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.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Online Corrections

The first day of lecture we discussed the need for transparency in the media. The more transparent the media is, the more credible it is. One of the ways the media can do this is by being clear about their corrections.

Unfortunately, I need to petition for a correction in one of my classmate's blogs.

A Wednesday, Sept. 17 blog post by Meghan Montemurro entitled "Michael Phelps Obsession?" inaccurately said "(This blog post is dedicated to Katie O'Connell and her love of Michael Phelps.)"

I am, in fact, not in love with Michael Phelps.

Miriam-Webster defines love as "a strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties." Considering that I have never met Michael Phelps, the statement made by the author is false.

I only ask that the media be clear in its reporting. When statements are made that are false, I ask that they be corrected.

Thank you.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

A true puzzle

Online journalism, because of its lack of traditional boundaries such as word counts, can be more dynamic than more traditional forms of journalism. However, this leaves us asking how much is too much?

The New York Times has a feature on its Web site that allows readers to double click on any given word and multiple definitions from American Heritage Dictionary, Columbia Encyclopedia, Medical Dictionary, WordNet, etc. While this tool can be useful to medical terminology or looking at references that are specific to New York, I was reading an article called The Bipolar Puzzle when I accidentally double clicked on the word "earlier." Sure enough a definition popped up, informing me of the definition of a word I already knew.

So like I said, this tool could be useful in some cases, but to put links to definitions with every word could prove to be bothersome for those of us who like to highlight as we read online.

When it comes to online, how much is too much?

How hard is it to put lipstick on a pig?

One of my friends from The Daily Illini sent me this link. As she said in her e-mail, "At best this is funny. At worst, it's animal cruelty."

Who says there's not a place for video in the online newsroom, let alone politics?

Video Link: How hard is it to put lipstick on a pig?

Monday, September 8, 2008

A new spin on spin

My Father constantly urged me to put my writing ability to use by become a journalist. What's strange about this typical parental persuasion is that my Dad hates journalists with a passion, but I know for a fact he loves me.

Why does Joe O'Connell hate journalists so much? Because he thinks they're all bias.

To be honest, there are times where I can sympathize with my Father's perspective. Being a man with high political interests, although I won't say which way, Joe O'Connell has the ability to point out bias in pretty much any piece of journalism. Sometimes I think he sees journalists as Mel Gibson sees the government in "Conspiracy Theory," but then there are the times when his arguments are justified.

Luckily, Joe O'Connell might have a partner in bias-spotting. A self-proclaimed political progressive and conservative had melded minds to create, a Web site geared at detecting bias both ways in a story. According to their home page, "We have tremendous respect for journalists, but who would argue that the media circus isn't out of control? A full 66% of Americans think the press is one-sided."

Obviously this is cause for alarm. An article on BusinessWeek. com said that the site uses the Society of Professional Journalist's Code of Ethics to find bias through examples of "...
reporter's voice (adjectives used by a journalist that go beyond the supporting evidence in the article); passive voice (example: a story says "bombs land" without stating which party is responsible for them); a biased source (a quoted source's partisanship is not clearly identified); disregarded context (a political rally's attendance is reported to be "massive," but would it have been so huge had the surviving members of the Beatles not played?); and lack of balance (a news story on a controversial topic gives much more credence to one side's claims)."

So what does this mean for journalists? Honestly, the site is not guaranteed to work, so it could mean very little. Cynicism about the mechanics of the site aside, I think this is both bad and good for the world of journalism. It's bad that the opinion of the media has sunk to the point where people are so enraged and feel the need to track bias in reporting rather than reading a variety of sources to gain a full perspective.

However, this may be a tool that journalists can use to benefit. As evident by the remarks of a fellow student in lecture today, some journalists may have a difficult time distinguishing fact from opinion. If journalists used this Web site to examine anywhere there may be bias in their articles that they were unaware of and didn't intend to include. Journalists using this site enough may help to eliminate unintentional bias, as well as the 66 percent of Americans view us as being bias.

Article Link: Media Bias? Not if this Web site can help it.

The future of journalism?

The Chicago Tribune had an article that made me think a little bit about the future of journalism. Working in the online department of The Daily Illini has taught me that almost everybody has their opinion on what medium will emerge as the dominant force in journalism - either print, broadcast or online - yet very few people take into consideration what this means for the actual journalist beyond possible unemployment.

So what if young journalists are made into machines themselves, metaphorically speaking of course.

South Elgin High School has created BEACON, or the Broadcast Education and Communication Networks Academy. This academy takes students at the ripe age of 13 or 14 and funnels them into having a career in either "broadcast and entertainment industries, cable, online media, video and audio production and electronic communications."

Interesting. And I thought working on my high school's newspaper was enough.

On one hand I can see the benefit of such an academy. Those who graduate from there will most likely be able to land some sort of internship outside of high school, making them the envy of their college peers and easily employable after their college careers.

However, what happened to high school? I didn't even like high school but I feel like pressuring the American teenager into starting an intense, highly concentrated study of journalism at such a young age would turn them into journalism machines. Sure they'll know how to tell a story in both print, broadcast and online formats, but will they be able to tell the stories of their peers who attend a normal high school?

Perhaps part of me is still an idealist when it comes to journalism, but isn't part of our job to connect people to the emotions and experiences of others? If a 14 -year-old journalism student spends all day editing video to be posted online rather than joining another co-curricular activity or sport, how are they supposed to tell the story of the local basketball hero who tore his ACL with any type of emotion? Unless of course they teach classes in how to relate to your peers and tell their stories in an emotional manner.

There's just something a little too strange about putting somebody who has barely hit puberty into a high school that programs them for a career they'll have in about 8 years. Heaven forbid they change their minds about their majors.

Article Link

Monday, September 1, 2008

Headlines: Online vs. Print

Online vs. Print, a tale of the times.

Whereas headlines in the print format have traditionally been bound by space limitations and font sizes, online headlines have a little bit more flexibility.

But what exactly does that mean?

The cover from Monday, Sept. 1 from the New Orleans Times-Picayune had their dominant headline read "Hunkering Down." While this works for print because it is paired with a dominant photograph of vacant New Orleans, if somebody were to subscribe to their RSS feeds and read a headline that simply says "Hunkering Down" without the other visual cues that accompany a print page would make no sense.

So what can online publications do to work around this problem?

Well, the simple suggestion would be to use the subhead as a headline. The subhead for this specific front page was "Weaker Gustav might give metro area breathing room." This headline when read on an RSS feed or an e-mail edition would make more sense than "Hunkering Down."

PDF of The New Orleans Times-Picayune