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Month

August 2015

Critically blogging about bloggers

I chose to examine a former college newspaper colleague’s blog: Earl and Other Greys. The blog is owned and operated by Bethaney Wallace. She and I spent many hours working together in the Kansas State Collegian Newsroom and while she was “just” an English major – it was obvious she had great skill in the journalism trade. As such, I find her blog enticing because it is my ideal of what a blog should be. It’s filled with narratives, anecdotes and some beneficial information. Wallace has not limited herself to a particular issue, like the Food bloggers are, however she still adheres to a code of ethics. This is not stated on her site, but it’s in the text, where it matters most.

Like the Food Blog Code of Ethics, Wallace is accountable in that all blogs have attribution, she is civil – even when she’d rather not be, and she openly reveals bias and mostly follows the rules of good journalism (Burton & Greenstein, 2009). As someone who follows multiple news organizations, the last thing I want to do is fill my time reading about the news from non-experts. Not that bloggers can’t be great news media leaders, it’s just hard to get the access the “big” guys get and therefore the news they get isn’t as timely as their more dominate media brethren.

This is why I enjoy reading informational or entertainment blogs. For example, Wallace’s blog topics range from ranting about her beef with certain retailers to asking for a book publisher to the “best” things about Harry Potter. Clearly this is diverse work and while on the surface Wallace and I couldn’t be more different, I thoroughly enjoy reading this blog. From a journalistic standpoint Wallace succeeds where others have failed by following certain rules. For one, she owns her blog. There are references to things she’s read, seen or heard…but this blog is all Bethaney. The branding is well executed and translates well from her blog to other social media accounts. Another area she excels at is being clear concise and direct, (Dotmarketing, n.d). Perhaps this can be attributed to Wallace’s English degree, but her writing follows the general rules of avoiding passive voice and using good word choice.

The passive voice is something I’ve always struggled with. Courtesy of editors like Wallace it’s typically cleaned up before going to print, but it plagues me nonetheless. I’d like to think my blog is 80 percent informative and 20 percent entertaining. I try to take the assignments and make reading my blog as enjoyable as possible.

Things I excel at:
1. Having my own writing style. Should I ever plagerize I think it’d be fairly obvious.
2. As a journalist I’m a stickler for attribution. While tackling APA style is an ongoing battle for me, I believe in citing or linking to pages when referencing their work. People work hard to put out information, we can’t just take that work for our own.
3. Following important rules – like moral rules. Of course I speed, I have places to go! But, if there was a “Bloggers Code of Conduct” I’d absolutely adhere to it. I think it’s important for people to know a trustworthy source and if we could add a label that we follow a particular code of ethics, it would allow consumers to trust bloggers more. I’d like to think most bloggers are following some type of personal or journalistic code of ethics already.

Things I can improve:
1. More entertainment posts
2. Cut my word count down and work in more video, pictures, etc.
3. Stop snacking after 8p.m. and workout more!
References

Burton, B., & Greenstein, L. (2009, April 30). The Food Blog Code of Ethics. Retrieved from https://foodethics.wordpress.com/

DM Consulting Services. (n.d). Best Practices: Writing for the web. Retrieved from http://www.uakron.edu/webteam/docs/dm_webwriting.pdf

Wallace, B. (2013). Earl and Other Greys: Blogging with a side of tea. Retrieved from http://bethaneywallace.com/

So much new media, so little time

When it comes to New Media Tools, and social media tools in particular I can’t help but think of the Parks and Recreation character Tom Haverford. Played by real life social networking addict and comedian, Aziz Ansari, Haverford is completely obsessed with his online identity – like most in his generation. Here’s a great quote I thought of about going online each day. I remembered it because of the reddit reference – so I decided to rejoin reddit – but before I get into that. Enjoy this quote:

