Friday, October 29, 2004

'Nader alley got a blog, too!

A University of Kansas journalism student stopped by to pay us a visit. She offered a link to KU's online producing class blog, which piqued (thank you, Mr. Fisher) my interest. And as I was peeking (again, thank you, Mr. Fisher) through their weblog, I discovered it indeed gave some great insight into the future of online journalism, something I know little about. We've discussed some of the online/convergence-type media in JOUR 325, but it was interesting to read their chronicles of hands-on experiences. A credible site, one similar in format to ours, that I recommend. 3 1/2 stars out of four.

Have a great weekend.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

Pondering the Future

This is my first post on the blog. After two months I have finally made the time and effort to write something. Whether or not what I have to write is any interest to anyone is another subject entirely. As an English major and merely a Public Relations and Film Studies minor, I feel like the minority of the bloggers with j-school. Actually, my relationship to the j-school is the subject of this post. The other day my fellow blogger, roommate, and best friend asked me why I am minoring in PR and what exactly I want to do with it when I graduate. When she asked me this question, I was stumped. What do I want to be when I "grow up"? Am I spending my four years wisely? Since I graduated high school (actually since my junior year in high school), my plan was to go to college (more specifically the USC Honors College) and major in English and/or Journalism. But I have never actually thought about what comes after that. So when she asked the question that never crossed my mind but now plagues my dreams, I simply answered, "I don't know." I can tell you all the things I really want to do, all the dreams that I secretly have and all the ideas bouncing in my brain about my future, but all my dreams seem impractical, unrealistic. The one thing I truly want to do with my life is to write creatively; it's as simple, as unadorned, as unimpressive as that. But that takes time, effort and, most importantly, connections. Maybe I will end up as the PR representative of a publishing company, or maybe, my second choice in my future career, I will be a film reviewer. But as of this moment, as of my sophomore year in college, I still have no realistic idea about what I want to do or what I want to be.

Creating Chaos

Julia's post about the disruption in her class troubles and puzzles me. What she describes has been reported, to one degree or another, at other universities -- including the so-called elite institutions. I believe I've seen the seeds scattered about here: Students blowing off classes, negotiating with instructors the number of excused absences or reasons for missing exams, appealing for grade changes because they're in danger of being disqualified for scholarships, coming to class hung over and reeking of alcohol, cheating and plagiarizing. What's going on, bloggers? Are we, faculty, too willing to reward the least amount of effort? Do large classes foster slackness? Does the course material lack challenge? Have standards of performance and rules of accountability become so blurred that they've lost their meaning? And when students act out in class, as Julia describes, do you feel robbed?

Professor Wiggins

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Chaos in the Classroom

So this post isn't about anything necessarily tied to J-school, but the appalling nature of students in one of my classes deserves a rant or two.

Our professor was going over the answers to our test we had just taken, so this is one of three or four days during the semester when the lecture hall will actually be filled. While giving the answer to a question, the class began to boo him about the answer. BOO HIM! How can you do that to a professor? And the outburst wasn't from just one unruly kid tucked in the back corner, this was a majority of the class acting out.

The question that received the outburst was about current battleground states for the election. The question was:
The key "battleground" states in this year's presidential election include:
a. New York, California and Florida
b. Colorado, Kansas and Wisconsin
c. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio
d. Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi

(The answer is C, and the question isn't really relevant to my rant, but I want bloggers to see how ridiculous students are.)

When the professor asked how many students answered A, over 75 percent of the class raised their hand. But, in the professor's defense, since most of the class has a political science or journalism major, they should have known the answer just from keeping up with current events.

When the professor tried to calm the class down, they just kept booing. It was like being stuck in the student section during a Gamecock football game, next to a lot of intoxicated guys, when an official makes a bad call.

Okay, to my rant. So the students in the class should be at least 17 or 18 years old. I'm pretty sure some even want to be future politicians. How can these so called adults treat a professor in such a manner? And this isn't even a professor that students loathe his class, but can't avoid taking the class. This is a wonderful professor who loves "The Daily Show", gives so much extra credit you could fail every test and not fail the class and doesn't take attendance.

Even if the question seemed tricky and students thought they should get credit for it, they should talk to the professor, email, phone, anything would have been more appropriate than booing. I know there are times when we as students get frustrated with tests and professors, but we are not 5, we don't boo them in class for a multiple choice question. I just think that students need to respect their professors, well just learn respect period. Professors deserve better than being booed, a lot better.

