Wednesday, December 3, 2008


Look familiar to you?

If not, it should. is the latest site when it comes to news dissemination, but surprisingly it isn't run by a news organization.

It's run through you.

I first heard about twitter at an online journalism conference last spring. Considering the work I do as Managing Editor for Online at The Daily Illini and my ongoing interest in new media, I signed up for the site.

And then I didn't log in for months.

At first it seemed like a glorified Facebook update. Since I already had a Facebook profile, I wasn't too sure what to make of twitter.

That was until this past week. Many news organizations, such as The Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times and locally The News-Gazette use twitter to connect with a wide audience. They do so by updating their status with the latest headlines about news, weather, traffic, etc.

For any student interested in the news, this is the latest place to go. It's a social networking Web site similar to Facebook that in a clean and simple format that allows you to digest your favorite outlet's articles.

Fancy yourself a news junky? Then this is your latest high.

Get involved

I didn't think this image would look so small, but here's a peak at what St. Louis Post-Dispatch is doing to generate user interest. They've created a separate Web site that they link to in many instances called mystltoday.

What this Web site does is it encourages community participation in journalism. It allows people to share the stories of how the news has impacted their life, tailoring it to their specific needs, wants and desires.

In my opinion the best thing about this is that it breaks down the barriers between journalists and the community they serve. Journalists can be viewed as higher players in the game of information, simply gathering and preaching news as we see hit. Yet the media outreach created through user submitted content allows readers to become part of the news, a move that could hopefully generate some revenue and more importantly, more interest in a business that according to gruesome headlines has taken a few blows.

Perhaps the end is near

Odd as it might be, the same news organization that brought you the trashy slideshow of celebrity mug shots is now heralding in a temporary end to tabloid journalism.

The Chicago Tribune's logic: celebrities are getting boring.

Apparently we're past the mayhem of Brajolina and Bennifer. May those days rest in peace.

Here's a link to that article:,0,6940222.story

Typically I'm a cynic. Some consider it a negative quality, I consider it survival of the fittest. But in this case, I'd like to think that the American public has shed its fascination with celebrities. Perhaps images of war and suffering are actually getting the attention they deserve.

And right when I was thinking that, I scrolled down and saw a link to the slideshow of celeb mug shots I used as a guilty pleasure. Gotta love related content.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Wheel of Justice!

This past summer my Dad's family moved to a suburb of Houston called Katy. I decided to visit the strange, exotic land of Texas during Thanksgiving break, which meant that I had a long ride ahead of me.

Somewhere along the Louisiana bayou my Dad informed me of a type of news segment the local NBC affiliated aired. This segment consists of a man spinning a wheel that has profiles of several criminals that are still at large tacked on it. Once the wheel selects somebody, the station plays a brief biography on that person.

One example my Dad thought of was a man who had committed a string of fast food robberies along the interstate that runs through Texas and Louisiana. Any audience member who helps aid in capturing the perpetrator earns $500, and the capture is filmed and aired the following week.

How American.

Naturally this threw my Chicago-suburban self for a loop. It seemed odd that a news station would have a news segment based on old-fashioned cowboy justice. Sure it is Texas, but isn't that a twinge bit stereotypical?

My mind, however, changed while I was basking in the warm southwest sun. Many news organizations are pushing for user interaction as a way of retaining their audience. Whether it's poll questions, user submitted photos, forums or article comments, this seemed like televisions way of appealing to its audience.

After all, who could resist the "Wheel of Justice."

Here's a link to the station's Web site

They have a blog of justice as well. Don't mess with Texas.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Photo Response

Photo 1: Boy grieving for his dog

Why you could run the photo: The main reason I can think of for running this photo is for the emotion that it captures. It definitely tells a story, and it's one the evokes a sense of grief that connects the audience to the story being told.

Why you wouldn't want to run the photo: This was obviously an extremely sad moment for the boy involved in his family, and God willing the idiot who hit the dog would be devastated by his or her actions. To run this photograph would expose a very personal moment.

Local or not: Even if this were a local photo, the issue that I have with it is that it's invading a personal moment while having no news value. Unless the accident with the dog caused a chain reaction of accidents that lead to a house catching on fire or a law being made about dog slaying, I really don't feel that the invasion of privacy is warranted.

