Friday, May 15, 2009

Headline mishap

I know this blog is probably already graded and done, but just at the off chance that anyone still happens to look at it, I wanted to post this. I thought it was hilarious.

This is a headline on right now:

Widow's suit ties tainted Crestwood water to fatal illness

What do you think it means?

Because it refers to a law suit. Not a neck tie.

Monday, May 4, 2009

JOUR 420

What have I learned in News-Editing?

Honestly... I'm not sure I've learned anything new, but rather I've learned why I do things the way I do them.

As per the discussion today in J420 lecture, I think the class should be restructed, and Jean presented what I thought was a pretty solid structure.

Like I said... I'm not sure I learned anything new, but if this were a 200-level class that I took my sophomore year, I would have. And the things I do as a journalist would have made a lot more sense to me if I knew early why I was doing them. Then maybe I could have focused more on my writing and reporting if I knew what I was doing, rather than just blindly doing it.

That last paragraph was a little convoluted and maybe needed some editing itself, but the moral of the story is that I think restructuring the course is a fantastic idea.

The Daily Illini

You know a lot of journ professors rag on The Daily Illini.

I'll admit... it could be far, far better. But (good) journalism takes time... time that college students do not have.

I can guarantee that The Daily Illini would scoop the News-Gazette on a regular basis if we had staff in the newsroom around the clock. But most of the time, we only staff the newsroom between 4 p.m. and 11 p.m.... hardly enough time to put together a newspaper let alone report stories and keep in touch with sources.

If there's anyone who think journalism is not a full-time job, you are sorely mistaken. Journalism is more about what you do when you're away from your computer. Who are you keeping in touch with? What kind of stories are you working on... are you just keeping your eye out for stories?

College students have enough to worry about with the journalism they need to do for their classes let alone a full-time job outside of that.

So, yes, The Daily Illini could be a lot better. I agree. A LOT better. But I think it does a fair job with the resources it has.


More on jobs...

More and more of the job listings I see are asking for "versatile" journalists. That means they are looking for people who can write, report, shoot and edit photos and video, design, edit copy and other various newsroom tasks. Basically, they are looking for utility players.

But I have to ask... are we spreading ourselves too thin? The more you ask someone to do, the less focused they will be on doing on particular task. Throughout my college career, I've been trying to learn how to do everything that I MIGHT need to do one day, instead of focusing solely on, for example, writing or shooting video.

Had I focused all of my efforts on either one, I'd be a lot better at whatever it was I focused on.

And journalism is a profession that demands perfection. In every aspect. So is asking journalists to report, write, shoot, edit and juggle fire asking too much?

It works within the evolving business model of journalism, but ultimately, I believe it's weakening the content.

Journalism vs. toilet paper

This is why:

Pay starts at $24,000 with the opportunity to earn $30,000 annually after one year of employment.

That paragraph was part of a job listing I was looking at today.

It's depressing, but a reality all recent journalism grads face: they all desperately hope the cost of living wherever they work is low.

I know it's been said before, but we're definitely not in this for the money. Of course there are a few exceptions: the Katie Courics and Anderson Coopers of the world. But that's a long shot. But let's take a look at the economic side of it and try to figure out why we'll never be millionaires.

It's because people don't want to pay for information. Although there is a degree of entertainment in most forms of journalism (some forms of journalism being purely a form of entertainment), we are, for the most part, in the information business.

And to the people who are consuming that information, it has become for them a portion of their everyday lives - just like food, water and toilet paper.

One of my professors made an interesting analogy the other day. Suppose you put 100 pounds of toilet paper next to 100 pounds of assorted newspapers. Which one do you think costs more? The toilet paper, of course.

The kicker: the toilet paper is pretty much just raw material. The newspapers took thousands of hours to produce, and is the result of the heavy toiling of dedicated journalists. But you've actually decreased the value of that paper (the raw material) by printing a newspaper on it.

That's a hard one to swallow. But it does give us a little comfort that journalists are necessary for the smooth functioning of the world. Sure we don't get paid much to do it. And sure, we take heavy criticism even for award-winning stories. But taking away journalism would be like taking away toilet paper: they take it for granted now, but people wouldn't know what to do without it.

Editing friends

I've found that I'm not the only one that has a stake in my progress as a student of journalism... my roommates and close friends have found a certain value in it, too.

As finals approach, it's inevitable that they will bring to me their rough drafts to edit. And the more I learn in this editing class, the rougher those drafts seem to be. My friends find it frustrating that I find what they think are irrelevant errors in every new draft they bring to me.

But they keep bringing it back.

A few months ago, I was editing the paper of my friend who's majoring in business. It was really bad. And while I was editing his paper and making comments aloud like I always do (so the writer understands why something is wrong), my roommates were also sitting in the room overhearing the edit.

They said my comments were harsh. I said it was legitimate criticism.

I feel like, as journalists, we set ourselves up for criticism. We're used to it, not only because we know it's inevitable, but also because we know someone else knows something that we don't. Maybe they don't even have the best writing skills, but they'll see something we didn't. Or they'll have a question we didn't think of.

All my friends get frustrated when they bring a paper to me. But they keep bringing it back because they know I'll see something they didn't. And that's the beauty of editing.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Research papers... ugh...

So I just edited the research paper of one of my classmates, and I realized that editing a research paper is much like editing a news story. You still need the context, you still need credible sources, and you still need hard facts to legitimize the main idea.

But, with this, I found myself asking for analysis. It was kind of tough. The paper I edited was really well-written and had some great facts. But it allowed the readers to make their own assumptions. That seems like a negative aspect to a research paper... a great aspect for a news story though.

I think it's tough for journalism students to write research papers for that very fact. We've been trained to leave all opinion behind us and let the facts tell the story. You can't really do that with a research paper, or else it starts to become weak.

So what's my point? I guess I'm saying it was a challenge of my editing skills to edit a research paper. If it weren't to late, I might start taking some English classes in case the journalism thing falls through and I become a researcher. I don't think that would ever happen.

And if our lab instructor reads this, maybe she won't deduct as many points if our arguments are weak...