“Everyday I start by hitting up Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, and Instagram. Sometimes, I like to throw in LinkedIn, for the professional shawties. Then I like to go on Reddit. Reddit is great because it has all the important links. Wikipedia! Mankind’s greatest invention. You can learn about anything… I love gChat, you can talk to anybody! I hit up brad.pitt. It wasn’t the actor. It was actually a guy named Brad that’s a teacher in Pittsburgh. We don’t have a lot in common, but we chat quite a bit. Emojis are little cartoons you text instead of words. Instead of saying, ‘What up, boo?’ you can type ‘What up’ and then a cute little ghost because that means boo…Podcasts! They’re a million of them and they’re all amazing! Jean Ralphio and I have one called Nacho Average Podcast where we rate different kinds of nachos.” (Episode 5.4, “Sex Education)

Believe it or not, I pared down the quote a bit to keep it on topic. But this diatribe is very indicative of how people use media tools on a daily basis. Since I graduated in 2011 with a degree in digital journalism, I’m no stranger to the majority of media tools that are available for consumers. During courses we created blogs, mashups and websites. We used online collaboration tools, photo sharing and social network sites. Some students even did podcasts for their projects.

Because of this background I feel I had an unfair advantage in discussing three new media tools. So, I did my best to choose the things I had the least experience with and went from there. First off, reddit. As I noted earlier I re-joined reddit because during college I setup an account. Unlike my other media accounts, this one came at the recommendation from my cohort. They did not disappoint; the customization is fantastic and I was well-informed of issues from around the globe. It helped with projects and also served as a nice way to burn some downtime by looking at cute animals or funny gifs. I’ve attached some photos of cleaning up my subscriptions and checking out the Washington DC subreddit and adding a comment.

redditcomment

After college I fell off the site as I was immersed in news all day at work. Now that it’s been a few years, I felt it would be nice to go back and begin using the site again. I forgot how great it was. Being able to post a question on any topic and rely on those across the world on the site to help answer it – or offer advice – is incredible in terms of strategic communication. I’m not sure the average age of a redditor, however I’m guessing usage declines as the age increases, which is too bad because I think there’s a lot of great uses people of all ages can go to reddit for. My mother in law loves to watch plays and musicals; she could fill entire days reading those subreddits. The ability to aggregate news is amazing. I can read an article from a small paper in Arizona and then jump to an Australian newspaper.

Another area I dove back into was RSS (Real Simple Syndication) feeds. I set these up for stories I was working on in specific classes back in 2010, but never really used them. It was hard to remember to go back to the places I set them up to instead of just turning to Google each day. Again, now that I’m out in the working world in communications I realize the great benefit of these. Like the Pew Research Center Report, cited by Chuang (2010) confirmed Latinos and blacks lead all other racial and ethnic groups when it comes to texting and twitter. This information is very valuable to someone in my position as a health communicator. Knowing this, information I can setup RSS feeds to follow minority health twitter accounts to track the retweets and see if our information is resonating with users. Also, I setup an RSS feed to follow Food Safety News, which is a major publication that covers the department of the FDA I work for.

RSS

I also setup an internal RSS feed to keep an eye on alerts and breaking news that otherwise might go unnoticed. The FDA is constantly working with companies to setup recalls and the like, so this will help me be able to catalogue those actions. And, it was very easy to setup within my Microsoft Outlook account. I’m all about letting the information come to me these days, as I’m too busy to use search engines and waste time digging for information.

As you can see in the image below, I’ve got the RSS feed fully functional and since it’s a separate place from my regular emails it won’t get too cluttered.

UsingRSSfeed

Finally, I decided to venture into a land I haven’t visited with great regularity since the early 2000’s; video games. I bought a Playstation 4 (PS4) recently and decided it was time to activate the online abilities. I was quite surprised how easy it was to play with people from all over the world. As I played Far Cry 4, I was able to request assistance going into battles and I was able to communicate with them over the microphone. As a combat veteran it was a strange feeling to be in my living room playing a co-op mission with people I’d never met before. Another interesting aspect of going online was that it connected me with friends that also play online. Not only can I see their names, but I also know if they’re online and what they’re playing. My friend told me users can also see trophies the other has earned for game progress. It seemed a bit overwhelming to me, but it was fun nonetheless.

Seeing as how the video gaming is strictly for recreation I don’t have much to say about the media being able to be put to use for work purposes, but with all the other applications the PS4 has, it’s easy to see that video game systems go far beyond what they did back in the early days of the original Playstation.

