Sunday, June 10, 2007

Is somebody watching me? It's probably Google or a journalist.

After reading an article in “Slate” online magazine about privacy issues and after spending my day tracking down people and police reports, I feel like a good-old blog to end the day. Google, which “Slate” describes as the “kid who brings an M-80 to the neighborhood barbecue. While everyone else is goofing off with sparklers,” has created an online updated photo album of your neighborhood, maybe.
“Google Street View,” uploads photos from camera-equipped vans that drive around taking photos of the streets of San Francisco, Las Vegas, New York, Denver and Miami. While we all love spending hours on “Google Satellite” and have so many times thought how great it would be if those satellite photos could get a bit closer, how close is too close? Too close for Mary Kalin-Casey who is upset that a Google camera took a photo of her tabby cat, Monty, through her window.
Little Monty is stirring things up.
How much of journalism relates to getting in other peoples’ business? A lot, and often rightly so as journalism functions as a watchdog on the government, updater on law regulation and decider of social rights and wrongs. Most readers are nosy and want to know what’s going on, but I can’t help feel like I should mind my own business sometimes.
Maybe it’s not just me, maybe society is encouraging this behavior and I feel guilty for everybody caught on the wrong side of “newsworthy.” Is it newsworthy when a celebrity gains five pounds and smokes a cigarette at the beach? Do journalists have the right to destroy somebody’s reputation, even when the information is correct, for the sake of a story that will be forgotten in a week? Beyond legality, what is ethical? We all make mistakes, and I feel lucky there isn’t somebody around with a camera and recorder to document my screw-ups. We all deserve a do-over.
The sad part of all of this guilt is that it’s trumped by excitement. Adrenaline is a funny thing and maybe a necessary thing when it comes to being a good reporter. I need that shocking flow of goodness driving me to ask the controversial question or make the phone call to the family member who lost a loved one or the student charged with drunk driving.
I do feel guilty, but I also feel thrilled when it all comes together.
Click here for the “Slate" article
Click here to go to “Google Street View”

Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Sorry, did you say something about growing up? No... I don't do that.

After reading a blog on change, talking with friends about “what’s next” and avoiding the idea of growing up at all costs I’ve realized… nothing.
When I was five I made my mom promise I would never have to leave home. Oddly, while I never like things to change and dread the future like stumbling into a garden of wind chimes (yes, I seriously hate wind chimes with a passion), I am nothing but thrilled when life does change.
At 16 I left home to live in London for a summer with my cousin and a horrible family who believed “nanny’ meant maid who will pack and clean my house when I move, leave five children under the age seven with for a weekend and not pay. Although, I loved the city and actually had an amazing time escaping downtown on my off-days. I wandered the streets excited to meet new people and see new things.
At 17 I decided to study abroad in Spain for the summer. While my first family believed there is no reason to leave the house when the TV can stay on for 12 hours at a time, my second host family was amazing. We’d spend the days at the beach, the evenings learning each other’s languages and the nights at the discos. By the time I left I couldn’t think about anything else but returning, which I did my junior year in college.
This experience was the absolute most eye-opening, exciting adventure I have experienced. I traveled to France, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Morocco and all over Spain. I met some life-long friends and immersed myself in a new life, which I didn’t want to give up. Once things do change it’s hard to go back. I guess my point it that through all of these good and bad experiences and changes in my life, I’m still scared of the future. Maybe that doesn’t mean I’ve learned nothing, because I’ve learned how to conquer that fear and push myself through the hard times, like graduating from college.
Photo: Near Lagos, Portugal, at the most southwestern tip of Portugal.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Reporting then and now

A 30-year-old white, good-looking man with dark hair sits at a wooden desk, his reporter’s hat shadowing his face as he leans over a typewriter and punches at its keys one finger at a time. The room is dark and his tan trench coat is the first thing that catches your eye. This Dick Tracy type man stares deeply at a small reporter notebook filled with scribbled black ink marks. This is what I picture when I think of old journalism.
Journalism used to be a hunting and gathering process, according to Phil Meyer, an innovative semi-retired newspaper reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner for his coverage of the inner-city riots for the Detroit Free Press.
“We looked for news, found it and delivered it. When information was scarce, the end users were so glad to get it they didn’t make much fuss about its quality,” Meyer wrote in a 2004 USA Today article, titled “Journalism must evolve--and quickly.”
Meyer continued to say information has changed, and so has reporting. I like to think a third element has been added to the hunting and gathering process, the presentation aspect. This is where creativity is expressed through word choice, description and imagery. Not to say there is no creativity used in the reporting part of journalism, but this is a different type resourcefulness.
In another USA Today article written by Meyer, titled “Closely watched media humbled,” he said journalists were able to get away with more before the Internet came about, because the standard wasn’t as high and reporters weren’t watched as closely as they are today.
“One old-fashioned investigative technique was to publish unverified information in hope that the resulting uproar would smoke out new sources that would provide the verification,” he wrote. I can’t imagine doing that today, but in a world where the media are constantly trying to increase ratings and beat out the competition, I’m sure it’s desired. Attention has become hard to grab on to and even more difficult to hold on to, making creativity, in place of trickery, just as big of a player in the game as information gathering.
“All of the cheap ways of getting attention are about used up. Sex and violence in entertainment, the quirky reality shows on TV, the screaming heads on news programs have gone about as far as they can.” Meyer wrote in the evolution article.
Agreed, and grateful as both a journalist and a receiver of those cheap attention grabbers. I suppose good old-fashioned storytelling is the answer. Sure, people can only pay attention for what, seven or 15 seconds? If you catch them in that time and provide them with quality work in those few precious seconds, I think they will stick around. Good writing is beautiful and more than just entertaining, but inspirational, and I think people both want and need to be inspired.