Placement: For the same reason I wouldn't run the photo even if it were local, I don't think the placement has any part of this photo. It's still violates the boy's privacy whether or not it's on the front page or an inside page.

Verdict: I wouldn't run the photo.

Criteria: I couldn't imagine the sadness that I would feel if my dog was killed by a car accident. If this picture was taken with my brother mourning our precious puppy Maeve, I would be furious with the news organization and their decision making process.

Photo 2: A family mourns their loss

Why you could run the photo: Similar to photo 1, this photo tells a distinct story that is packed with emotion. The loss is tragic, and the photographer was able to capture just how awful of a moment this was in the lives of the little boy's family.

Why you wouldn't want to run the photo: Also similar to photo 1. The part that bothers me the most about this photo is that you can see the boy's face in it. It would be one thing if the photographer took a picture of the family grieving, a common photo after a death occurs, but the fact that you can see the boy in it makes it so much worse.

Local or not: This photo being local would actually serve as another reason why I wouldn't want to imagine it. Imagine being in first grade with the child who died and seeing this image when your parents read the newspaper over breakfast.

Placement: Maybe the child eating breakfast wouldn't see the picture if it were inside, but chances are the family will.

Verdict: I wouldn't run the photo.

Criteria: Every time I see a picture of children who have been killed, hurt, are starving, etc. I always think about how I would feel if that child was one of my younger siblings. It's easy to brush off these things when you don't feel connected to the child, but when I think that it could be one of them it breaks my heart. I don't see how you could run this photo when a photo of the family grieving without the body in it or when a photo of the crew looking for the child could be run instead.

Photo 3: Bud Dwyer kills himself

Why you could run the photo: This photo is the news story. It's an action shot about a gruesome act. There's not any blood in it, and I wasn't able to tell from looking at the picture that he had pulled the trigger and that the bullet was most likely in his brain until I was told that.

Why you wouldn't want to run the photo: The bullet was in his brain.

Local or not: I don't think that it would matter if this was local. Even if you were covering this incident from a local news organization, the suicide was televised, making it a national story and putting the local peg on the back burner.

Placement: Still gruesome on an inside page.

Verdict: I wouldn't run it.

Criteria: If I knew and cared about him, I would feel like this photo was haunting me, even if it wasn't as gruesome as some of the other ones might be. A picture of of the chaos that I'm sure ensued after this would tell the story as well.

Photo 4: Dead printing plant worker

Why you could run the photo: It's an excellent shot when it comes to the actual composure of the photo. The way that the lines in the photo work leads your eye directly to the body, making it hard to take your eyes away from the image. It also adds to the morose feeling the photo creates.

Why you wouldn't want to run the photo: Similar to other photos, putting yourself in the place of one of the plant worker's family or friends makes the image unbearable.

Local or not: Just like the picture of the boy who drown, having this photo run in a local newspaper could actually make it worse since it's more likely to be seen by people who knew the victim.

Verdict: I wouldn't run this photo.

Criteria: The reasons for why this photo shouldn't run trump the reasons why it should.

Photo 5: The boy with a piece of fence through his face

Why you could run the photo: It definitely tells the story, and quite frankly I don't know that words could capture the meaning as well at the photo does.

Why you wouldn't want to run the photo: Two words - ew, ouch.

Local or not: Since the boy survived I don't feel like this photo would be too disturbing for his family or friends to see, other than the fact that it looks extremely painful. I'm sure his friends might actually think it's cool.

Local or not: This photo wouldn't be relevant to a non-local audience, so if it were a local photo then it most likely should run.

Placement: Perhaps the image is too disturbing to run large, or as the lead photo on the front page, but if it were either small on the front page or on an inside page then I don't think it would be as bad.

Verdict: I'd run it, gross or not.

Criteria: Reversing the roles this time doesn't have the same effect. Had the boy died, then it would be another story.

Photo 6: A woman being sexually attacked by a mob

Why you could run the photo: The photo does tell the story in a way that maybe words couldn't as well. It's horrific. Not to mention that running it would bring some justice to the offenders and hopefully make people think about how the celebration effects those around them. Also, with the face blurred her identity is protected.

