Sunday, May 13, 2007

Final Write Up

The Plan:
To write a daily blog∞ entry about an article appearing in the print version of the New York Times, 4 to 5 times a week. The entries would be opinionated commentary about forementioned articles. I would try for 500 word entries and use several links throughout each post to give the reader more information. I hoped to get a lot of comments, seeing as I was sharing my opinion with the world.

What I Did:
I started out gung-ho, posting everyday. It was really nice to be able to do part of my homework (reading the Times) away from my computer for once. I developed a formula for posting:

Link to online version
Pages in newspaper
One to two sentence summary
Block qoute of text to begin my commentary.

By spring break I began to be burned out on this "formula" as well as creating several links per entry. Often I would complete an entry except for the links, and go back and add them later before I clicked "publish". Finding material was easy, there was normally SOMETHING in the Times that I could rant about for at least two hundred words...

My early postings were long, but also contained a lot of blockquotes. After break I stopped using blockquotes and links so much, only putting them in where I thought them necessary, ie, to prove my point. I started with a goal of about 500 words, which looks really long in a blog. Most people would be scared to read that, even if it was mostly block quotes from another article. I became more concerned about getting my thoughts out than how many words I was actually writing. If I completed my point in 100 words, great, on the same hand, it could take 1000 to get out what I'm trying to say on another topic.

I stopped using the print version of the paper sometime after break, as well. It became a little bit of a hassel to make it to the bookstore everyday, and how many people online would actually go and get their paper to read the article, rather than clicking the link I provided? Even if I did happen to get my paper and read the article that way, I didn't provide the page numbers. Once or twice before I stopped putting the page numbers up I found the article online, and then searched for it in the print edition later.

I also didn't always use the New York Times. I commented about two articles from Glamour, and one day about the recent anorexic/obesity epidemic (which I'm strangely drawn to) after seeing Rachel Ray do a whole show about it, as well as on other tv shows and in magazines. One of my posts was just a repost of a brownie recipie from the Times that was in the top 10 emailed articles for almost a week.

I was hoping to get a lot of comments, which often happens when you put your opinion out there, I got one∞, about the second Glamour I posted. It was a positive comment, and was really nice to know that someone out there was reading, and liked what I was saying.

I thought I would end up following developing stories more, but I found that in a few cases, such as the Imus story, I didn't want to comment on anything until a) I knew as much as I could and b) things had dwindled down. With the Imus story, I really didn't know who he was, so my post about that is mostly a chopped up biography from his wikipedia page. There was a ton of coverage of this story, in the Times and beyond, but I find that I get burned out on a story that gets too much coverage, like the Anna Nicole saga.

Often I would find my articles and start my post, but finnish either later that day, or on a day that week I had more time (like the weekend). My articles weren't always from the same day as the post.

Why I Chose a Blog:

Wikis don't speak to me the same way a blog does. Maybe it's because the format of a blog is similar to a magazine column. Even Cosmo has a regular feature published in their print edition entitled "bedroom blog." Before this class I hadn't kept a very regular blog. I had one attached to my msn livespace as well as my myspace page, but my posting was sporadic at best. Like many people, I never thought of blogs as serious writing medium, at least not for the average person. I had heard of more serious blogs such as the Huffington Post, but I never realized how mainstream they are, especially in journalism. It seems that almost any "reporter" who works at a tv station or newspaper these days has a blog hosted by their employer.

The Look:
I chose the layout for my blog∞ (just from the pre-set templates Blogger had) because I thought the colors were professional, but creative. I did do a little tweeking here and there, like changing the color of the text and the links. I liked having my blog on the right, so that's the first thing people see as they see my page. I had my blogroll and what not on the left, for further exploration. I used my blogroll to promote other news blogs, including Emily's NYT blog. I also created a section titled "interesting links I stubble across" which was two links to pages with people's expressing what I find to be very radical personal opinions.

What I Learned:

  • It's hard to post every day.
    • No matter how much you like something, you can become burnt out on it.
  • It's a good feeling to get comments.
  • It's an even better feeling to get positive comments.
  • Even if you don't get comments, it doesn't mean that no one is reading.
  • Senioritis does not help work ethic at all.
  • Neither does nice weather.
What Worked:
  • Using the New York Times as inspiration
  • Posting at least 4 times a week
What Didn't Work
  • Long posts, they just weren't practical
  • Posting every week day.
    • There's always gonna be a day here or there where spending an hour by the computer just won't happen.
What Would I Change?
My drive. My project proposal had plenty of room for flexibility, but when it came to posting regularly, especially near the end, it was hard to get myself motivated. There was always something else I could have been doing, whether it was legitamate homework, playing silly games, or watching bad TV. But, I did grab my laptop and post while watching said bad TV a lot.

