Friday, July 10, 2015

Final Journalism S:100 Blog Post (Harvard University, Summer 2015)

I decided to share what my experience was in this course, and how it has prepared me for the final writing project!

This has definitely been an experience and an eye-opener for me. I walked into this class thinking it was cake, but I was 150 percent wrong. Harvard is not a joke. After the first few days I was nervous about how much of our class work I could handle, due to my side work as a Style and Digital Content Director, for a high-profile rapidly growing start-up company, that relies on 85 percent of my contribution.

I stuck with the course, because the learning experience was very important to me and something I truly needed, if I wanted to be an editorial publicist for the long-term.

I was amazed at how much I didn’t know as a writer, and how much I needed to improve on.

I have gained a better understanding of my writing abilities, and where I need improvements down the road. The experience in this course (good and bad), has encouraged me to write more than I already do. I think the more you write, the better you will become. I have learned a lot about time management when juggling reporting duties, and other work responsibilities at the same time. I have a better understanding of how much reporting and writing work I can handle, in a short amount of time. I am also glad I experienced the panic that can occur, when I'm trying to gain interviews for a story with people who are unreliable and unsure of themselves.

This course has also influenced my interest in political and community news stories, which has become very shocking to my fashion friends back in NYC and family. However, I see this as a great thing - and I look forward to reading more about political, financial and community issues from hard news outlets.

Moving forward, I am really excited to implement AP Style and paraphrasing in my writing. I believe, the more I practice and read hard news, the better I will be.

What I look forward to the most is my final project. So far, I have five sources confirmed. It is a topic I am incredibly passionate and excited about, which will give me more momentum to do great and get the best information I can, to develop an amazing story. I am glad I have more time to really review my notes, and class discussions we have had over the next week. I look forward ti including everything.

I really enjoyed my time on the Harvard University campus this summer!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Final class

What an experience its been writing this final assignment! Tackling such a massive and complex issue has been an unbelievable learning experience for me that I am so grateful for! It has really pushed me to write better, interview better, and gather difficult sources better!

Specifically, the biggest challenge with this assignment was honing in on a theme. I wasn't sure what that theme was going to be going in, so my questions started broadly and I had to follow my instinct to hone in on issues. In the process many, many aspects of Greek teen life surfaced, and it was difficult to bring everything together. In all, I have really enjoyed the class, and I think it was made me a much more disciplined writer! The experience here at Harvard was incredible, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat. Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerburg are crazy - this has been one of the best educational experiences that I've had. I can't wait to go out and start reporting!

What I'm reading

By Cristin Nelson

The in-class mentions of the NY Times piece on nail salons reminded me that I had planned to read it but forgotten.  I finally got a chance the other night.  It is an incredible piece of reporting in the face of what must have been considerable challenges, and well worth a read.

Did anybody catch the trending story about a teenager finding a mistake in a math formula at the Boston Museum of Science?  It was all over my newsfeed yesterday, but it turns out the formula was correct all along.  This article is an example of a piece that opens and closes with a character (though there aren't many details about him).

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Teen Dies in her sleep with IPhone 6 was charging: Wednesday Blog Post

On Facebook, I came across this horrific and terrifying news story posted on the "News Watch 33" website.

A 19-year-old girl was killed in Texas while sleeping, due to electrocution. The girl had Iphone six ear plugs in her ears. The accident occurred, because she was charging her iPhone while sleeping with her ear plugs in (The charger was an unidentified non-Apple product).

Although this story is incredibly sad and such a tragedy, I thought it was a great read. You do not hear many stories like this one. 

I think it is great for young readers to have news stories like this. This way accidents like this don't occur, and people understand the dangers of technology usage in everyday life.

The Future of News Consumption within technology products, and the evolution of what Twitter could and should potentially be!

The Future of News Consumption within technology products, and the evolution of what Twitter could and should potentially be!

Like I said in class yesterday, I think numerous tech products that we use in our daily life will be ways for us to consume media and news. 

