American Observer – day 2

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Today I finally got to work on my story idea for the dry run of the American Observer. I interviewed professor Joseph Campbell about his latest book, Getting it Wrong, and his views on inaccuracies in the future of journalism. The conversation was very interesting. Campbell looks at myths and lore around some of the largest inaccuracies in American Journalism. One of the sections I focused in on most was the chapter regarding Hurricane Katrina. We discussed at length how the media at times reported rumors and misrepresented what was actually happening on the ground. It seemed that many reporters did not bother to check up on their sources. If a national guardsman told them a little girl was raped in the bathroom of the Super Dome, they didn’t ask to talk to the family or see if there was a description of the suspect. They just reported it as news. This lead to big problems as aide groups became scared to enter the city after hearing reports of sniper file and intense violence.
I managed to sit down and crank out my story in time for deadline. I don’t think it is the best work I have ever done but am overall pleased. Stay tuned to see what the outcome will be.

The American Observer – part 1

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We are finally getting to the real meat of our course: publishing our work. The American Observer is produced entirely by grad students, with minimal oversight by the department. Johnson did warn us however that if we were sued, we would automatically fail.
With that thought in mind, we were assigned our positions for a dry run. I was happy to be a reporter, exactly where I feel most comfortable. The challenge though was to propose a story idea from a set topic that could actually be finished in less than 24 hours. I guess it was our welcome to daily news. For me, the most difficult part was the subject matter. Our topic was the future of news, derived from our studies of the Nieman and Pew Reports. All of our topics could have easily been turned in to a 50 page thesis. The other issue was finding sources. Many groups proposed vox pops just became the material lent itself to public opinion.
I finally arrived on an idea and went out on my own. Updates will come soon.

HTML (dun dun dun)

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Professor Johnson came to bootcamp today to push us further into the dreaded realm of HTML. The class started off non-threatening enough, looking at a variety of news websites and studying which were easy to use and which were aesthetically pleasing.
After perusing a plethora of sites, we stopped on Jim Brady’s brainchild TBD, which launched early this morning. The online pub has received a lot of hype. It is extremely local (he doesn’t like the term hyper local, or so he told our class during a brief drop-n) and will be linking to the TV webpages within the family and a community of bloggers. Prof Johnson asked us a vague, slightly snarky question after we traveled around the site. Will Brady and TBD change the world?
Well, no, it doesn’t seem that it will. Will it significantly affect the game? Its clear we all hope so. Everyone in the journalism community is hoping he will succeed – except maybe the City Paper and Post from which he has stolen several employees. But we’re all waiting for someone to make a some serious money off the web. Specifically, someone who is creating original content while acknowledging that linking to other original content will not be a detriment to a site, but rather a great bonus.

The rest of the day was less exciting as we got down to the nitty gritty of HTML and CSS. I left feeling bad for computer programers, it seems a truly monotonous and terrifying job.

A Museum for News

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We had our second field trip this weekend, fittingly enough to the Newseum. I could spend hours in the place, even having been before. I understand why some would view it as kind of extraneous, but I think some parts are very well done. I love the old papers, for one. I was thrilled the first time I went and saw that they have an 1860 edition of the Charleston Mercury. While I was freelancing for them in Charleston I met a lot of people who had never heard of it so for it to be in the Newseum is pretty crazy.
I also loved the 9/11 video. I had not thought of the reporters’ perspective covering that story before. I enjoyed hearing it from them. I thought a comment by Thomas Franklin summed up what it takes to be a journalist pretty concisely. Franklin, who took the photo of the fireman raising the American flag hours after the towers came down, said that when he and the rest of his crew tried to dock and get into the city, a policeman refused to let them off. Franklin said he took it into consideration that the police weren’t letting anyone into the city, especially so close to ground zero, but found another way and got in. It was funny to me that he put it in such terms. Journalists do generally take it into consideration that they could be entering dangerous places, but they usually do it anyway.
The First Amendment exhibit is another of my favorites. To have LL Cool J talk about freedom of speech with a soundtrack of Neil Young and Don Henley is pretty awesome.

First day of Final Cut – Panic Ensues

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After my first entire day of editing with Final Cut, I am drained. The sheer volume of footage that can be taken in one morning’s time is overwhelming. It is hard to pin down a focal point when the subject is as broad as “go watch bike messengers in McPherson square.” Alas, I think I found a story, and managed to edit a decent clip. That was of course after about an hour of sheer panic around 10:30. The intense amounts of coffee probably had something to do with it though.
Oddly enough I am looking forward to working more with video. Now that I know I can put together a basic piece, I think I will only advance from here. It is a good feeling.

Side note: happy birthday to YiYi, Dan and Karina. I look forward to celebrating with you all this weekend and relieving some stress.

Dangerous Rides

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DC bike messengers face daily danger while on the job.

A few brave souls were willing to talk to us while waiting for a call. The final version of our interviews is below.
Several interesting parts sadly did not make the cut, including Richard Collins’ joking about the Secret Service drawing guns on him for attempting to breach a barricade.

Out in the field

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Our first day out in the field! I feel like a grade schooler who create my own field trip. Konstantine and I were assigned to cover bike messengers in McPherson square. First we went up to Bethesda to interview a manager. Clad in a Hawaiian print shirt, Dave Goldstein gave us rap on bikes as transport. It seems like an antiquated business model – at least my first thought was of bowler hats and messenger bags on skinny guys in 1930 New York. But the concept works in big cities, especially DC, a place that’s legendary traffic proceeds itself.
Talking to the guys who ride every day was pretty cool. We caught them on a break, relaxing, smoking cigs and rehydrating. They let us know it was not an easy job, but that they enjoyed being outside and the freedom associated with it.
One small world moment was when a rider, Chris Brown, told us that his mother was a journalist who graduated from AU. Turns out, his mom is Katy Daley, who has a morning show on WAMU. Check it out here.

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