The internet is changing journalism, even as we speak. Blogs are major player in this change. It was bloggers that dethroned Dan Rather∞from his top news anchor position in 2004. "New media" has become a way of life. With a computer and an internet connection, you can read the day's news and watch your favorite TV show. (Some networks stream their tv shows, others can be dowloaded from programs like iTunes.) "New media" rolls television, radio and print into one neat little package, all for about $30/month, plus download fees.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Treating the Awkward Years

Jan Hoffman
The New York Times
Tuesday, April 24th, 2007
The Story
The Summary: Doctors specializing in adolescent care can make the most awkward doctor's visit comfortable and helpful.

This is such a good idea. Being a teenager has become so hard. There are so many mixed messages, be honest, but don't do this this or this. You'll get in trouble, we'll yell and scream and make you feel like shit.

The idea of having a doctor that you can speak freely to, and who WON'T tell you parents. Especially when it comes to sex and sexual health. Sex is one of those things that the more you know, the better choices you make. Yet, because of our puritanical heritage, sex is one of the last things parents want to talk about with their kids. Doctors who are comfortable helping teens make good choices about sex and birth control and the benefits of waiting (or not waiting, as the case may be) are a great asset to parents and educators alike.

Even simple things like stretch marks or a period or strange pains can be embarrassing to talk to parents and other adults to, but medical professionals that are comfortable talking to teens, and have the knowledge can be a comfort for a teen, not an embaressment.

The article really focused on how teens often get lost in the shuffle between pediatritions and adult doctors.
That job has become more time-consuming and complex. “Adolescents are not big children and they’re also not little adults,” said Dr. Walter D. Rosenfeld, an adolescent medicine specialist and chairman of pediatrics at the Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, N.J.

Talking to parents about anything "down there" is hard. Especially if they're really strict about sex and virginity. If you are a virgin, you'll worry that they'll get suspicious and falsely accuse, and if you're not, you'll worry they'll get mad and never talk to you again, saying your bladder infection is because you're a giant dirty whore.

Being a teen is hard. Going to the doctor is hard. Having doctors especially for teens makes things easier.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

"They tried to cure me of being gay"

I've been away on a choir tour the last three days. While on the bus, I read magazines.
Stephen Fried
May 2007
The Story
The Summary: A woman who struggled with her gay/strait identity her whole life tried "ex-gay" Christian therapy.

Christianity is strict. This is why so many people struggle with religion and real life. Not only do you have to believe, but you have to follow 10 rules, and then we're gonna add in other rules that aren't part of the original 10, but you have to follow those, as well.

Homosexuality is one of those things, like birth control and premarital sex, that people struggle with. They still believe, but there's so much saying "this is wrong" and "if you do this, you're not Christian" "THIS IS A SIN!" But any good Christian literature tells you that we're all sinners. Why is sex one of those sins that's really bad, but not one of the ten commandments? And yet it's not such a bad thing if we "covet thy neighbor's goods."

This woman is still struggling with her conflicting gay and Christian identities. She knows what she believes, and she's told she can't believe that and be true to herself. The radical led conservative Christian movement is making up rules and making people feel guilty for being themselves.

In one breath we're told that Jesus loves everyone, the next is that we're going to hell if we do anything wrong, and then they turn around again and told that God is merciful and forgiving.

Christianity is confusing. It's no wonder there are so many people who say fuck it all, and give up. Honestly, I like church, I like the fellowship and sense of extended family. I don't like organized religion. I don't like someone telling me what I should and shouldn't think do and say. Especially when these are the same people who say a woman's place is in the home, and we should cook and clean and pop out babies as often as we physically can.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Pill That Eliminates the Period Gets Mixed Reviews

Stephanie Saul
The New York Times
Friday, April 20, 2007
The Story
The Summary: A company has released a birth control pill cycle that eliminates the placebo pills, as well as periods.

There were a suprising amount of women who embraced the idea of a period. I've hated it since I got it. Honestly... I think it's nasty.

Since "the pill" came out in the '60s it has freed women. It was the first step in women enjoying sex the way a man does... with out worry of a child. But as research went on, they found other benefits of oral contraceptives, lighter "periods", clearer skin, it lowers the risk of ovarian cancer, and they found out they could skip their periods.