Like the Apple watch, I believe Apple and other technology companies will create products (That allow us to find news, current events, and media) that people need in order to navigate their daily lives. 

I would not be surprised if other tech companies create watches, that have the Internet and will allow us to also consume news. 

When it comes to Twitter, I think it will expand (Similar to Facebook) and not just be a news feed, where you can share posts and pictures. I think a component of face-to-face interaction will be included down the road. This would also be excellent when consuming news, especially if you’re talking to people outside of the country to get information on what is happening on Twitter or in the world around us. 

I can’t predict this will be an occurrence, but I think it would be stupid to not include some sort of face-to-face interaction on Twitter. 

Twitter is a universal social media application, where you can connect and discover people anywhere in the world by one tweet, an instant message, a simple follow on twitter, or a re-tweet from anything posted within that moment or from years ago. 

The Future of News Consumption within technology products, and the evolution of what Twitter could and should potentially be!

The Future of News Consumption within technology products, and the evolution of what Twitter could and should potentially be!

Like I said in class yesterday, I think numerous tech products that we use in our daily life will be ways for us to consume media and news. 

Like the Apple watch, I believe Apple and other technology companies will create products (That allow us to find news, current events, and media) that people need in order to navigate their daily lives. 

I would not be surprised if other tech companies create watches, that have the Internet and will allow us to also consume news. 

When it comes to Twitter, I think it will expand (Similar to Facebook) and not just be a news feed, where you can share posts and pictures. I think a component of face-to-face interaction will be included down the road. This would also be excellent when consuming news, especially if you’re talking to people outside of the country to get information on what is happening on Twitter or in the world around us. 

I can’t predict this will be an occurrence, but I think it would be stupid to not include some sort of face-to-face interaction on Twitter. 

Twitter is a universal social media application, where you can connect and discover people anywhere in the world by one tweet, an instant message, a simple follow on twitter, or a re-tweet from anything posted within that moment or from years ago. 

Return to the Future of Media Tech

No doubt, a number of technologies are shaping the future of media. But as to what exactly that future will look like is anybody's guess. 20 years ago, no one could have predicted accurately Google's omniscient dominance of our Internet existence, nor Facebook's, Instagram's, or Amazon's ever-present company in our daily lives.

One thing is certain however. There will be more convergence of digital media and technology. The Internet will continue to drive the future of media technology. The Internet of Everything will continue to evolve and impact out physical world. And digital, micro-sized, nano-tech-powered bearable gadgets will become commonplace, some (or more and more) of them embedded in our bodies. 

The role of data will continue to grow too. 

Speaking specifically about the future of social media, Mike Laurie, a digital planner at UK Integrated Agency JPMH, made a comment that is also true of the future of media technology: It "will be effortless and everywhere." 

On Cybernetic Implants and Ultron

What’s the next big thing in news media technology?

I can’t predict what it could be, but I can predict what it has to be. The next big thing in news media technology will be the one that keeps convenience to the reader in mind. Under this premise, various media platforms used today will likely exist tomorrow in some incarnation, since news consumption is intertwined with a reader’s daily habits.

“The news media will have to adapt what they do to our behavior, because we no longer have to fit our behavior to their cycles,” said Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute, at a 2013 TEDx conference in Atlanta.

Radio didn’t completely supplant newspapers. Television didn’t completely supplant radio. The internet didn’t completely supplant everything.

These media platforms still exist—perhaps to a lesser degree—because each has its place in someone’s daily routine. It’s still convenient to read the morning paper with breakfast, listen to the radio on the morning drive to work and watch TV at the dinner table. It’s also still convenient to read news online on a computer or tablet during work breaks (slack time).

Today, digital technology has allowed us to enjoy these activities on one device—the smartphone. This innovation, however, did not render the other platforms extinct like 8-track tapes or Betamax. Despite its portability, not everybody likes or has the ability to read news or watch TV on 5.5 inch screens.

In the end, I don’t know if cybernetic implants or Ultron will usher a new age of news media technology. I can say that technological advancement catering to reader ease and convenience will.