P.S. If you haven't spent the colder months in the Coliseum, it is always 20 degrees colder in the dungeon they call a J-school than it is outside. So even though it might be balmy and a nice 70 degrees, it is 50 degrees inside. So bring your coat and gloves and welcome to an early winter.

A "thanks" and a "reply"

Having Brock Meeks comment on A J-school Year was a flattering experience, and I assume that's a collective feeling among all of the "bloggers."

I am a staunch believer in the "contact theory." True in almost every business and especially important in journalism is the ability to make contacts. If we continue to post engaging, intellectual pieces, I believe we will attract and maintain healthy relationships with professionals-- and therein lies our opportunity. Of course, I realize that ultimately your job is only as good you are, but if you are good and want to get out of Tim-buck-two, it's all about who you know. Maybe I'm wrong and being overly optimistic, but I've had some firsthand experience with this scenario and found it to be true. It's one of the cold, hard facts of life.

With that said, I felt compelled to e-mail Brock Meeks to establish a sort of contact, thank him for his insightful thoughts, and urge him to continue commenting. I found it particularly interesting in his reply that Brock is educated with only a high school diploma. Read on.

And, I quote:

" Hi Graeme,

Please, call me "Brock"... "Mr. Meeks" is still my Dad's name and I'm not ready to steal the title from him just yet.

I will be back to the blog; I'd like to take some time and poke around inside. I think it's a worthwhile exercise, particularly if people are going to be candid and can do so without fear of reprisal from faculty.

J-school sort of fascinates me on a number of different levels; I never attended j-school. In fact, all I have is a high school diploma.

Now there's grist for discussion, eh? I learned all my chops--both the shoe leather reporting and the high tech side of it--simply by doing and never looking back. I choose good mentors and hounded them until they took me under their wing.

Ah, but that's a long story and one best told over a bottle of JD.

Cheers -- Brock"

Until next time folks, so long!

Why all the fuss? Here's why.

The notices from the media cognoscenti about Doug and the bloggers are well-deserved.
I suspect, however, that some might be wondering why all the attention, all the fuss?
I see two main reasons. One is practical; the other, philosophical.
As Doug has written before, using this medium to engage students in an exchange about their lives moves journalism instruction into an unexplored zone. That, in turn, interests media professionals and academics who are looking for innovations that might complement their own efforts. In addition, because many of you are posing questions that have a familiar ring to media folks, hashing them out is especially intriguing. Please keep it up.
The free exchange of ideas is civil society in action. Here at A J-School Year, the marketplace is open. And, as we've seen, what you post here -- be it about senior semester or student media -- resonates beyond this group of bloggers. But how far? Just imagine. The senior semester posting spurs someone to reflect on his own level of commitment to "the group" which in turn positively affects others' performance in his class, dormitory or neighborhood. Or, after reading the student media posting, a young lady reflects on her commitment to free speech / free press issues and decides to start a community group that critically reviews local and national media. The members of this group go on to be wiser and more capable media consumers and decision makers. The point is, we have no idea how far out the ripples will radiate.
For that reason, please continue to be as sincere and thoughtful in your postings as you have been. Craft them carefully, leave space for others and room for doubt.


Monday, October 25, 2004

The Real World

I have to admit it, this is my first post. I can't even make excuses for myself. Ah, the real world. Oh what it would be like to be a Gamecock again...Football games, 5 points and copy editing with Doug Fisher. Now I am gainfully employed at a small ad agency back here in Connecticut. Yes Connecticut, the little state next to the other little state of Rhode Island. Well, the preface of the job was to be something temporary until I move on to "big and better" things. I am getting paid, which is not helping in the motivation category. To make a long story short, I hate it. The agency is in the basement of a home, with a staff of 4 (including myself), and about 15 clients. Although the business appears to be successful, this is not what I pictured myself doing. I am not doing public relations, which is what I majored it! Not even close people. I mostly spend my days created Excel worksheets and emailing friends because I am so bored. I would much rather be busy all day long, then have time to kill. So, for everyone who is looking forward to leaving college and making money, it's not glamorous or exciting. Yeah, you aren't doing homework and going to class at some ridiculous hour, but you could be stuck doing something that you thoroughly despise. Hope all is well in South Carolina...My regards from Connecticut.