References

Chuang, A. (2010). How Social Media Can Help Journalists Reach Ethnically Diverse Groups. Poynter. Retrieved from http://www.poynter.org/news/mediawire/104224/how-social-media-can-help-journalists-reach-ethnically-diverse-groups/

Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should

The Oconee County Observations is written by area resident, Dr. Lee Becker. While Becker refers to the blog as a “hobby,” his education qualifications exceed that of most professional journalist. He has a bachelor’s degree in journalism, a master’s degree in communication and a doctorate in mass communication. Becker’s blog is clearly written by a professional of his craft. The balanced reporting and accuracy would easily lead anyone to believe this is produced by a professional journalist.

The purpose of this blog is best defined by its subtitle: “News and comments about developments in Oconee County, Georgia” (Becker, 2006). Becker employs the journalism of verification model in his blog to inform his community. Frankly, I wish my neighborhood had a blog like this; it’d be refreshing to read an unbiased account of the goings-on in my area. Currently, we’re restricted to the daily frustrated email chain that dominates our list-serv.

As Ward (n.d.) wrote, the democratization of media blurs the identity of journalists and what is considered journalism. Becker represents this point quite well. He does not appear to be compensated for this blog, and is not writing it as a “professional” journalist; however his dedication to the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics is clear in his blog posts. Becker hits on all the major areas of the code of ethics, but none are more evident than his desire to seek truth and report it (SPJ, 2014). While Becker undoubtedly has opinions on the issues he’s covering, nothing is conveyed through his reporting other than the facts.

As much as I wish I had a similar blogger in my neighborhood, I wish most bloggers were as dedicated to the journalism of verification model. In 7 signs you might be a professional blogger, the writer considers herself a professional blogger, “because I treat it with hard work, dedication, and a vision” (Robinson, 2013). This rings true for Becker as well. He is clearly very dedicated to this work and had a seemingly simple vision for the blog; to inform. However, this can be applied to affirmation model blogs as well, and those too would consider themselves professionals. There should be an identifiable difference between the entertainment blogger and the unbiased news blogger. Perhaps in the “about me” section of a blog or in the mission statement, their intentions should be laid out. People will make mistakes, professionals certainly do, but if the intent is to provide unbiased coverage than I think that should be applauded.

Growing up I often heard a phrase tossed around that I feel applies to the rise of bloggers and citizen journalists quite well – just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should. In this instance, anyone can start a blog, or film an altercation and put it online. In many instances this is a good thing, however if the individual isn’t aware of their own biases prior to uploading the content, or comments then they could be doing unnecessary harm. After all, doing harm is a violation of the journalists code of ethics.

References

Becker, L., (2006) Oconee County Observations: News and comments about developments in Oconee County, Georgia. Retrieved from http://www.oconeecountyobservations.org/

Robinson, A., (2013). Independent Fashion Bloggers. 7 signs you might be a professional blogger. Retrieved from http://heartifb.com/2013/04/15/7-signs-might-be-professional-blogger/

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014). Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Retrieved August 12, 2015, from https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

Ward, S. J., (N.D.) Center for Journalism Ethics. Digital Media Ethics. Retrieved from http://ethics.journalism.wisc.edu/resources/digital-media-ethics/#difficult

Happy Monday!

This is very true.

The debate of the digital age: Accuracy vs. Speed

After reading The New York Times article The F.B.I. Criticizes the News Media After Several Mistaken Reports of an Arrest, I believe the trend of “report now, apologize later” is definitely a violation of the Society for Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. The first fundamental truth in the SPJ’s Code of Ethics is to “Seek Truth and Report It” (SPJ, 2014). The first line of this section includes the word “accurate” for a reason. Accuracy is the pillar upon which all reporting must be judged. If an organization fails to report accurately, what good are they to the general public? During my time at NBCNews.com we missed the ability to be first with information many times, but that was due to the request from our editors to verify, verify and verify again. During moments like the Boston Marathon Bombings and the Supreme Court’s ruling on healthcare, those extra moments of confirmation saved our staff embarrassing moments and retractions.