Snapchat, Twitter and the Unknown

As I began discussing yesterday, I think that the trend in media tech will move further toward citizen engagement. We briefly touched on snapchat, but I think that its model, and its success, will inspire similar innovation going forward. The setup on snapchat is often for an event, for example, and those attending the event are given the ability to upload their own snapchats (photos and short videos) to the events snapstory (feed). The feed can then be viewed by anyone that has a snapchat, and the viewers are able to view the event through the literal lens of those that are in attendance, in real time. As I mentioned in class, these feeds are expensive to produce, but it is possible that media technology will find a way to amend that issue going forward.

The other aspect getting news from snapchat comes on the “discover” page, which is set up similarly to Apple’s Newsstand feature, and there are 12 news producers including CNN, ESPN, Vice, Yahoo!, Daily Mail and more. It has become a great source of news because viewers are able to quickly get information on things that are happening. The news is also delivered in a visual way, and is connected to written versions of the stories for those that want to know more. Having the 12 news sources in one place also accomplishes the goal of aggregation that we discussed in class yesterday.

I also increasingly get my news from twitter. Again, a place where everyone can interact in real time is what makes the social media approach successful. I love that I can follow my favorite news platforms and see the stories they produce all together in one place, rather than having to go to each individual site. Again this kind of aggregation will likely be a feature that remains in place going forward.

Other than that, it is difficult to say where the future of media technology is going. The need for news will always remain, although the way that we get it will undoubtedly evolve.

Predictions for the future

By Cristin Nelson

I thought about titling this post “Magic 8 Ball” because that’s about the quality of response I’ll be able to give regarding a prediction for the future of technology in journalism (“reply hazy, try again”).

There are just so many variables involved—interests, attention spans, access, technological capability, effective synergy of multimedia, and so many more.  I also caution against thinking about what happens next in the U.S. as “the future of journalism,” given that there are huge markets evolving in a different way from markets in the U.S. (such as the large populations in India who, as we discussed yesterday, exclusively use the internet on smartphones).  Variables and priorities differ from country to country, increasing the complexity of this topic.

One thing I do believe we will see in the future is more distinct market segmentation regarding news delivery.  While I agree that the general trend is leaning towards headlines and soundbites, there will always be a place for longer, more in-depth journalism.  Technology will need to exist to satisfy both segments (perhaps the Apple watch or Google Glass for headlines, for example, but tablets/desktops will never go away, because we need them for the longer stuff).  Market segmentation is already diverse but it may become more so, as populations evolve and begin to use technologies in ways that were perhaps unexpected at the outset (#blacktwitter, for example).

I am also convinced that, as compelling as video can be, it will never fully replace the written word.  When I browse the news during a break at work, I am annoyed when confronted with an article featuring a video only, without a written summary.  I can’t always watch videos, so I can’t access that content.  Perhaps other people don’t have the bandwidth or the time for videos, which are often not as concise as a written article; we may not want to spend two minutes getting to the important part of a video, when we could scan a written piece in 30 seconds.  This also speaks to market segmentation—one segment may prefer videos, while another prefers the written word.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Requiem for My Sneakers

Burning through shoe leather is more than a metaphor for diligent reporting. I came to Cambridge wearing a brand new pair of sneakers. Before I fly home Friday, I will lay them to rest. I won’t mourn them though. My sneakers served their purpose.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve met some interesting characters around Cambridge—a music store owner without a filter, a history concentrator with an eidetic memory and a pizzeria clerk who makes the best subs. If I were to search for these folks on Google Maps, I would find them on different sides of town.

Their relative proximity made taking the “T” impractical. Hubway bikes didn’t look comfortable. Moreover, the Harvard shuttles have proven as elusive as an Indiana ice cream truck in June.

Walking offered the only option for me to meet them, and I’m glad I did.

