Thursday, May 04, 2006

InDesign Workshop

I attended a presentation on using InDesign a couple of weeks ago. This is the program used by Fairfield and many other college newspapers to publish each print edition. I was abit familiar with the program from watching Tara Touloumis as her assistant editor, however I found out a lot more in-depth tricks and keys to using the program.

Manipulating text, whether it be columns or font type, as well as pictures, seems to be the most challenging. This is also one of the most important things to know as an editor. There are two cursors. One is black and is used to perform most funstions, while the white one is used for picture manipulation. The white one is scary and I'lm not sure if I'm comfortable using it yet.

I was able to apply a lot of the concepts from my Adobe photoshop class to this because they are similar programs with similar icons and programs. I found it the presentation to be very instructive. I styill have a lot to learn with InDesign, however, I think I now have a good base and trial and error will develop my skill hereafter.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Wiki + Dictionary ?

So I found a pretty interesting Wiki site. Its is called Wiktionary.com. I played around by typing in different words, and found the definitions to be quite clear. I would certainly trust the information on it. However, I really wonder what the advantage of this is over a standard online dictionary (dictionary.com perhaps?). I do not think I would ever chose to use this mode of word clarification because of the plethora of stadardized dictionaries available. I do not even think the site is very user friendly. Over all, I'm not impressed.

Diving into Wikis

So I just took my first official step into the world of Wikis. After playing in the "sandbox" for a little I gained some more confidence. I went to the entry about Fairfield university on Wikipedia. I figured that Fairfield University was a subject I have enough knowledge about to contribute a bit.

I choose to edit the athletics portion of the Fairfield University Wiki. I added the new announcement of the men's head coach (Ed Cooley) and the women's coach's (Diane Nolan) 500th game win.

This was a little nerve-racking because I felt a huge pressure to make sure everything was clear and 100% accurate. It is interesting that I felt pressure in making the wiki completely authentic, more so than I felt about some of my blog entries.

I think that there is something about blogs that puts less pressure on a person and leaves more rooms for mistakes and individuality. This is not so for Wikis. Perhaps they are thus a better source of information (especially facts and figures).

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Back in the Sandbox

It's been awhile since I've played in a sandbox, but I never guessed that the next time I returned to playing around in such a child-like setting, it would actually be via the computer. You see, this sandbox lacked sand, a box, and ... well, pretty much it's not a sandbox.

You see, I was actually experimenting in the world of The Wiki Wiki Web. Wikis are a collaborative web medium for the sharing and posting of information online. I know that sounds vague, but there's no simple explanation. Pretty much, this is a web world in which there is no single creator/host/author. Anyone and everyone can edit these pages and make a contribution.

Of course, there are certain expectations as to what is acceptable and unacceptable for editors within this medium. You should not jump in and simple start making changes. This is where the sandbox comes in. One can play around in the WikiWikiSandbox in order get get acquainted with then unique system, which is what I just finished doing. It's fun!

I read a little into it first. So instead of just writing simple standard text, I learned the different codes in order to make the type bold, italic, bulleted, etc. Check out these codes and some style tips (these little tricks will make you look like a Wiki expert... kinda).

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Preview of Broadcast News Veteran's Class Visit

Broadcast journalism guru Jeff Gralnick will be a guest speaker during my next Digital Writing class. Gralnick is currently working as an NBC News Special Consultant for matter of the Internet and New Technology. Before this consulting position, Gralnick held positions that ranged from an executive-producer to field reporting in Vietnam. He has worked for CBS News, ABC News, NBC News, and NBCNews.com. It is no wonder that his counsel is sought by NBC. With 47 years of experience under his belt his belt, Gralnick is certainly an authority in the broadcast news industry. He will be particularly advantageous to our class because of his know-how of both print and technological mediums. Here are three questions I look forward to posing to him during the class…

~What changes have you seen within the industry, especially as related to technology, during your 47 years?
I think this is a prevalent question, that a veteran broadcast journalist like Gralnick would be able to answer with much authority. With his wide range of and numerous years of experience, I think that his insight as to the changes he has seen will reflect upon how the new media has developed into what it is presently as well as where it is going.

