Final Journalism Project: Abby Paden Havens’ Interview

After many tedious hours editing this interview, it is finally complete. Never have I thought creating a Podcast would be so difficult. However, I found this exercise to be extremely beneficial and rewarding, which will allow me to utilize the skills I have developed for future endeavers. 

Here is the final result: an edited interview with a Brandeis student, Abby Paden-Havens, about her financial situation and her views on financial aid.  Final Journalism Project


Convergence Journalism: Quantity over Quality?

In years past, journalists have been able to write an article and still have the time to fact check, investigate, and focus more on the piece rather than divide their attention with attempting to make their piece accessible in the multimedia world. This is attributable primarily due to the fact that in the days before the internet and before everyone owned or had access to a personal computer, the news industry ran at a slower pace, and was forced to rely on information obtained from primary sources and hard investigation. In today’s society, all one needs to do to obtain information is open a web browser and search Google. In 2010, in a decade when everyone is tied to their computers and personal time has become more strained, it is unacceptable, not to mention unprofitable to limit media to only printed text. Consequently, convergence journalism, the act of distributing media in multiple forms via print, online, video, and photography, has arisen as the common means of circulating news to the public. The goal of convergence journalism is to educate the public by making news more readily available. However, has the convergence of journalism inadvertently led to the depletion of article quality, and thus a reduction in the amount of informative material conveyed?

      Before I discuss the drawbacks of convergence journalism, I would like to discuss the advantages. Especially in light of the depressing economic conditions in this country, it is a harsh reality that people’s time has become more constrained. Many are forced to work more hours than usual, and possess less free time to educate themselves and access media. In this way, convergence journalism has truly helped benefit the public by providing faster, more concise formats for people to obtain information quickly, without having to expend more of their limited time. Additionally, the convergence of journalism into multiple forms of media has made it more accessible to more people, not only by reducing the amount of time required to read the news, but also by providing more comprehensible and interesting media forms. As a result, many people who prior to this would not have been interested to a read a long print article, or perhaps were even unable to understand many of the words used in these articles, are now able to access videos, photos, and blogs to translate the information into more appealing, colloquial terms. According to Christana Xamis of School Tube,   

“Convergence journalism also adds more elements and details to a story through the use of more than one outlet to tell the story.  Now, when you go to websites to read an article you will more than likely see a video clip within the article.  It is much more appealing for the reader to see pictures and videos while reading a newsprint article; this is the formula for convergence” 

      While it is undeniable that distributing information to more people is a benefit to society, one fears the consequences if the quality of this information is impaired and questionable, because the reporter was focusing on too many media outlets. This brings me to the main drawback of convergence journalism, a decline in the quality and legitimacy of information written. There are two reasons for this I believe. Firstly, now, more than ever, the news industry has chosen to focus more on marketing and profit, than on educating people. Journalists, therefore, are forced to worry more about how many hits their blog will get, rather than if the content of their blog is worth viewing at all. This crazed focus on drawing a wider audience, and thus procuring more profit, has led to a decline in information quality. According to Matt McColl

“It is important to note news publications that focus on a smaller audience tend to define quality differently than those whose audience is larger. Larger newspapers are apt to value staff enterprise, staff professionalism, comprehensive news coverage, and interpretation, while smaller newspapers favor local news, community values, and community leadership. Thus, perceived audience may influence definitions of quality”

The second reason is that journalists’ time has become more divided than ever. It used to be that journalists had the time to fully research and probe into their subject matter to provide their readers with well-researched, well-edited, fact-checked material. Now, however, journalists are too busy trying to convey their information in text, photo, and video, to focus on the quality of any one type of media. Xamis believes that, 

“This new form of journalism requires the journalist to be skilled in more than one discipline.  For example, a convergence journalist could write an article for a newspaper and produce a broadcast package on the same story all in one day”.  

As a result, much of the information distributed to the public is poorly researched and contains many factual errors. Convergence journalism is not bad in itself. However, journalists need to find a way to be less extended in their work, and more focused on the subject matter of their piece, and the purpose of their position, which is to provide factual information to the public.

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Challenges in Journalism:My Struggle Writing My First News Story

Having never written a news story before, I found my first assignment of one to be a daunting task.  I wasn’t sure I would be able to do it, but in the end I did, though not easily. The first difficulty was choosing a topic to cover.  However many events there were to cover in a timely manner, none seemed very interesting. I knew my article would be better if it was on a topic that interested and engaged me.  Finally, I discovered the International Business School was hosting a speaker, Steve Belkin, who was going to speak about his entrepreneurial background; a subject that I am interested in for my future. I thought this subject wouldn’t be that hard

            Now that I finally found an event it was time to attend the event and actually apply what I had learned in class to the news story. It was a challenge to balance taking notes, taking pictures, capturing emotions, and listening to participants. The easiest part ended up being conducting the interviews. The interviews were interesting because I got to see the persons actually reaction to the question. I was able to see if they were uncomfortable with a question or if they had to think about

            Actually organizing my research on paper with the proper structure was the biggest challenge. Composing a strong lead, dividing the different topics into sections of the article, while still keeping the article a cohesive whole, and formulating an appropriate conclusion, were all struggles for me.  Luckily, I found several helpful websites, such as MEDIA College’s website that give the basic idea of how to write a news story. As much as this website showed the basic ideas to include (ex. the 5 W’s and 1 H) I still struggled with how to put all of my ideas, quotes, and information together. The inverted pyramid and the concept of a nut graph were also new ideas that I had never heard of before. Each concept proved to be crucial to writing a news story.