Each person helped make this summer memorable. One of these characters proved to be a highly-entertaining source for this class. Our conversations often involved the word “crap.” Another Cantabrigian regaled me with theories about the homogenization of modern Ukrainian culture. I also found out what “quotidian” means. The third still makes sure I eat a palatable dinner. I no longer need to microwave like champion while he’s around.

In the end, wearing out my sneakers was a good thing. I would be a lesser person if they were still brand new.

The good and the bad of covering Greece

On the cover page of almost every major news outlet is at least one story about Greece’s economy, if not multiple. One was written by a Greek reporter for Politico, that seems aimed at gauging the country’s citizens’ opinions on their prime minister. I found that the article broke almost every rule that we have learned in class so far: the author referenced himself several times, “…voters I spoke to on Sunday,” it started with a quote then never returned to the quotee or anyone else afterward, the structure was confused and jumped from topic to topic, and I kept asking myself ‘what is the point of this article?’ It asked rhetorical questions of the reader, and made such assumptions as “the consequences will be Apocalyptic,” without any quotes or support.

In contrast, the first article on Vox is an incredible example of data journalism that makes the case for taking a vacation to Greece. It explains the economic benefits both to the reader, as well as to Greece. It is clear and concise, focused, supported, and informative. Also, rather than attempting to put a new spin on what many other reporters are covering, the article is aimed at answering an embarrassing question that many people around the world want to ask right now. It also inadvertently does the good deed of encouraging Greek tourism, which will help the economy and the people who live there.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Enticing shorts

By Cristin Nelson

As a food writer, I really saw a use for Roy Peter Clark's chapters on "how to write short."  Almost all recipes in publication have a headnote, which is a short paragraph (usually two to five sentences) about the recipe.  The headnote might include why the author thinks the recipe is special, a story about where the author first had the dish, special notes about the ingredients or the method, the history or typical manner of serving, a combination of the above, or something else entirely.

Unless there are some specific special instructions needed for the dish, the function of a headnote is to entice the reader to make the dish (this is especially true if there is no photo accompanying the recipe).  The headnote has only a few words, really, to introduce the dish and grab the reader's attention.  Words must be carefully selected for their imagery and economy.  Although authors should use headnotes as an extension of their writing style, there is really no room for the wordy and extraneous phrases mentioned in class today.

Writing headnotes could be good practice for writing short because it is difficult to lose focus or swing too wide of your topic when there are no larger issues involved--when you have a simple topic, you would only need to focus on word choice and conciseness.

I found a few examples of headnotes today.  These are interesting examples because in a couple of them, the vivid description in the first half are so enticing (I can almost taste the native fresh corn, coconut milk, lime, and fresh basil, for example).  But, these headnotes don't really seal the deal-- some language is clunky and doesn't read easily, and so the notes lose some of the magic of imagery as I spend another couple of seconds trying to decipher their meaning.

Data Journalism

I read the Washington Post article about police shootings of the mentally ill from our suggested reading over the weekend.

The article did a phenomenal job of using the data collected to reveal an otherwise little known issue in our country. Much of the data available is provided by the government, so I commend the Post staff for taking the initiative to begin collecting their own data when the what the government provided was not sufficient. As journalists, it is important that we use the resources at our disposable to compile such information, and make it available to the public.

Secondly, I like that the article combines the data with stories. The stories bring important context to the numbers and highlight what is really going on. It is important for those reading this article to understand why the police feel that they must shoot those having a mental crisis (lack of training and misunderstanding), otherwise the story would have been one-sided. I think that including both stories from the victims families, as well as input from police management was a great addition.

One thing that I think is missing from this article is a comparison to how things are done in other nations. Mental illness is extremely misunderstood in the U.S., and we are not ranked especially well for our treatment of those with mental disabilities. Pointing this out could have shed even more light on the problem of treating mental illness in the U.S. and why the mentally ill end up with such high fatalities, especially from use of force by police.  

Assumptions in reporting

By Cristin Nelson

Over the weekend, I caught up on the rest of the ethics readings that I hadn't had a chance to finish earlier.  The story that most interested me was that of Jonah Lehrer, who fabricated quotes, plagiarized his own works, and rearranged facts.