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Senior Semester is Driving me Crazy

Okay I really need to blow off some steam. Senior Semester has its bad days and good days but it seems lately more bad than good. You know the saying one bad apple spoils the bunch? Well we have at least one bad apple in our class. This person pulls the disappearing act all the time. There are 18 of us in the class and we all must contribute everyday to produce a half way decent newscast. But how can that be if Houdini likes to pull a disappearing act at least once a week. Hey, for those of you who decide to do the senior semester thing, there is no “I” in team. Get your hair done after class or on the weekend. Don’t go to MTV campus try outs at the last minute and then make it all hush, hush like you are covering some news enterprising story. MTV “wanna be a VJ” isn’t newsworthy. It doesn’t even deserve a package maybe a VO or a VOSOT.
Another thing, there will be different personalities to deal with so take my advice and deal with IT!! When you get to your first shop, everyone isn’t going to like you and your not going to like everyone but if you pull your weight on a daily basis, you will be respected in the newsroom. There will be some arguing, personality clashes and sometimes you may feel as if you don’t belong but that will pass and you will feel better after you vent a little. While you are in senior semester, please check your ego at the door I know I said this before but check your EGO at the door. After all, you are still a STUDENT. Listen to the instructors that will guide you through the program. They actually done this before…a little secret…they know more than you do. Check out their bios before entering the class and you will see what I’m talking about.
One more thing while some people may not take this course seriously others are depending on this experience to land them their first job as a producer, reporter, or anything relating to the journalism field. So please be on time to story meetings, have story ideas, and be ready to work.Oh yeah and you need to get some “thick skin” because criticism comes at you from every direction whether you want it or not. However, don’t give criticism unless you are asked some people take offense to it. In addition, if you feel the need to give constructive criticisms make sure it’s not infront of the rest of the class. After all, you are just a STUDENT. AHHHHHH that feels better. I will let you all know how things are going in Senior Semester. Don’t forget to vote.

H.S. journalism

The American Society of Newspaper Editors has a new site,, devoted to high school journalists and designed to recruit more students into the business. Anyone want to comment on what you see there? Would it have helped you?

There also are resources for teachers.

There's a companion site at which high school newspapers can submit work. The listings are by state, and there's some S.C. work on there.

Print v. Electronic -- Some thoughts

I was just going to add a comment to Tecla's earlier post and to the comment from the concerned high school student, but this is a subject so dear to my heart that I wanted to do a general post so that more people would see it.

First, you must understand that I am Exhibit 1 for crossing media. I started in radio (all-news KYW as summer help and after a short stint in Dayton out of school, moved to WOWO, another 5o kw Westinghouse powerhouse), moved to TV where I was an assignment editor and producer/anchor (and reporter/shooter when needed), then to a newspaper, where I covered environment/transportation/urban affairs and legislative matters, and then to 18 years at AP, where you do print and broadcast. I now blog and code Web pages, do a monthly column for press associations in various states, etc.

So I find this concern often expressed that somehow there is this gulf between print and electronic to be piffle. Those who stick to that belief are looking to become obsolete. Consider that ESPN expects its talent to also be able to contribute to its magazine and Web site, when necessary. CNN expects its talent to be cross-media when required. One large chain I know is preparing to make its broadcast reporters in smaller makets also shoot much more video and file for its Web sites, the latter of which requires print knowledge (by smaller, we're still talking Top 100). The Tribune Co. encourages its print reporters to appear on TV, and they do in greater numbers. During the early days of the Iraq war, at least one Chicago Tribune reporter was doing video phone reports. And scan some of the job ads -- more and more are requiring a commitment to work across media (it is actually being written into some performance reviews).

Now, TV is not print and print is not TV, and the Web is a little of both but its own thing as well. Darn few are going to become Jedi masters of all of this, and they shouldn't. For some further info on this, look at the Lessons from Newsplex series on my Web log, Common Sense Journalism. But shifting among them need not be all that difficult.

Why do I say that? Because for years, the AP hired primarily print people and gave them shifts on the broadcast desk. It still does. If you join the AP, chances are that within the first three months you will pull some shifts on the state broadcast desk. (Probably night shifts.) And for years, I and other news editors and broadcast editors (some, but not all, of whom were former broadcasters) effectively trained those AP people to produce serviceable broadcast copy.(Your reward for all this? Significantly higher salaries in the $600+-a-week range to start and quickly rising to almost $1,000.)