            Finally finishing the news story was a relief. I am grateful I had the opportunity despite the challenges, because it provided a new learning experience. The news story didn’t just show me a different writing style and structure, but it also provided me with a new experience on how to listen to a speaker and even just attend an event.  I also made me more aware to how others perceive it as well. In the end the real challenge was mastering the subject that I was writing about about. Even though I went to an event that I already knew background information on, the most helpful aspect was learning more about the subject. I understand now that writers  have to be well versed in the subject they write about.

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What Happened to Word-Of-Mouth Marketing?

Malcolm Gladwell’s article Small Change hit home for me with the opening story, which was about a protest organized strictly by word-of-mouth. The protest started with a few people, and quickly grew to thousands. What amazes me is that this protest was organized without the usage of social media, or the internet…. Now I’d like to know what happened to this word-of-mouth type of marketing?

With the increased usage of websites, such as Facebook and Twitter, businesses and consumers are beginning to lose touch with word-of-mouth marketing. Now, I’m not saying social media sites are a bad way of marketing products, but lately it seems that it is the only way many products are marketed. Is it that as business people we are becoming lazier? Or trying to target certain markets? BusinessWeek put out an article about the myths of Social Media Marketing and basically they say run the other way; and I completely agree.

One of the biggest concerns is the amount of time a company has to put into creating the site, and then updating it almost daily; on top of that, a person must be trained so that he/she can manage the website. According to an article by Gavin O’Malley, there is almost no point in creating a social media site. A survey showed that

“While 78% percent of corporate respondents say their company is using social media, only 41% say they have a strategic plan in place to guide such activity, according to a new study from marketing firm Digital Brand Expressions.”

Now to me this is a pretty sad statistic. With all the effort put into expanding social media marketing, and not even knowing if there will be a Return On Investment (ROI) from the website, it seems that marketers can revert back to word-of-mouth and other forms of marketing.

           The book Journalism Next tells why a reporter or journalist should use Social Media. The book does point out that one can’t just join a social media site without a plan in tact, but because of all the information that comes into reporters’, social media can be a good way to get that news out there. There are many good reasons to join a social media website, such as Twitter, especially if you are a journalist who would like to network with other fellow journalists.

           I do agree that social media can be a good way to get the news out there for journalists and it is a way to reach more articles and information. I believe word-of-mouth marketing is different for journalists because people are going to want to read what they want to and not necessarily listen to a friend that recommends a certain article.

           My belief and hope is that businesses don’t wipe social media out completely, but that they continue to instill the usage of word-of-mouth marketing, and slow down on social media marketing unless the ROI is showing improving numbers. As Social Media becomes increasingly popular businesses and consumers will have to adapt to new marketing styles to compete with each other.

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Social Media: Bringing Us Together or Creating the Anti-Social?

Participating in social media through the web is now a regular activity of mine. As I continue to increase my usage of both the web and social media I watch others who also participate in this growing trend. It is a trend that allows us to connect with others worldwide, “meet” people with similar interests, and market ourselves and companies in ways we never imagined. As many of us believe, the web and social media can bring us together as a society, or it can have the opposite effect and create anti-social behavior.

Neil Postman, the author of Technopoly, and Paul Levinson the author of, Digital McLuhan, touched upon the idea of the use of the web and social-media many years before it was popularized. Both authors were ahead of their time in predicting how the web would affect our daily lives. Interestingly enough, I wonder what they would have to say about it now? Postman and Levinson had opposing views about the usage of social media and the web; Postman believed that:

“Technopoly also encourages insensitivity to what skills may be lost in the acquisition of new ones. It is important to remember what can be done without computers, and it is also important to remind ourselves of what may be lost when we do use them.”

In Technopoly, Postman continues to state that the dependence on social media networks directs our attention away from social and intellectual matters that are crucial for all human beings. While Postman believes that we will be missing out on many crucial matters, Levinson informs us of the fast paced availability of these newer technologies. Information is presented to us faster, easier way, but how do we know this information is correct and what it is really meant to mean without the use of human interaction?

While many may argue that through the web, information is available at your fingertips and provides users a method of connecting with others, it has developed a society that has become overly reliant on technology for any type of information. Because of the growing popularity of the web, there is no longer a need for human interaction as a means of communication. The slow elimination of real human interaction decreases the overall quality of a human relationship between people. Without real human interactions, the feeling of loneliness will always be on the rise. An online relationship between a group of people is not the same as a relationship that is dealt with in real life since emotions cannot be expressed as actively and openly when it is online. The idea that the relationship is online creates a barrier between the people involved due to the fact that there is absolutely no human interaction.

One of the advantages of the web and social media is that by using it, you can most likely find at least one other person who has a similar or common interests as you. While this is an advantage because you can share thoughts and experiences it also has its disadvantages. Using the web to find someone with a common interest ignores the opposing view of what you believe in. This in turn starts the formation of groups that have no information coming in from the opposing view. Many of these groups can be harmless, however, as Leili McKinley states in her article Hate 2.0 – Does Social Media Bring Us Together or Tear Us Apart?, “All of this seems to point to a disturbing potential trend: the use of Social Media to encourage hate and ostracism, perhaps even violence.” These common interest groups that are forming are breaking society apart. People are turning against one another to hang out with others that have similar personalities. As McKinley also points out, and I agree with is that, Social Media and the web can be useful to truly see who we really are as a person.

Even though the world is getting smaller with the idea of Marshall McLuhan’s “global village we are separating as a society. Social Media has enhanced the way in which we find people with similar interests, but it is jeopardizing our ability to sustain the human interaction we look for in a relationship. Postman and McLuhan both have thoughtful ideas seeing as how both of them formed their ideas long before the web and social media existed. But, I agree more strongly with Postman’s ideas; with the usage of social media and the web on the rise, the world as a society will continuously be torn apart and will eventually be segregated into many different groups not wanting to accept opposing views. As our society continues to move in this direction towards a society filled of groups, I believe it will make it more difficult to return to the original state of our “global village”.

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