~What sort of internet and technological counsel are you sought about specifically?
Gralnick should be able to give our class a glimpse into the behind the scenes workings of an online news source. The variety of problems that such website producers are facing will reflect some of the challenges of this new medium.

~Would you consider NBCNews.com ahead of the game in terms of news websites?
Stovall said that the New York Times and the Washington Post are two front runners in terms of online news. I would like to know Gralnick’s response to this. What improvements does he see needing to be made? How do these different organizations’ sites vary?

A Bit More on Stovall...

Here are some of my thoughts on the final two chapters of Stovall that I read for my Digital Writing class...

Ch. 12
This chapter dealt with the laws and governance that have popped up in order to accommodate new problems and issues that are specific to this new medium. I found it important that he covered issues of decency, privacy, free speech, & intellectual property as they related to other mediums as well as online. This gave me, as a reader unfamiliar with such issues, the ability to more thoroughly understand how these issues compare and contrast against those of online.

I found the part that discussed privacy issues rather disturbing. Online technology seems to bring with it a significantly more risk of breech of privacy. In my opinion, originally people were wary of the internet it putting out information, however, I think that in the past year or so the internet has become such a common mode of communication and information, that people have become almost too comfortable and trusting of it. I really think that progress in these areas of lawful mediation needs to be made.

The section on indecency and obscenity on the internet was rather interesting because I think it is such a complicated and controversial issue. Where do you draw the line between freedom of expression and unlawful content when it comes to the internet? There is no black and white answer. The section talked about acts by Congress that that would regulate parental controls for kids under 12. But what about younger teens? This is the age when these sorts of materials can be found readily and cause harm? Also, do we not remember Columbine and the teens' ability to learn how to make bombs via the internet? There is a lot more material other than porn out there that is cause for concern.

Ch.13
This section made me think of my recent visit to the New York Times news site. It just re-did its site and it truly takes advantage of many of the elements that Stovall wrote about. They had immediate coverage of the NCAA tournament, so I did not have to wait until the next mornings paper to be updated. They also offered multimedia pictures of it, and video interviews. These are just three things that print newspaper simply cannot offer.

The Washington Post, New York Times, and MSNBC are the three internet news sources that Stovall refers to. These are three very big companies and can therefore handle the cost, manpower-need, and technological know-how to offer such great new sites. As the new generation becomes more and more internet reliant, many (myself including) rely more and more on internet news sources rather than newspaper. These early birds have certainly caught the worm in that they are catching the audience and users become familiar with their sites. People are habitual, so these three sites will reap many rewards, even as other new sources catch up.

It is striking how similarly print news and web news is put together behind the scenes. Stovall noted this and it reminded me of a recent visit I made with my class last semester to the Connecticut post. We visited during one of the two staff meetings that post has to discuss content and news for the upcoming newspaper edition. Stovall notes that websites do this 2 meetings as well. However, the website staff must get right on their projects to be put on the site, while the newspaper journalist must keep in mind their specific deadline for the next day's newspaper edition.

Monday, March 20, 2006

A little more on Web Journalism

Further chapters in GlenStovall's (pictured below) book, Web Journalism, really caught my interest. This new medium is a growing field, with lots of potential. I have to admit I found myself wondering if it was a field I should be considering... hmmmm. Well, as I ponder some future career choices, here are some tid-bits I found most noteworthy during my most recent readings:

Ch. 5 Writing: Every Word Counts
This chapter was a real throwback to a News Writing class I took last semester. Whether one is writing article for a newspaper, magazine, television broadcast, website, or blog many of the same rules apply. Pretty much is comes down to is you need to have accurate information, the writing must be clear, don't be wordy- get to the point, and use precise language, all while keeping your audience in mind. In an article you also usually want to keep the most important information near the top (this is an inverted pyramids style), with careful attention to headlines.
Of course, the ability to use hypertext on the web adds another dimension to web journalism. Hypertext, if used well, can enhance a reader's ability to be informed since so much information can be found. The visual impact of online writing is significant as well. Paragraph spacing, font, color, catchy summaries all contribute to a web surfer's ease in using a website.