Is it polished? No, often it isn't. Is it usable? Ask the thousands of stations that still "rip and read," including our own SCETV Radio. Is it "TV"? Hardly. But it gets used by TV stations. And then again, much of TV isn't really good TV ... and video on demand is going to radically change its model in the next decade, which could mean much diminshed roles for anchors. (Check out WXXA in Albany that allows you to assemble your own newscast, or Feedroom's video on demand.)

So my thoughts:
  • Anyone who wants to be successful in journalism in the future still should get really good at one or two things. (If you want to do broadcast, for instance, learn how to do TV really well; if in print, learn multiple writing styles and, just as important, learn how to drill down deep into information fast.)
  • But you also need to be familiar with the other aspects. If you are a print reporter on a story, you will need to develop a visual eye. It not only will help your writing, but you might also have a photographer with you who shoots not only stills but video. Both of you working together instead of staying in your own "silos" will produce a much more effective story. If you are a TV reporter, you need to think about the Web and maybe print. You need to get more information than that 15-second SOT. Getting documents might be very important for the Web, where an interactive database using data you've gathered might be the better "story." And who do you think is writing those "headline" crawls? Both print and broadcast may have to think in terms of "sound," as the Web turns into the new radio.
  • The key term for the new information age will be rapid relevance -- the ability to get relevant information to your audience quickly and in whatever form that individual consumer desires. That means learning still other new things that we just now are exploring -- moblogging, effective link discovery/sorting/presenting, etc.
Little of this is here yet. But then again, the Web really wasn't "here" until a decade ago. And digital video is just becoming "here" at many stations. And newspapers didn't think they had to publish continuously on the Web or "daypart" information, both of which are becoming more common. You're training to get a job now, but to thrive in 10 years. Are you willing to take the chance?

As for salaries and job prospects: Sadly, it remains true that if you expect to get rich quick, go into biotechnology or some similar field. Lee Becker at the Unversity of Georgia, does annual surveys of the journalism job market. Here's the latest headline: Job Market for Journalism Graduates Remains Weak
The median salary has remained steady at about $26,000. Broadcast salaries remain among the lowest starting salaries (link to report on "salaries by employer type" (PDF document)).

Now, having said that, let me leaven it with this: The reason to go into journalism is not the writing (or the money), but the reporting. The writing is a tool, albeit an important one, to convey that information. You must love to get information -- to have doors slammed in your face, to be told no, to press on because finally getting to the bottom of it is an adrenaline rush. And we're not talking just investigative reporting here. Any story, if done well, has some aspect of that. In TV, it may be as simple as capturing just that right visual. But the principle is the same across media -- the true pros know how to get just the right stuff, no matter what medium they are working in.

I have seen too many who got into it for the "writing" only to fail to understand that reporting underpins all the writing, and when they came to realize that, it terrified some to the point close to nervous breakdown. Others rose to the challenge.

In college, take challenging courses. Stay alert. Know what's going on in all of journalism. Snatch at whatever opportunities come along to broaden and deepen your knowledge so that you get better and faster at what you do. Do not be myopic. In any field, those who really know their stuff will always do better because they will be fast and accurate. Maybe not at first. But in the long run, the race goes to the swift.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

In General

Being a journalism major and a great fan of media, in particular student media, I was happy to pick up the latest G&B magazine -- Carolina's student run quarterly. During my general page-flipping, I read what was hot (or not), viewed some student art and read a humorous bit about bar-hopping in 5 Points.

But then I turned to an article about the relation between South Carolina's STD rate and religion and saw the most disgusting and inappropriate pictures. One featured a girl straddling her male friend with her shirt half off and his hands in her thong underwear. Congratulations Garnet & Black for a stellar job in taste and decency.

Now I'm probably not the one to preach general decency -- I just drank a beer while taking a shower -- but these types of pictures are not needed in any magazine that is not sold in a plastic wrapper. The "lovers" faces cannot be seen and I'm pretty sure their parents are glad that their public romping is masked in anonymity.

I usually complain about where my student fees go (past rants have included WUSC and Student Government), but this takes the cake.

Is there a standard of decency followed in this "sex all the time in your face" culture? What is our level of responsibility? In my JOUR 202 class, we learned to not make people look like idiots....Apparently the "G&B" staff was absent that day.

I'm sure glad that the magazine is free, because I sure would have the first in line for a refund....Am I in the wrong here?

Friday, October 22, 2004

Dichotomy of Print Versus Electronic Journalism

I have a question.