The few media organizations I’ve worked for all had a rule of three. It was necessary to get multiple sources in order to move forward on a piece of information. I think this can frustrate reporters who trust their sources very much – but look at the danger of trusting one or two sources alone. The monumental task of three-person confirmation is supposedly necessary to avoid a misstep in reporting. In the Times article, we see that CNN had three sources and STILL got it wrong. The question of whether we should hold the media to a higher standard of verification before publication is an interesting one. Perhaps if there was a fee or fine for misreporting news that might work, but otherwise I don’t see it happening, and even with a fine I think the reports will still come out like they do.

For those unaware of how these things go down, I’ll provide a quick explainer. There are generally two types of stories: breaking and scheduled. When the Boston Marathon Bombing occurred, the Associated Press newswire began chirping out information to news media all across the country. Everyone had the same tiny bit of info and as anchors took over the local broadcasts, journalists on the scene and in their offices were frantically calling any source they could for more information. This is all done with the best intention, every reporter and editor or producer wants to tell the story right, but they want “the scoop” as well. We live in a field where it’s first or last. So, as reporters begin to confirm events, they start calling others and this continues to hours. Often time’s reporters have unique sources, but in an event like this, most of them are probably reaching out to similar people and of course misinformation can spread this way quite easily. It’s also important to note that the AP provides news to all their subscribers, so if they get a detail wrong, countless media across the world have published it on their websites, or read the contents on their radio or television programs. The second type of story captures the debacle with CNN and Fox News misreporting SCOTUS’s health care ruling. The announcement was known before hand, but of course no one knew what the announcement would be. Media had time to setup on the steps and the reporters were ready to go when their runner appeared with the reading. They had spent weeks, if not months preparing for the ruling. Lined up stories for either verdict and were literally in a foot-race waiting for the results. The sheer desire to be first left many reporters reading the decision paperwork on air. A few misread the decision and poof – it was all over their cable show, the internet, etc. The problem with this was no one knew what the verdict would be – so the guests were prepared to discuss a ruling for or against. Once the reporter broke the decision, the cable sites would begin discussing. It was only as pundits were following social media that they learned the ruling was incorrect. I remember this happening live as I was sitting in the NBC politics room, watching the Fox News coverage. The reporter off-camera was following SCOTUSblog.com and soon it became obvious their team wasn’t having the same discussion as the other networks. The conversation turned to “conflicting reports” and soon they had spun it to the correct verdict and were off and running as if nothing happened a few minutes later.

These mistakes are serious though. What if someone only heard the incorrect reading of the verdict and then turned off the television and went about their day misinformed? In June of 2005 the BBC put out a new guideline determining that accuracy was more important than speed. The agency warned of getting into speed contests with competitors, saying it can lead to unnecessary errors (Fergus Sheppard, 2005).

I feel the onus is on us – the public – to force media to a higher standard of accuracy. I know firsthand that journalist would rather be paid to tell accurate stories then to be constantly competing with varying degrees of trustworthy information to get out the gate first. The sad truth is that we live in a world of immediacy. We want information the second it’s available, sooner if we can get it. And, the public at large seems quick to forgive. As long as the sites are updated, the nightly news and following morning’s papers are correct; the accuracy snafus seem to have never happened. I looked at ratings before and after the healthcare ruling and they were approximately the same. If the public wants more truthful information, they need to use the power of allegiance to get it. When CNN misreported the Boston Bombing and SCOTUS stories, their ratings should have plummeted. Change channels, choose a new online news provider, punish the networks financially and that will effect change. The monster of inaccuracy is a beast that resides at the intersection of speed and technology.

References

Carter, B. (2013, April 17). The F.B.I. Criticizes the News Media After Several Mistaken Reports of an Arrest. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2013/04/18/business/media/fbi-criticizes-false-reports-of-a-bombing-arrest.html?_r=0

Fergus Sheppard, m. c. (2005, Jun 23). Put accuracy before speed on breaking news, BBC staff told. The Scotsman Retrieved from http://ezproxy.snhu.edu/login?url=http://search.proquest.com/docview/327145722?accountid=3783

Society of Professional Journalists. (2014). Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics. Retrieved August 5, 2015, from https://www.spj.org/ethicscode.asp

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