Ch.6 Editing
This chapter delves into the job of editor. An editor has additional responsibilities and decision making powers. They keep up the image of the news source. One must first make sure that grammar is correct, the style is consistent, and the overall writing is done well/accurately. Headlines is the next job for an editor to write. A web editor must also work on summaries and the usage of links within a story. Meanwhile, an editor must strive to keep up a good partnership with the reporter. In fact, the convergence of media is actually putting many people n positions where they may acting as editors and reporters, or at least extending their skills beyond one simply defined task.

Ch.10 Design on the Web
Design is a huuuuge factor for all online mediums. Stovall emphasizes that information must be presented "...in an efficient, pleasing, and sometimes entertaining way, and in a way that reflects the principles and values of the site itself." There are a few keys to do this; keep in mind how one's eye works (it sees larger and darker print first and reads top to bottom/left to right) and remember to keep things balanced, contrasting yet focused, simple, consistent with variety. One must utilize the type, illustrations, and white space with these goals in mind

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Web Journalism

The next assigned reading for my Digital Writing class is "Web Journalism; Practice and Promise of a New Medium" by James Glen Stovall. It is very informative and covers a lto fof the topics we're recently delved into during class...what is the web? How is it a news source? How is is different from traditional news sources? And so on.

I've only gotten throught the first three chapters so far, but some of the most interesting parts od the book are the sidenotes and examples Stovallprovides. Instead of just talking about the web in a broad sense, Stovall brings specific websites into light to examplify exactly what he is talking about. One website set up a little gameboard that revealed the different scapegoats that different people were blaming during the Enron issue. This shows how news websites can be informative, visual and interactive all at the same time (something other mediums often can not).

He also seperated the different kinds of new websites. I had never really thought obout differentiating them. However, he makes some valid point sin his classification. He seperated them like this...

  • Shovelware - sites that simply shift content from an original medium
    (i.e. newspaper) onto the web
  • Moderate Updating- sites that do much of the above, yet take advantage of the ability to add content to the web more immediately thannormal newspaper deadlines allow information to get out
  • Aggressive Updating- this cite takes shovelware and adds a lot of emphasis to updating it. It often has a lot of staff memebers and goes out of its way to update often
  • Original Content- All news on the cite was produced solely for the cite

Monday, February 27, 2006

Bloggers Take On Some Detective Work...

Conflict always makes for good press…now it also makes for good blogs. A controversial case that hints as racial discrimination is normally an occurrence local newspapers and media would jump on to report. Not only would they benefit from an interested public, but they’d also be fulfilling their job as a watch-dog. However, for some reason, one striking case never made its way to front-page print. But don’t worry, bloggers have it covered.

Radley Balko, policy analyst for the Cato Institute has been following and bringing to light a case in the Missippi courts through his blog, The Agitator. From what he’s gathered, a young black man named Cory Maye shot white police officer, Ron Jones as Jones burst into his apartment as part of a drug-raid that was actually targeting the residence of the other side of the duplex (check out his blog for more details).

Did the police clearly express their identity before smashing through the door? Was Maye protecting himself and his sleeping daughter? How much does the victim’s white skin and police-chief father have to do with the final sentencing? These questions all buzzed though my head as I read his lengthy, detailed and credible (at least, in my opinion) posts… and many others have done the same.

This case is a startling example of the ever-present racial tension and disparity in the U.S. and its legal system (especially in the south). I will not, however, even attempt to tackle that issue. Instead, I would like to note that this is a sign of the times we live in. I mean, 10 years ago, if the print or television source didn’t pick up on this story I doubt it would have ever come to surface. Yet, this blogger, an 30 year old guy that lives just outside D.C., has succeeded in opening up numerous previously-blind eyes to a striking conflict.

It is this sort of attention that can make a difference in Maye’s case. It is also this sort of attention that the blogosphere has the ability to foster. Bloggers from all over are accessing this info and then spreading the word.

Battlepanda is one blog that is on top of it. He also has a link to a site completely dedicated towards the case in which Balko’s blog, among others is a source and link. I can not imagine a better illustration of the connectivity of the blogosphere. It is the connectivity that allows for the quick and mostly accurate spread of information. And after all, knowledge is power. Thus, blogs have power.