I used to have a theory that a Print Journalism major can do broadcast journalism with fair ease: that it is just a bunch of wiring know-how and field experience. I was convinced that if you can write, you can do anything, including reading your writing to a camera and crew. But now I'm not so sure. Eventually, I want to do both. Or at least avert the proverbial "slamming door" of not getting the right degree for undergrad. I want to produce news.

1. What are the pros/ cons of Electronic to Print Journalism and vice-versa? Is one more marketable than the other? I've been told that the most money could be made in the newspaper business, is this true?

2. What direction is the news headed? Are "newspapers" on the verge of extinction? Should I consider this into my curriculum?

Another thanks

Thanks to Steved Rubel at Micro Persuasion for his nice post about J-School Year.

Micro Persuasion is a blog every journalist should check from time to time, but especially anyone in J-school planning to go into PR. Steve does a great job of tracking how the rise of micro publishing and citizen journalism is affecting marketing and PR. Check out this post, for instance, on a Mazda stealth marketing blog.

Thursday, October 21, 2004

An abstract legacy

It's difficult to write a legacy about someone you've never had a conversation with.
Two Sundays ago the Florence Morning News ran a piece I wrote for them about retiring Sen. Ernest "Fritz" Hollings (D-S.C.) -- front page with photos. The Richmond-Times Dispatch picked it up too. I was just glad to see it out there and off my computer.
The story began as a side project for me to work on when I had down time. I read up on Hollings and tried to pick out his biggest accomplishments, but we're talking about 56-year political career.
I started calling Hollings' press secretary weeks in advance of my deadline, but Hollings wouldn't talk to reporters. The press secretary told me to keep calling back, and before long, Ilene and I were on a first-name basis.
Since Hollings wouldn't agree to meet with me, I decided to go to him. After staring at biography photos for weeks, Hollings had become more a mythical creature than a senator, and it was time to move from research to stake outs. I sat through an environmental conference, hurried to the door as he exited and was the first reporter to grab him. I introduced myself, told him what I was writing and rushed to the most obvious question.
"Senator, is there anything you're most proud of in your career? What do you consider your biggest achievement?"
He gave me a look that said, "Who the hell are you?"and then jokingly answered, "Getting re-elected." He waved me off soon after and walked off, while half a dozen other reporters followed him with less colossal questions.
Ilene told me Hollings wasn't going to talk until after Congress recessed. In the meantime, my mentor, Gil, had helped me define my angle. We decided to have a cooperative second stake out, each covering one exit from the Senate floor. Gil called me and said to rush over to his side. I made it there just in time to see the back of Hollings' glistening white hair as he walked back into the chamber -- and Gil holding a tape recorder with his quotes.
With little material from Hollings, I talked to plenty of academics and people who had worked with him. Three days before my piece ran, Ilene called and said Hollings might be ready to talk the next week. The piece was already on our wire, so it was too late.
My story ran on a Sunday, and The Washington Post ran a personality piece, heavy with Hollings quotes, midweek. I called for the interview that week anyway, possibly for a second story, but Hollings was packing. And the next week he had to go to Charleston. And now I'm still planning for that interview -- maybe after the election, but I'm not holding my breath.

Thanks ... and another j-blog

Thanks to Tim Porter at First Draft for the nice comments about A J-School Year.

And as a result, we discovered another j-student group blog, jschool05.

Wednesday, October 20, 2004

That ol' poll

Just about everywhere you look these days, there's a poll. A poll for this, a poll for that, ratty-tat-tat, it's all about the polls. Want to know how many Americans bite their toenails? Well, why don't you just take a -yep, you guessed it-poll.

And being that it is an election year, the media is in poll overload. It's nearly impossible to find a newscast that doesn't mention some poll, whether it be a general-interest or, more probable, presidential poll. The problem? Just how accurate are these polls? And with thousands of different ones being thrown at viewers, which should they believe? My opinion is none, primarily because of their historical inaccuracies and biased motives.

For example, polls released today from ABC, Survey USA, and Fox News surveying which candidate is "leading" Ohio all have different outcomes. ABC and Survey put Sen. Kerry ahead, while Fox has Pres. Bush leading. Hmm...could it be a ploy by some of the major news organizations to further try and influence their viewers' opinions on the election? It's time for journalists to return to what they are meant to do- sort fact from fiction. If news organizations continually churn out biased news, then turn around and poll their victims, the viewers, I wonder how that poll might turn out? Take a guess.

