Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Finding Mistakes Where There are None

For better or for worse, the midterm is officially behind us. Though I went into the classroom brimming with as much confidence as I was capable of mustering, I found myself second-guessing all of my editing choices. Specifically identifying verbals or clauses is tricky enough, but turning us loose on that error-riddled last page was another matter entirely. Suddenly, I started seeing mistakes everywhere, even when there were none. I'm not going to dwell on this too much over the break - I can't change my answers now - but I don't know how professional editors cross these grammatical minefields on a daily basis. Though to be fair, even the sloppiest of the Journalism 200 papers I've graded have never been that bad.

Other random thoughts:
  • David Simon's new television project, "Treme," is "skedded" to start shooting this month, according to Variety. This new HBO show will focus on Jazz musicians in post-Katrina New Orleans. Why am I bringing this to your attention? Simon is also responsible for "The Wire" and "Generation Kill." If you've seen either series, you know that he's very skilled at taking isolated groups - Baltimore cops and Iraq War marines, respectively - to make larger points about societal ills. Basically, follow the money and you'll find all kinds of corruption. Simon is a former Baltimore Sun journalist and has surrounded himself with equally talented writers, so this will likely be stuff journalists like.

  • Crain Communications cut 150 jobs and slashed salaries across all of its publications yesterday. This includes Advertising Age, one of the magazines we recently visited in New York City. Also, my almost-hometown, Cleveland, may be losing its major newspaper soon. Time Magazine ran an article about newspapers in jeopardy last week, and the historic Plain Dealer made the cut. I covered this may paper for my Journalism 425 critique last semester and it has indeed seen better days, but losing the print edition entirely would still be an epic blow to a city that's already having difficulties.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Don't Let Twitter Make You Bitter!

From the outsider's perspective, Twitter may seem like little more than a glorified message board for narcissists and text-message devotees. There seems to be much confusion about what "tweeting" actually accomplishes. When several of us made the magazine rounds last week in New York, most of the editors actually recommended Twitter as a promotional tool. I've seen news outlets post tweets for every online story, while many of my friends simply use Twitter to announce that they're performing mundane tasks like eating pancakes or staring at the wall.* All of these people are twittering incorrectly.

We spent a portion of our issues class this afternoon dismissing these social networks as a waste of time, suitable only for those with the shortest of attention spans. However, whereas message boards and bottom-of-the-page comments often fail to spark dialogue, I have seen a few rare examples of Twitter community building that give me hope for its future. Most notably would be "The Media is Dying" (TMiD).

Just as the name implies, this feed covers the shrinking job market for journalists; magazine and newspaper layoffs; and other depressing developments. Rather than filtering through all of the various print and broadcast productions, TMiD relies on its subscribers to send in links, which moderators then post to its front page.

This approach is successful for a few reasons. First, tips are vetted to ensure accuracy, so TMiD has a bit more authority than the average blog. Subscribers' voices are heard, rather than getting lost in the vast blogosphere. And though the 140-character limit may frustrate casual readers, those that stick around will see that the multiple posts a day eventually add up to something more complete than you might see in a local paper. The links are there for readers who have the time to look at stories individually.

Of course, TMiD is the exception, and much of the Twitter chatter is pure hype. But at the same time, I hope that my peers at least try to imagine possibilities beyond the typical "I'm sitting in traffic LOL" posts. I'd be surprised if we don't see more niche news aggregators and similar projects down the road.

*These are legitimate examples.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

A quick post before my NYC trip

As I was rereading my post from last week, I thought to myself how I could have very easily written a completely different response at this moment. I found that assessment to be quite difficult because I really don't have a firm stance on journalistic sensitivity in general. While I certainly respect the right to privacy, at the same time, I think one could make a very strong case for the publication of any of those photos. Yes, even the post-suicide Dwyer shot. Sure, some of them are extremely unsettling, but so are the stories that accompany them.

I think I need to do some soul searching throughout the next few months and come up with my own personal code. If I am to argue in favor of some images and not of others, I need to be consistent in my standards. Otherwise, I'll end up making snap judgments like I did last week and end up second guessing myself later on.