Why you wouldn't want to run the photo: This was by far the most disturbing image. I couldn't image how violated I would feel if I were that woman. Quite frankly if I were the photog I don't know that I would've been able to use my camera for beating the crap out of those guys. Sexual violence is is one of the worst things that could happen to a woman, making this picture utterly heinous.

Local or not: I could see wanting to ruin the lives of the men who did this as a reason to run this photo if it were local.

Placement: Once again, imagine the breakfast table with kids there. This image would be difficult to explain to them, meaning that the front page is definitely out of the question.

Verdict: Not a chance in hell would I run this photo.

Criteria: This photo was a struggle between my sympathy for the victim and the anger I felt toward the perpetrators. I want to run the photo to stick it to those fiends, however this could be unethical as in our legal system does claim that all criminals are innocent until proven guilty, and this photo is pretty damning. However, I'd be willing to overlook that. Still, in the end my obligation is to the victim, not to the criminals. If this happened to me, the last thing in the world I would want is for this photo to run, although I would like it for evidence why I fried the asses who did this.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

The trashiest slideshow I've ever seen

While once again looking at my favorite news Web site,, I noticed that there was a story about Heather Locklear being arrested. Since this was such a light headline compared to the other ones about police officers clinging to life after being shot and other such gruesome events, I decided to click on the link underneath Heather's headline that said "Photos."

What this link took me to might just be the trashiest, yet most fascinating, photo slideshow of my life. With just a click of my mouse I was able to look at 93, yes that's right 93, mugshots of rich and famous people.

Much to my cagrine, I looked at all of them.

I couldn't help it.

I'd like to think that I have a fairly high standard when it comes to journalism. Typically I shun magazines about celebrities, thinking that stories about whether Jennifer Aniston has emotionally healed from her latest breakup, people who are skinny, people who are fat, women who are pregnant, etc. do not constitute actually forms of journalism. I suppose there's some credit to quoting anonymous sources close to celebrities about how they're recovering from their latest DUI, I'd like to think that the majority of journalism actually educates the public in order to uphold a democratic society.

Even if you're an entertainment, food or sports writing perhaps upholding a democratic society isn't necessarily your goal, nor should it be, but at least there are standards that this trashy slideshow doesn't come anywhere near meeting.

This is garbage, which makes me ponder two different things:

1) Why would an online editor allow this to be posted
2) Why was I so fascinated with it?

To answer the first question, I'd like to think that there's some logic to posting this slideshow other than getting hits from amused audience members such as myself. So what would the reasons be?

Honestly, I can't think of any. At The Daily Illini we run mug shots when reporting on a specific story, but I can't see how this is remotely credible. How exactly does this tell the story any better than just posting Heather Locklear's photo? I suppose only the editors at The Chicago Tribune know.

As for my second question, there was something fascinating about looking at celebrities in their weakened state. I suppose that somebody in the psychology department could do a study on this. After all, we're inundated with photos and videos of celebrities, who showcase an impractical body image, on a more than regular basis. Perhaps I liked seeing them when they looked ... well, normal?

Then again, there was always the thrill of seeing who would come up next. While there were a few repeat offenders, such as Lindsay Lohan, the majority of people provided me with a fresh form of amusement. It was like a guessing game. I would see the picture and then have to identify who the celebrity was without looking at the caption.

At the very least I was amused, although I definitely wouldn't say I was anymore informed about the world.

But before you judge me, try looking at it for yourself:
Mugshots of the rich and infamous

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Best Daley face ever!

I logged on to my beloved Chicago Tribune to see the best Mayor Daley face ever made. Apparently he's upset about a negative commercial by McCain's ad campaign linking his brother and Obama to Chicago's dirty politics.

It featured both the best picture I've ever seen of Daley and this amazing quote: "When you start throwing mud, mud is going to be thrown at you and it's going to be sticky."

Sweet home, Chicago.

Underneath this story there was a link to another story entitled "Daley: Cut beer sales by ballparks." Quite frankly the only thing the two stories had in common were Daley, so I'm not too sure they should've been packaged together. Too bad I was too distracted by how awesome Daley's face looked to care.