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Archive for May, 2007

Young but respectable

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

Last week, a school board members introduced me to another community member as, “This is Meranda Watling, she’s with the newspaper.”

The woman said, “Oh the Exponent!” And I shot back — probably a little too quickly — “No, the Journal & Courier.” I think she thought I was offended, and I was just a little. Though, I take student media more seriously than most people, so I don’t know why I was so much.

I think I still feel I have something (OK a lot of something) to prove, and I guess that’s normal right. To feel inadequate at times, especially in the beginning?

There was a post in the journalists community at LiveJournal the other day about things you wish someone had told you when you were just starting out. And one of the comments was, “You will feel like you suck every single day for at least six months.” I was so relieved to realize it’s not just me.

I do have my moments where I surprise myself or when sources tell me I’m doing a good job or they enjoy my work. A few weeks back, a teacher randomly told me I was “doing an exceptional job” and that the paper had been needing someone like me for a long time. I don’t take compliments well, and usually just laugh and say, “Well, I try.” But honestly? Stuff like that makes me smile for a whole day, maybe even a week. I don’t know if it’s normal or if they’d say it to everyone, but every time it happens, it makes my day because I feel like my hard work actually makes a difference to at least that person that day.

After the “No, the J&C” comment, the woman commented, “oh, well, I just assumed, you look so young.” And then I realized she was entirely right. I don’t just look young, I am young. Most people my age are still in college, in which case I probably would be reporting for the Exponent (Purdue’s paper). I forget that. Though I get a lot of “you sound young” or “look so young” and I have to explain, well, yeah, I’m 21.

There are people who say, “she’s only 21, what does she know?” And one person in particular who calls me “kiddo.” (Note to anyone who has a young person in their office: Do not do this. It’s demeaning, and it only serves to undermine the experience I do have, which if you bothered to look or ask, you would see is nothing to be ashamed of, especially considering my age.) It’s crazy, because I work as hard if not harder than most of them. If anything my age is a great asset because I can do the hard-nosed, shoe-leather reporting, but I also have no trouble navigating new media or talking to students on their level.

I work for every bit of respect because I am new here, and then double because I am young. I haven’t established that track record yet. I’m definitely still proving myself, not just to them but to me. This is true of my friends across other media outlets with whom I’ve discussed this.

You don’t have to cut me, or other young people like me, slack. We don’t need it or want it because it won’t make us any better. Yeah, we didn’t come out of j-school ready for a Pulitzer, but most of us did come out ready to do good journalism, in multiple platforms, without delusions of grandeur about this industry and the changing media landscape. We came ready to work hard and make a difference. Regardless of my age, I applied for and was hired for this job. As long as I’m doing it well, whether I’m 21 or 41, I should still get the same respect.

QOTD: Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps

Saturday, May 12th, 2007

“Man is the only animal that laughs and weeps, for he is the only animal that is struck with the difference between what things are and what they ought to be.”
— William Hazlitt

Local journalism from an ocean away?!

Thursday, May 10th, 2007

As anyone who reads my blog knows, I tend to skew verbose rather than succint in my postings. However, when I read this article I had a one word, three letter response that very adequately sums up my disbelief. That word was, “wow.”

The job posting was a head-scratcher: “We seek a newspaper journalist based in India to report on the city government and political scene of Pasadena, California, USA.”

A reporter half a world away covering local street-light contracts and sewer repairs? A reporter who has never gotten closer to Pasadena than the telecast of the Rose Bowl parade?

Outsourcing first claimed manufacturing jobs, then hit services such as technical support, airline reservations and tax preparation. Now comes the next frontier: local journalism.

The reasoning, from the site’s creator?

“I think it could be a significant way to increase the quality of journalism on the local level without the expense that is a major problem for local publications,” said the 51-year-old Pasadena native. “Whether you’re at a desk in Pasadena or a desk in Mumbai, you’re still just a phone call or e-mail away from the interview.”

I mean, wow. Does he miss the entire point or what? It is impossible to produce quality journalism if you never leave your office, and that is true even if your office is on the corner of Main Street.

How can you tell what stories are important to the average person if you never interact with them or share the same community with them? How do you gain someone’s trust when you can’t look them in the eye or shake their hand? How do you gain the trust of readers who know you haven’t driven down the street the city’s widening or walked the halls of the school the district’s closing? You can’t.

This is a very, very bad sign, and I hope a mere one-time accident.

ABJ’s car jumping video

Monday, May 7th, 2007

I hate to pick on the Beacon Journal. I really do. But it happens to be one of the news sites I frequent, so I see it at its best and worst, and a lot of in between.

Tonight, I happened to click on the story 22-year-old hopes talents will take him to new heights. Even before I clicked it, I was hoping there’d be video. (There was no indication on the story list. Come on, guys, you should advertise this to entice me to click!)

I spent the first minute or so — I actually have no idea how long it was because there’s no timer on the video, but it was more than halfway — wondering, OK, when do I get to see him jump the car?

I am not a videographer. I’ve never actually produced a video for a news Web site. (This is going to change soon, as when school lets out later this month I’m going to have more time for that and they’re going to train me, even though I have a solid grasp now from my classes/fiddling around. And I’m pretty happy about that. But, another day.)

But as a video consumer, I can tell you this video fails in pretty much every critical area except for the fact that they did have the foresight to capture video to help tell the story. And yes, they get brownie points for that.

Other than that I found myself wondering what the person shooting and editing the video was thinking. Or if they were.

First of all, zooming in and out of the man crouching by his car — not cool. Focus please. Take a few of those wide shots and alternate them with a few close ups and a medium one or two. Also, what is up with the lack of tripod? I can tell it’s a windy day (because I can hear the wind on the guy’s lapel mic as he’s talking and, btw, that’s pretty distracting, too). I can also tell when the videographer gets tired of crouching because you can watch him stand up mid-quote. It’s even shakier from there.