So, my fellow citizens, this election season I ask that you be a tad more skeptical of the pollsters and their little bag-o-tricks.

Graeme Moore

P.S. I was just thinking that, uh, maybe I could take a poll of your opinions on this post?

Monday, October 18, 2004

No time for ZZZ's

I have to agree that sometimes classrooms are full of student's who assume its time to nap or get caught up in the latest Cosmo. On the other hand professors are stuck answering their own questions and reteaching the information to the same four or five students on the front row. It may have evolved this way due to intimidation by some professors or the fact that some massive lecture halls are jammed with students and professors ask that questions be asked after class or in his/her office.

However, I am reminded of my Media Law class in which we are forced to speak our opinion and read before coming to class. The professor does not allow anyone to sit on the back 2 rows in the auditorium and he calls random students and forces one to think critically about the subject/law case and relate it to a term. To put it bluntly: he puts you on the spot, he points his finger, he is demanding and he does everything but allow you to fall asleep in HIS classroom. He may even ask you to leave if he happens to catch you doing anything but listening. This is what I call an effective teacher, he challenges and he forces learning to take place. He also forces me to sit on the edge of my sit, always thinking, always prepared because I never know...

Now, that is what teaching is all about.

Tuesday, October 12, 2004

Dancing without a partner

Doug and I agreed that our postings to the blog would be limited to stimulating prompts and the occasional responses to intriguing comments. Now that we're closing in on mid-term, I'd like to take the liberty, once again, to share some thoughts from the other side of the desk.

Nothing delights university teachers more than a class of engaged, eager minds. Conversely, few things fill us with more dread than teaching the disengaged. It isn't the amount of work involved in teaching the latter group that we dread. It's the fear that what we, as teachers, have devoted our lives to leaves our students cold and we fear the lengths to which we'll go to warm you up.
Imagine you're at a party when a tune comes on that you really like and nobody will dance with you. You make a pass by all potential partners, but no takers. Your choices are clear. You can stand by the wall, nodding your head and snapping your fingers in a desperate attempt to keep the groove alive or you can go to the middle of the room and, with total abandon, spin around like a dervish, hoping that somebody will join you or at least those who turned you down will envy your joy.
Too often professors are the party nerds dancing without partners, even in a room of 200. To be fair, sometimes the class can't figure out the rhythm; it's too complex. Sometimes the beat is too fast, or too slow. Some instructors will break a sweat going over the steps. If after all this we still get no signs of life, we will change the record, hoping another tune will get you out of your seats.

Some instructors resort to theatrics or treats: execute handstands, enter the classroom on a skateboard, dress in period costumes or pass out pizza slices. Still others scream, curse like soldiers on furlough or pull on hand puppets -- just to raise a pulse in their students.

Dear bloggers, should it take all of this to get you to dance with us?

Monday, October 11, 2004


Whoa. I just got out of the Nickelodeon and am feeling slightly stunned.

Control Room is a movie made in the spirit Fox News-hating journalism junkies everywhere. The movie rejuvenated my sense of journalistic idealism. It made me truly believe that unbiased news is possible in our complex global community. Cough. But in truth, the movie was a pep talk. Like two hours of Pilates, it gave me a sense of strength, empowerment to incite change in the world around me and an overwhelming sense exhaustion.

The current state of media affairs is a bit shotty and we all know it.
When we finally become journalists, we are going to have to hire a lot of very intelligent people in order to solve this problem of spin. We have a lot of work to do to obtain absolute neutrality in our reporting, and it may never happen.

The movie successfully captured snapshot upon snapshot of how cultures and societies (especially those at war) clash when talking about whats happening. In the first five minutes of the movie it is made clear by a producer at Al Jazeera that any military leader worth his AK-47's knows that at the heart of any regime is good propaganda. A few penetrating posters and unceasing media dominance is the fountain of youth for any regime. Duh.

The picture did make a few (albeit cleverly embedded) suggestions for change. Take notes.

I'm sure the movie really pushed some buttons and ruffled some feathers. A stuffy conservative like my father would lead an angry mob to melt the film in its canister. However, it's poignancy remains non-negotiable. A wise man once wrote that the best defense is a good offense and I think the production crew of the movie got the point across.

