Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Nothing's basic enough.

I always get mad at editors when they tell writers their stories are "just" going online.'

Online has tons of advantages to print news. I could rattle them off, but then I'd get off topic. No one's arguing with me here. Just because your article doesn't make it into a print edition certainly doesn't mean it doesn't get read, and it doesn't mean it doesn't have impact. If we can still get sued with a "just online" story, we can certainly make a positive impact as well.

Yes, I talk the talk.

I'd love to have a very strong web presence. But I kind of want someone else to do all the building for me. Unfortunately, web designers are expensive.

So tonight I tried to make my own web page. Unfortunatley I have failed so far.

I activated my hosting space on the school's Web site. I bought a domain. but I couldn't figure out where to go from there.

I feel like if I'm having trouble this early in the process I might should be worriedt.

There are so many steps. I tried it all. Asking for hep. Googling it. I feel like that's a major problem with a lot of site building FAQ's: nothing's basic enough. I was so lost the entire time, and I didn't know which was host and which was domain, all the basic terms that seem so obvious once you hear them are too hard to find to lok to use them.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Dream Job

It's always a peculiar question to me when people ask me what my "dream job" is.

I have a few prepared answers.

Some days I say, "The Miami Herald." I'm obsessed with McLatchy papers, and I'd kill to live in Miami. I was born there and I just think it's the most incredible place.

Other days, I say "A war reporter." War has always fascinated me, and I'd love to live where the action is. To live, breathe, get so absorbed in it, tell all the different stories associated with war.

But my last prepared response is probably the most accurate.

"I want to be Woodward and Bernstein."

Netflix describes "All the President's Men" as "The film that launched a thousand J-school students." Now, I didn't see it until about a month ago. But I read about these men in my history books, and knew they were my heroes.

I want to change the world with something I write.

Now, the reason this is the most accurate is because it's the most versatile. It's not medium specific. I can't plan to be a Herald journalist, because who knows what the Herald will be by the time I graduate. But obviously, the demand for good investigative journalism will be around.

In Ryan Thornburg's book "Producing Online News: Digital Skills, Stronger Stories," he details the newer forms of media and the many, many media available. It can seem a little overwhelming.

I've seen some great examples in my time in North Carolina.

A reporter on The Daily Tar Heel, Eliza Kern, produced an independent blog about the New Hampshire primaries this summer called "Primary Wire." She might have single-handedly ended one candidates campaign. The power of blogging is huge.

And my hometown newspaper, The News and Observer of Raleigh, recently produced an incredible series of investigative pieces about tampered practices in the State Bureau of Investigation. And the multimedia for them is just incredible.

It's all there. The story told straight from the victim's mouth. I can hear their own expression. I can see the actual photographs that prove the lies. I can read the full, fictional confession. I can experience so much that never would have made it into the print edition.

I would love to be the old-fashioned journalist who writes those hard-hitting stories for the front package. But I'd be missing out on so many wonderful ways to reach audiences.

Blogs are best for niches. I mean, my blog is about the future of media. Journalists will hopefully find it interesting. If you're a medical researcher, you probably won't read it. I'm okay with that.

Eliza's blog wasn't really interesting to me. I never really read it until she made a huge difference, to be honest, because national politics have never really been my thing, but especially not in New Hampshire specifically.

Blogs make it so you don't have to work for the Washington Post to make history.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010


At 10 p.m. tonight when my Carrboro Board of Alderman story was being read for the Daily Tar Heel, my managing editor said "Classes were kind of a slap in the face" (or something like that, this admittedly might be a misquote.)

I said classes totally rejuvenated me. I had three classes today, and honestly couldn't be more looking forward to this semester. Today I had three journalism classes though, and I can't promise I'll be saying this tomorrow after Spanish.

I'm beginning a new class titled "Public Affairs Reporting for the New Media."

It's an alternative style class, and I'm not sure what's going in it to be perfectly honest, but it's going to be the subject of the majority of my blog updates for the next semester.

I'll be working with a few classmates to develop a new online editorial product for the small newspapers in Whiteville and Washington, N.C.

I'll specifically be looking at (Little) Washington. After Google Maps-ing it and realizing this town is about two blocks from the beach, I decided I made the right decision.

But to be serious, I couldn't be more excited about this. As my reporting professor told me this morning, local news is the bread and butter of newspapers. Local news is what makes these papers necessary and it's what makes them niche publications.

And after a year on the DTH City Desk, I love me some local news. Local politics, school board, business, whatever. I've become so absorbed in Chapel Hill. In just a year I feel like a citizen of Orange County so much more than I ever was in my 17 years as a citizen of Raleigh.

I've also realized the importance of being plugged in — and I mean really plugged in — to report comprehensively.

And while I don't think I'll be doing too much reporting or coverage directing in these unfamiliar towns, it'll be a challenge to get the sense of Washington and what kind of news they need without spending a decent amount time there, developing strong source relationships and getting knee-deep in stories.

But I'll be tracking that journey here. Every step of learning about these towns that I literally know nothing about besides their proximity to ocean and designing their news resources. It'll likely be a lot of trial and failure. But I'm excited for the trying.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Coffee and journalism: friends or foes?

It's no secret that I love coffee.

I used to go to the Daily Grind or the Pit Stop nearly every day, after my two cups of coffee I need to wake up in the morning. Now that the Daily Tar Heel has moved downtown, I'm broadening my horizons to Jack Sprat or Caribou.

And I'm not unusual. Most journalists drink as much or more coffee than I.

So when I read this interesting blog post by journalism.co.uk that asserted that the local coffee shop could become the new newsroom, I was thrilled. I love to work in a coffee shop, have since high school. Coffee shops are somewhat a hobby of mine.

The post made valid points. By being in the city, working in the place of your article, it's easy to make new connections you wouldn't make in a newsroom. You get more plugged into your community. I've actually done some reporting in coffee shops in the past. And they're a great place to look at bulletin boards for story ideas.

But what I don't think it's accounting for is all the benefits of working in a newsroom.

As assistant city editor, part of my job is to oversee and be a resource for my staffers.

If you don't have much reporting experience, it is so, so, so much more useful to work inside a newsroom than to make your calls and write from your local Starbucks.

When learning to write an article, there are so many questions you won't even realize you have. And one of the best strategies you can have is to ask questions.

Working in the same room as your editors is the best thing you can do. Realistically, you're not going to call your editor 6 times in one morning with questions. But if you're in the same room, it's so much easier.

But after you've learned how to write a basic article, there's still so many resources in a newsroom. Probably the most valuable of these is my coworkers.

When I'm lost for sources, I talk to my fellow writers and editors. It doesn't matter if they're on city desk or know the subject at all, they can often see angles you can't because you're so absorbed. This also works for finding new angles. The people that I work with tend to have great news judgement, and between several of you just talking you can perfect the perfect angle.

My point is this: there should be a balance. You should be out in your community as a city journalist, whether it be in the form of a coffee shop, community center, park or anything else. You should be working as hard as you can to be plugged in in your community.

But that doesn't mean making the community your newsroom. At least not for my work in journalism thus far. Take advantage of all the resources at your disposal. And never underestimate your fellow college journalists.