Second, the sound is mediocre at best, barely audible at worst. As I mentioned, you can hear the static from the wind, etc. And the reporter off to the side asking the questions is distracting. Edit these out please, they’re unnecessary.

Third, why is he crouching by his car for the entire first half of the video? If I hadn’t been watching to see if it got any better, I would have closed the browser about 10 seconds in. Also, what’s up with the jumpcuts/quick transitions? It’s jarring.

It seems like the video has all of the, to be honest, boring interview up front. Then at the end it’s like a fireworks display where they have a grand finale and just set off everything they have left. You suddenly see some cool angles and creative shots. You finally see him talking not on bended knee. You get to actually see him jump his car about a dozen times, which would have been way cooler if the videographer had used all these ample opportunities to catch him from different angles instead of sticking to his spot on the sidewalk. (It’s not like there was a unwieldy tripod holding him back).

I wish I could pull this out of flash and try to edit it in a way that I think would have been more appropriate. That shot of him running toward the car as seen from below the car? That could have been an interesting opening shot. At least you had some action. And when he talks about everything else he can jump, why not get him showing off some of those skills? Or a shot of him making a slam dunk on the basketball court? And why don’t we have a shot of him bracing himself for the run? Or a shot of the faces of the onlookers as they watch him perform his trick? Even if they had only spliced some of those “fireworks” from the end into the middle, it would have eased the transitions and held the viewer’s interest better.

If it wasn’t 1:30 a.m. and I didn’t have my alarm set for 7:30 a.m. I’d go through and try to find a positive example of video on the site. But again, their video list is daunting and I don’t have the paitence to sift through and watch it all. I should probably get to bed so I’m not running on empty tomorrow.

But I will say this, it’s pretty cool that the guy can jump over cars. And I am glad I got to see it not just read about it. So I guess a poorly executed video is better than none at all.

QOTD: We underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word…

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.”
— Leo Buscaglia

Survey: Usage varies widely among Americans with cell phones, Internet

Sunday, May 6th, 2007

According to a survey released today by the Pew Internet and American Life Project, 15 percent of American adults have neither a cell phone nor Internet. Read the AP story or the more detailed Pew press release to see what I’m talking about.

From the AP article:

The Pew Internet and American Life Project found that adult Americans are broadly divided into three groups: 31 percent are elite technology users, 20 percent are moderate users and the remainder have little or no usage of the Internet or cell phones.

That “remainder” is, what, 49 percent? Half of Americans “have little or no usage of the Internet or cell phones”?! Am I missing something. There’s no way that’s right. A decade ago, yes. But in 2007? … Really?

The Pew study found 15 percent of all Americans have neither a cell phone nor an Internet connection. Another 15 percent use some technology and are satisfied with what it currently does for them, while 11 percent use it intermittently and find connectivity annoying.

(An aside, that paragraph only adds up to 41 percent. According to Pew release, there’s an additional 8 percent of the population considered “inexperienced experimenters” which makes up the difference between this number and the above “remainder.”)

I don’t know why this surprises me, but honestly, it just seems so ubiquitous. My guess would have been maybe 3-5 percent. I mean, everyone has a cell phone, right? And having a computer is kind of like a TV, just sort of expected. Of course not, but I think my age and the people I associate with has some bearing on my expectations for the “average American.” Much of my life, personal and professional, centers around using computers and cell phones. I mean, I would never go to an assignment without my phone, what if my editor needed to get a hold of me? what if there was breaking news that needed to be posted before I could get back? And I can’t remember the last time I went more than 24 hours without checking my e-mail, etc. I don’t even get my bills or bank statements through the mail any more, it’s all online, with reminders sent to my cell phone and e-mail (which I also check on my phone).

What’s not addressed but would totally interest the sociology-minor in me: Who are these people? The 49 percent with little or no use and specifically that 15 percent pretty much untouched by these modern conveniences, nay, necessities? And what opportunities may they be missing out on now, and especially in the future as these skills become more and more expected?

The point of the survey wasn’t really how many people have cell phones or Internet. It was designed to find out how much and in what ways people are using those devices. The press release breaks down what all the different categories are and how much of the population each represents. Basically there’s the people who not only have adopted the technology but use it for everything, those that use it only when necessary or who begrudgingly accept the need to use it, and then there’s that remainder, who feel burdened or left behind by the technology race.

I definitely fall in the elite user range, and specifically the “omnivore” category — fully embrace technology and express themselves creatively through blogs and personal Web pages — fits me, while most of my family and friends would be considered “connectors” — see the Internet and cell phones as communications tools.

There’s a quiz to find out what category you fall under. I correctly guessed my category, btw.


Gilmore Girls Gone?

Saturday, May 5th, 2007

I heard the news Thursday that Gilmore Girls was ending after this season. As my Facebook status indicates, I was devastated.

gilmore girls ending twitter update
Twitter (above) and Facebook (below)
Girlmore Girls ending facebook status

Two weeks notice?! This isn’t a job. This is a generation of girls who’ve looked up to and grown up with Lorelai and Rory, et al. We laughed and cried and sat there for Rory’s first day of Chilton and her impromptu campus visit to Yale. We freaked out when she had sex with Dean and loved to hate Jess. We cheered on Lorelai as she opened the Firefly Inn and screamed at our televisions to fall for Luke, and then wondered what the heck when she ran back to Christopher. And the million other plot twists and turns and the hilarious over-your-head, mile-a-minute banter between the Gilmores and… two weeks? That’s all we get?