This blog post by Seth Mnookin, linked to in one of the assigned articles, compared some side-by-side examples of Lehrer's original source material with his final product.  The examples are enlightening--as I read them, I was thinking that a lot of writers probably write this way.  Lehrer inserts small dramatic touches into the source material, and writes assumptions that cannot be proven.

For example, Lehrer recreates a scene (originally from Leon Festinger's When Prophecy Fails) in which a group of cultists are waiting for the rapture, which is supposed to arrive at midnight.  When midnight passes without incident, Lehrer writes, "the cultists began to worry.  A few began to cry."  The weeping is perhaps the most obvious addition--this didn't happen in the original material.

But the cultists' worry is also problematic.  The source material specifically states that as the time for the rapture passed, the cultists sat frozen, motionless, without expression.  This worry, then, is invented and assumed by Lehrer.  It is plausible that the cultists did begin to worry, but it is perhaps equally possible that they did not.  (In fact, it could be a more interesting story if they didn't!)  No one should assume that they know the inner thoughts or feelings of a person under stress, particularly a person who subscribes to an unfamiliar, fringe belief system.  It may also show Lehrer's hand by revealing his beliefs of what constitutes normalcy, making me question his objectivity.

I feel as though I have seen this type of writing online (and am probably even guilty of it myself), because I can see how it would be easy to do.  Societal norms are so strongly ingrained in many of us that I would probably also have assumed some sense of worry on the part of the cultists, given that it is probably "normal" to worry in a scenario where you expected some huge event that didn't take place.  It was a good, specific example of how "assuming facts not in evidence," even a small detail, is a dangerous insertion of yourself into the story.

Questions on Bias Raised by the New York Times

One article that caught my attention this weekend focused on the emergence of weight-loss clinics as healthcare laws have changed to require insurance companies to cover obesity screenings and treatment. This topic is pretty closely related to the one I am pursuing for my final project, so it was very informative to see how the opposing sides were written about and the weight they were given.

While reading the article I had a hard time not feeling biased - in part due to my own knowledge and beliefs, but also I think in part because of how the information was presented. Partially, the article spent time explaining what these new weight-loss clinics do: their methodologies, philosophies, patient stories and doctor explanations.

However the article was really about the financial gains that these clinics can make under the new insurance laws, and how this creates a conflict of interest. This combination of information left me skeptical of the weight-loss clinicians who were interviewed for the article, which perhaps it should have. Maybe none of these doctors really believe they are helping their patients and their responses are always as convoluted as they sound in the article. Maybe the answers I wanted to read just didn't fit in the allotted space.

While the weight-loss clinicians explained their methods, none of them directly addressed the fact that these techniques are not scientifically proven, there is a very low success rate, and medical doctors repeatedly warn (even within the article) that extreme restrictive dieting actually results in weight gain more often than loss. The author seemed to rely on other doctors who were clearly opposed to these clinics to introduce and back-up this information, which is good, but why did the reader never get an opportunity to hear back from the clinicians? Again, maybe their answers were simply not substantive, but that actually seems important to reveal as well.

The article closes with a quote by the patient who introduced the issue in the lede, about how she is okay with paying a large chunk of the treatment cost out of pocket because she doesn't quite meet the required weight for "obese". This raised a whole other set of questions for me about if she knew how unproven the methods are, why nutrition counseling didn't work, if she was ever treated for depression (she mentioned feeling depressed at the beginning of the article), etc. I felt that the article  sided with the anti-weight-loss-clinic mentality, but also didn't give voice to anyone who saw obesity as more than a weight problem. I thought the psychological aspects of the issue were essentially ignored, which could simply be a reflection of the medical approach, but I wonder if that really warrants the reporter not seeking it out.

From an entirely different section, I came across this article that takes a very different approach to co-authoring than the examples we have seen in class:

I assume this article was organized this way because the authors are fairly well known reviewers, so each of their individual voices are important to the reader. It was effective, in my opinion, to hear a male and a female voice on this topic, and especially to hear where they agree and depart from each other's perspectives.