As an aspiring journalist, it makes me happy to think that someone still has the balls to make a movie like Control Room and broadcast it to American audiences. Unlike Fahrenheit 9/11 it will not stir up dissent against what is happening today in the Middle East. Instead, the opinions of the people interviewed on the film are straightforward and new ideas are brought forward. An example of which is the link between the current events in Palestine and the current events in Iraq. The press officer in the movie made the astute observation that to the American public the two happenings are in no way related and may as well be on opposite ends of the world. I thought that was interesting.

My mind is racing. Seeing movies like this is really wonderful in the sense that I really feel boosted in spirit and I.Q. I'm dating an anthropology major and so much of my brain is now wrapped up in identifying ethnocentrism as it occurs. A movie like Control Room lends an hour and half to pinpoint the concept of "spin" and how sneaky it can be.


Webster can take his definition of success and.....change it.

The definition of success, like many immeasurable things, varies with whom you ask. Many people base success on money -- the thought that whatever money you receive is a sliding scale on how you perform and your inherent worth. Your family members may compare you to Cousin Richard who works on Wall Street making a cool million a year, while you’re living in what your daddy calls the “low-rent” district of McBee, SC, editing copy for the local daily. Journalists aren’t exactly pullin’ home what Labron James calls “money.” But their job is important nonetheless, and as long as it is done to the fullest, success is achieved.

The key to making sure that success does not fail you, is to change your definition of success. Shifting from money as the indication of success is tough. Think about the following:

Charles Schwab -- President of the largest independent steel company, died broke.

Ivar Kreuger -- Great Swedish financier and industrialist, who in 1929 was worth around 100 billion, committed suicide

These examples are from John Maxwell’s “Your Road Map for Success.”

Changing your personal definition of success, instead of adopting and following what society has put on you, is essential. Model your definition around you --- you’re the one who knows you best. It’s not a cop-out, it’s realistic.

If you work at a job you love, like someone said before, it’s not a job, it’s a hobby you’re paid for.

Sounds like a pretty good deal to me.

S.K. Bowen III

Friday, October 08, 2004

Helen Thomas

The National Press Club forgot to publicize a roundtable discussion with Helen Thomas on Thursday, so three girls from my program and I got to sit directly across the table from her. Thomas, known as "The First Lady of the Press," is a former United Press International White House bureau chief who closed White House press conferences with the signature, "Thank you, Mr. President." From 1974 to 2000 she followed American presidents, asking them the tough, straightforward questions. In doing so, she changed the way the world looked at female journalists.
Thomas now writes a semiweekly column for Hearst News Corp. After practicing balanced journalism her whole life, Thomas said her columns initially read like news. She's over that now -- and just the spitfire columnist you'd expect.
She said journalists take the information they're fed at press conferences without question. She encouraged us, as young journalists, to simply stand up and ask "why?" For the past few days, I've been looking through Washington reporting and noticing what she was talking about.
A lot of the stories read like insider information -- leads loaded with political jargon and followed up with an obligatory quote. I found myself reading further and further into the stories just to figure out what all that stuff in the lead actually meant. Perhaps becoming a Washington insider is a disadvantage if you lose a perspective readers can connect to. Helen Thomas made Washington reporting seem like any other reporting, and it should be.
In response to something I was pitching, my mentor at my bureau said a lot of people will stop reading when they see the words "soft money." I just worry they might stop reading when they see the dateline "Washington."

Wednesday, October 06, 2004

Journalism: A Deep Space Portal!

Ok, ok! So maybe it isn't exactly a "deep space portal" persay... but it definately is a portal into a large part of the business world.

Unless you are one of those "know exactly what you want to do and your whole life revolves around it happily" people, you are probably a lot like me. And before you hurl yourself off the side of a building in fear of the previous statment, let me clarify what I mean.

Throughout highschool, and most of my childhood in that case, I loved to write. I would write on anything and everything from over-imaginative adolescent zombie stories, to more, dare I say, sophisticated screenplays. So when it came time to bubble in that faithful 'Intended Major' circle that would shape the rest of my life, I did what any self-respecting teenager would have done... I went and watched cartoons.

Over time, approximately two episodes of Sponge Bob Square Pants (don't even try to say you haven't watched it), I decided the field of Journalism would suit my need to write. I didn't really know much about Journalism other than it usually involves make-up, big hair, and the news. But through these first month(s) of JOUR201, an introduction to journalism, I've come to the conclusion that I can write without wearing make-up and a tie. Whether it be for newspaper opinion columns, magazine exclusives, or publishing a New York Times Best-seller - there are an abundance of opprotunities to suit everybody's talents.

