer. Despite my love for writing, design and photography, there are simply forces out there (namely video, broadcast and endless combinations of media) that can better tell some stories than a newspaper can.

I have dabbled with web over the years, SNO and WordPress mostly, and I can shoot and edit video in a self-taught, thank-you-imovie kind of way, but the idea of getting my students to master those skills has always seemed like a daunting task. Their focus is on the print publications, so getting them to see the potential in web and multimedia has always been a struggle for me. I am eager to learn how I can combine online with print, and how I can help my students make that move.

Additionally, I began teaching a mobile journalism course last semester, and I definitely want to learn new tools. I hope to learn how to create podcasts so I can share that with my students. I would love to learn more about video editing software and how to best combine video, stories and other media in a way that will attract our readers.

It’s obvious from the readings, even more so after taking the surveys, that print isn’t where people get their news anymore. Students may look forward to reading our monthly newspaper while they are at school, but if something important happens, they don’t wait until the third Wednesday of the month to learn about it.

If we want to stay relevant and up to date with issues facing our student body, then we need to immerse ourselves in the mediums that students are using to get their information. Much in the way we combine text with photos on paper, my students and I need to learn how to take advantage of all of the digital storytelling tools available to us.

Right now our student website, LadueLead.com, is still in it’s beginning steps, I would say. Students are learning how to post content to the site, which is definitely an improvement from last year, but the content being published is similar to what you could find in a newspaper: stories and pictures. I hope to learn ways to push myself out of my comfort zone of stories and photos so that I can teach my students to do the same thing.

Ten years ago when the publication I worked for went online, I didn’t really have much to do with it. Now, however, I want every publication student to be involved with the website, but first I need to learn how to create content that will interest our students, and still tell the stories we want to tell but in the best way possible.

multimedia · Photography

About My Multimedia Course

As I round the corner to finishing my masters degree in Journalism Education at Kent State University, I find myself learning about things I desperately need to know in order to best prepare my students for life as a modern journalist. One of my final courses will cover multimedia and the various ways to transmit information apart from the ole’ newspaper. I am looking forward to documenting my journey through this course, and this is predominately what will fill this page over the next four months.

Social Role

Week 2: Should we compromise journalism standards?

In short, no. Absolutely not. Compromising journalism standards is a quick and slippery slope that would no doubt lead to a sad end of fact-based journalism.

What we need is a new, whole-hearted dedication to the standards of journalism and reporting. We need each and every new reporter to understand why fact-checking matters. We need journalists who aren’t as concerned with being first as they are about being right. In a society that has become reliant on instant information, we journalists need to take the time to check that information, do the digging, and come up with the entire truth and context so that the people are informed.

In this day and age, the amount of information available to the public is staggering and terrifying in terms of the inaccuracies and half-truths. My parents frequently repost utter non-sense on their social media and they believe it’s factual. People don’t take the time to double check stories or facts– so we journalists need to.

I also really enjoyed the idea behind the mirror and candle’s theory piece we read this week. I think providing the public with clear, unbiased information is the first job of the journalist. However, by researching and reporting on these topics, I also think the journalist is more informed than the average citizen. Editorial writing can be very powerful and it can call for action, something essential for change.

Social Role

Week 1: Current State of the Social Role in Modern Media

After reading through several guiding principles that have been created over the years to help ensure publications are posting honest, relevant and useful content, I find myself becoming more and more frustrated with the media I see on a daily basis. I think context, more than anything, is left out in news stories, especially when the driving force has a political agenda. It’s hard to defend a profession when we see these mistakes made on a nearly daily basis. “Well, yes, that publication is corrupt, but this one isn’t,” just doesn’t make for a solid argument.

In a perfect world, all news stations, newspapers, newsmagazines and news podcasts would adhere to the same rules, but it just doesn’t seem to be the case. The level of social responsibility publications feel definitely differs; some may hold true to the original intent of journalism: to get the truth out there to the people so that they can make informed decisions, but several see themselves in a more powerful, agenda-setting position where they decide what gets told and what gets buried.

I think we are at an interesting point in the journalism world, because the need for clear, unbiased, factual news has never been greater with so many inaccurate stories and confusion out there. But the trust in the media is dwindling and the perceptive need for the career is lower because people think that “anyone can be a journalist” thanks to smart phones and social media. But that is such a flawed state of mind. Almost everyone has access to a stove and ingredients, but can anyone be a chef? I have paint and paper, but that doesn’t mean I can be an artist. Journalists are more than the ability to publish content to a large audience, and I think a major part of what makes a real journalist different than anyone with a smartphone and a Twitter account is their ability to consider how their content will affect the public and what their responsibility is to the American people for which they work. Unfortunately, it seems as though these ideals are not held by all professional journalists.