Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Adrian Nicole LeBlanc

The art of immersion journalism is more complicated than going to a town meeting or interviewing a city mayor. It involves dedication and abandoning the comforts of our worlds and breaking the social boundaries we have adopted. For Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, author of “Random Family: Love, Drugs, Trouble and Coming of Age in the Bronx,” this included visiting prisons, train rides to inner-city neighborhoods and introducing herself to known drug dealers.
Listening to LeBlanc speak to a University audience of around 80 in early April, it was hard not to wonder where her courage and determination came from. I could hardly imagine her approaching street kids with her small stature and wide smile, saying, “Hi, I’m Adrian. I’m a journalist and I want to write about your lives.” But maybe all it takes is the strength to ask the question, because for a true immersion journalist, neglecting to listen to the answer and holding back from asking more questions would be the bigger challenge.
LeBlanc said what was supposed to be “a small book by a young reporter… turned into a 12 year odyssey that left me broke and traumatized.” Twelve years sounds like a lifetime to me, imagining myself, like LeBlanc, immersed in the reality of her characters. I would chat with Trina and Coco about clothes and boys and whatever details their lives held that are unimaginable to me. Victor, the tough street boy, would escort me, like he did LeBlanc, to the train to make sure I was safe.
LeBlanc spoke to the audience honestly and vividly while describing her breaking point. Even though her book was honored as one of the best books of 2003 by more than 20 publications, she broke down while lost between the two worlds she reported on and lived in. She daily went from her daytime job at Seventeen Magazine, to the streets. She described the Seventeen-office elevator, dinging as the doors opened revealing the pink walls, to the broken elevators with hangers used to fix the buttons and families piled in because it wasn’t safe to leave the children in the apartment. She couldn’t ride both elevators; she couldn’t go back and forth any more.
“I couldn’t make the transition from the world I was reporting on and the world I was living in because it was just too jarring,” she said, and I imagined an undercover police agent revealing herself for the first time in years…. But probably not the odyssey of 12 years that LeBlanc was lost in.
-A list of links with reviews and interviews with LeBlanc.

Blogging in Journalism

The power of the press and the freedom of the press have been synonyms in the media since these rights were granted and repeatedly tested. In today’s society, the two aren’t always paired up anymore. Blogs have redefined what we know as journalism. Everyday people are taking it upon themselves to report what they see and what they hear by venturing into places where traditional journalists can’t go and tackling issues they just don’t relate to.
Steve Outing, a self-claimed online-media pioneer, tackles some of the issues concerning the dangers and also advantages bloggers face while taking a stab at journalism in a two 2004 articles (Dec 20 and Dec 22) posted on Poynter Online. Outing said bloggers tend to be more personal, revealing their opinions and perspectives on issues, unlike traditional journalists who would never open up like this. He said most people are intuitive when it comes to issues like political opinions, and by not acknowledging the obvious, mainstream journalists are unable to better connect with their readers.
This idea of openness with reporters can be beneficial, but also a slippery slope where personal bias lead to censorship and perhaps political control over the media. This is another issue Outing discusses: ethics. While mainstream news organizations are watchdogs with plenty of watchdogs on their own backs, bloggers aren’t. The endearing personal perspective of a blogger isn’t so much the case when he or she is being paid by companies to write about certain clients or take sides on issues.
Blogging standards is an important issue that with hope will be addressed further in the future, but for now, what are the repercussions when bloggers, acting as journalists, abuse the trust readers have for them? Blogs don’t have editors, usually, and if a household could adopt a copy editor for a day I would already own one. How many journalism schools require media law courses? University of Oregon doesn’t (but does offer one, which I have taken), and student journalists are sent into the world not knowing what liabilities they might face for slander, false light, etc. These journalists have editors and corporations watching their backs, and their own pocket books of course, but lone bloggers don’t. Outing said he expects to see such a case appear in the courts in the future, and I do as well.
For now, bloggers will continue to piggy-back, critique and also outdo traditional journalists. As the printing press contributed to spreading ideologies, nationalism and wide-spread literacy, the Internet and Web blogs are doing so on a globally and technologically driven level. I’m very curious to see how this medium will develop and challenge our current perspective of journalism.

Monday, April 23, 2007

I hope my blog doesn't feel like a hangover

I have never been very interested in blogging. To me, the idea seemed unprofessional and I feared the quality to be less than print. Although as the field of mass communications, and more importantly reporting, has overcome the limitations of time, space and geography, the Internet has become a playing field for all types of mass media. Journalism is becoming more innovational and exciting by the day, and with that comes responsibility.
I went to a work party over the weekend, and it was there (yes on a Saturday night of college partying) that I understood and overcame my hesitations about creating a blog. Michael Jackson blared through the I-Pod speakers and the dance floor began to fill with fellow news reporters, copy editors, designers and photographers, all ready and willing to let loose from the pressures of work. The movements on the dance floor were completely uninhibited and well, pretty horrible (math isn’t the only thing we’re bad at). This was my fear of the blog. Could my uninhibited, unedited and grammatically incorrect pieces of writing come back to haunt me like a hangover the next morning? The walk of shame through the newsroom is one thing, but it would feel like a marathon of shame over the Internet with everybody able to see my mistakes.
Nobody really cared at the party though, however crazily he or she acted or horribly we all danced. Maybe this is the approach I should take with my blog. As the pressures grow and responsibilities increase, maybe we should all have the opportunity to let loose every once in a while. So with that, please excuse every grammatical error and be grateful it’s not as horrid looking as my dancing.