What about me? Where am I headed? To the bathroom in about five minutes. But after that.. well, I guess we'll see. Atleast I can rest well at night knowing that there is indeed a place for my talents somewhere in this big, big world.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Thoughts about success

You're all asking so many important questions. Here are my thoughts about measuring success.
No doubt about it. When compared with some other "professionals," print and broadcast journalists will not make much -- at first or maybe ever. Newly graduated B.A.'s in journalism often find themselves in the trenches in places like Altoona and Zanesville, but many, if not most, eventually work their way up to larger operations and pretty decent salaries. A page designer I know with four years experience at small-to-medium-size dailies now makes 50G at a major West Coast daily.
Why wasn't he pulling those dollars right out of school?
Unlike medicine or law (professions with which we should NEVER be compared, by the way), journalism has no licensing examination or board certification and, in the case of medicine, no gruelling internship and residency requirements. (That's a good thing, by the way.)
Journalists, like professional baseball players, "qualify" for the big leagues by building a solid record of performance in the minors. Even then, the competition for spots at the major dailies and large market stations can be fierce and are subject to market and economic factors.
Some folks never make it out of the minors; others choose to stay in Altoona, where they take on greater responsibility and perhaps, eventually, become editors of newspaper or directors of news rooms. (That, too, is a good thing.)
In the end, talent will get you that first job, but where you go after that will be partly about luck but mainly about you. I've followed the careers of former students and co-workers and all of them who have gone on to the majors have done the following: Learned to HONESTLY assess their skill set and played to their strengths, studied the work of those who wrote or reported better than they did, made the most of every opportunity they were offered, never let "good enough" become their motto, accepted criticism thoughtfully and gracefully, and kept a sense of humor.

Monday, October 04, 2004


I've recently been pondering the question, 'how do I measure success as a journalist?' I would imagine the knee-jerk answer most would give is, money. Well, that ain't it.
For the most part, local print and broadcast journalists don't make squat, comparatively- unless of course, you make it to the top. As much as I will aspire to do that, I must check back into reality. My chances of ever anchoring NBC nightly news are slim to none. If I were to do that, I could then most likely tell you a little about success.
Coming from a family of business people, it has been easy to measure or see success; or don't see it. Most businessess and their cohorts have tangible successes: good money, top sales, company prestige, etc. But as journalists, that's pretty hard to come by.
So, my question to all: how do you or will you measure success? I don't want to die the death of a---journalist.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

I need help

I am beginning to sink my teeth into the wonderful world of applying for internships, and I have no idea where to begin. I know the whole "make yourself look great on a resume" routine, but what is necessary to send to set yourself apart from other applicants? I feel like I am in high school again applying for scholarships, only this time the stakes are a little bit higher, so I feel more pressure. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Anyone to offer ideas???

I have been asked to write a brief article concerning our blogs. Anything you guys think is too important to leave out? Anything else you would like to say? Thanks for your help; it is appreciated.

Friday, October 01, 2004

Hard news is necessary

One bit of disappointment I've experienced with my fellow senior semester-mates is their unwillingness to cover hard news stories. Some of them say they're simply uninterested in the events of the day, but I guarantee if something horrible were to happen close to home--a fire, a natural disaster, some unforeseen tragedy--they'd be glued to the television or newspaper for updates.

We take media for granted until we need it for information. At the point at which they need it, people become impatient and suddenly demand that the media devote attention to the issues they deem important. How often do we hear someone say, "Why hasn't there been any coverage of (insert issue here) in the paper lately? Why haven't there been any news reports on (again, insert)?"

The fact is that while some stories are no-brainers--a fire, a natural disaster, some unforeseen tragedy--others tend to slip under the public radar. A particular issue might lose its luster over time, but be no less important now than earlier.

Here's one observation: It's easy to see the shocking news of now but less easy to disern the questions surrounding the event. Is it my imagination, or is the "why" or "how" being obscured from news? The "who/what/where/when" is vital, but the underlying factors seem to be glossed over. It requires a reporter dedicated enough, and an editor willing enough, to dig into the layers of an issue, if any exist.

So many journalists want their own column, which often is only a forum for one's opinion with no facts given to support it. That's the easy way out. It's what I used to want, but I'd rather learn a few new things than merely spout off about what I already know. Hard news isn't boring news for either the reporter or the reader/viewer.