Sunday, July 5, 2015

Brevity is a Virtue

“I do.”

“Come home. She’s gone.”

“So help me God.”

These brief passages served as micronarratives—snapshots—of some of the most profound moments in my life. Without knowing me, a reader could likely surmise the gist of the events behind these words: my wedding, a death in the family and my oath of office.

“Express your most powerful thought in the shortest sentence,” Roy Peter Clark said in his article “The Short Sentence as Gospel Truth.”

This advice validates something that I had intuitively accepted as true: brevity is a virtue. I agree that short sentences can conjure imagery as powerful as a photograph. Clark outlined instances that offer proof of concept. For example, placing “[h]is was 00001” in a paragraph’s last sentence recasts the idea of Herman the chimpanzee’s longevity at his zoo.

I think that something even shorter—like a name or a single word—can create a reader reaction as intense as Jeremy’s lede example. Harkening back to a lesson from Professor Nagy’s Ancient Greek Heroes course (I highly recommend it), a name or a single word can serve as a signpost pointing to something larger.

Here’s an example:

Jar Jar Binks.

For Star Wars fans, this name likely evoked a visceral reaction. For me, it summed up all that was wrong with the Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace—a forced Campbellian trope, ill-conceived comic relief and annoying protagonists.

In his 1999 review of the film, Director and Massachusetts native Eli Roth expressed his most powerful thought in the shortest sentence when he said, “It sucks.”

Friday, July 3, 2015

Quotes and Subject Matter in the Washington Post

I came across an interesting quote situation while reading Justin Moyer's article on Bo Dukes response to the removal of "The Dukes of Hazard" from TV Land. Moyer quotes a fellow cast member's Facebook post, which was written in all caps. He quotes the post verbatim, in all caps, noting that is how it originally appeared within the text of the article. I agree with this decision, as the decision to type in all caps communicates a certain tone that the speaker (writer?) likely intended. However I wonder if this is too much of an assumption to make - how would a reader know if this is someone who always types in all caps or if this was specific emphasis made for this particular post on this topic? I would guess it is the journalists responsibility to contact the person who posted the statement in question and give them the opportunity to speak for themselves, but this does not seem like the logistically realistic option, especially for breaking news stories. 

On an entirely different note, I have been surprised by some of the articles various news sources are releasing about the Supreme Court ruling for same-sex marriage. For example, in today's Washington Post, there is an opinion piece that questions the use of gay pride symbolism by non-gay individuals who support the decision, but perhaps did not involve themselves in the struggle for rights as deeply as those who the issue directly effected. Last week the New York Times ran an article describing the loss of an oppressed identity that is confusing and saddening to several gay individuals. These stories both struck me as not entirely news-worthy and odd choices of perspectives to focus on in an incredibly positive moment.

Coping While Black: A Season of Traumatic News Takes A Psychological Toll

I read an amazing article this morning on NPR.ORG today, regarding racism and how it can have a psychological effect on Black-Americans.

Although I think stress and psychological trauma stemming from racial incidents amongst the black community is subjective, I definitely can see how it can have a traumatic effect on people.

I can only imagine what it’s like for African-Americans who have dealt with racial incidents in the past, or have to deal with racial attacks everyday while witnessing what is happening in society right now.

I have never dealt with racially charged attacks turning violent. However, I have dealt with ignorant remarks being made towards me, in relation to my ethnicity. It is not a good feeling. I can only imagine what it's like for other people who have dealt with consistent racial prejudice's throughout their lives.

I handle it a little differently. I’ve never cried, felt like not going to school, decided to be absent from work, or became depressed because of racial attacks or judgmental behavior. When it comes to personality, I have a very strong exterior. I usually look at people like they are stupid (Because they are). However, it still hurts inside but I usually get over it within minutes.

I am the type of person who doesn't want other people to see me sweat, but I am still human.