Think about how much of our money goes to personal care items... and we're lucky that tampax hasn't decided to randomly jack up their prices. They could, you know. All the personal care companies could increase prices, and what are we gonna do about it. Nothing! (well, there is the diy version... but I don't think I'd want to wash my reusable maxi pads with the rest of my clothing :S)

I'm actually surprised there's so much opposition. Most people have a "that's fine for you but not for me" attitude, but a few are questioning it. The maker of the documentary "Period: The End of Menstration" Is worried that it's women giving up control of their bodies to a drug. But I see it as taking control away from me. Traditionally, women didn't have many periods in their life time, because they were either pregnant or nursing... say that process is about a year (nine months for the pregnancy, a few more until the baby starts to eat food) and then she would have her period again, once or twice, before becoming pregnant and starting everything over.

Back in the days of the Comstock Laws, it was techinically illegal for a woman to know that sex = baby (well, for a man to tell her that) because that was contraceptive information.

I'm not trying to get uber feminist here... but menstation is one of those uber feminist things. It's strictly feminine... like prostates are strictly masculine. A period is something that controls women, and oral contraceptives are something that turns the tables.
Dr. Constantine cited company-financed research indicating that women often feel less effective at work and school during their periods. They limit sexual activity and exercise, wear dark clothes and stay home more, resulting in absenteeism, she said.

Menstrual suppression may be particularly appealing to women who suffer severe pain, heavy bleeding or emotional problems during their periods. A study by Canadian researchers found that women afflicted by heavy menstrual bleeding give up $1,692 a year in lost wages.

One of the things that makes us ultimately feminine is so gross and makes us feel very unfeminine and disgusting, and smelly. Even pregnancy is gross... too many uncontrolable body functions. We've been taught that body functions (by anyone) are rude.

Women are women because of who they are, not because they bleed every month. Periods are a little earthy/hippy for me. I'll stick to my chemical induced world.

Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Biggest Sell Is the Audition

Allen Salkin
The New York Times
Thursday, April 19th, 2007
The Story
The Summary: QVC holds open auditions for hosts in West Chester Pennsylvania.

I found this article interesting because my boyfriend works at HSN, QVC's main competitor. I hear a lot about the goings on at HSN. I hear my boyfriend's ranting about how much better it would be if they listened to him and did a few things his way. (like everyone does about the people they work for)

An open casting call is a risky, you never know what type of psychos will show up. That, and the type of people who host the home shopping shows are scary to begin with. I've heard some strange stories about home shopping hosts. Apparently, a lot of them are prima donas. Rewarded for acting like idiots in front of millions of people.

In the TV world, that is one job I would not want. I work in retail, I'm used to selling stuff to people. But on TV they only get to see it. You don't get to feel or use it. I was just watching Wolfgang Puck on HSN. The host said that the food looked marvelous, perfect every time... because of the pans. No! I think it's because Wolfgang Puck was cooking. It doesn't matter what you're cooking with... if you can't cook, it's gonna turn out like shit.

I've never liked the idea of home shopping. At least with online shopping you can get a product description and (if applicable) and ingredients list. TV home shopping only gives you the good. There's normally some type of negative side to everything. Even my favorite products have some downsides.

And the clothing on home shopping... it's always ugly, grandma clothes... most of which are loungy-types. Gross... those are the clothes that people get fat in. Like sweats and stretch pants.

Home shopping, gross.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Deadly Rampage and No Loss for Words

Alessandra Stanley
The New York Times
Tuesday, April 17th, 2007
The Story
The Summary: Amateur reporters had a major part in reporting yesterday's tragedies.

News has changed. We used to look to strong men to give us the hard facts about recent events (Edward R. Murrow, Peter Jennings, Walter Cronkite) but times they are a changin'. Women have become a staple in today's news reporting. Katie Couric is the first woman to host the evening news for a network station solo (both Barbra Walters and Connie Chung had co-hosted in the past). But the news has also become more emotional, and more fluff lately.

I don't think that its because of women, but because of the 24-hour news cycle. They created the news networks that never went off the air. There wasn't enough hard news to fill 24 hours (or even 16... with replays during the night time) Fluff worked its way into hard news, and ratings went up for those peices. Because of this you have almost 2 months of air dedicated to the Anna Nicole Smith story. If you search Time magazine's archives between August 1st, 1962 and September 1st, 1962 you find eight stories mentioning Marilyn Monroe's name. Not neccessarily about her, but mentioning her name. Her picture wasn't even on the cover of the magazine containing her obituary. (She died August 5th, 1962)

Compare that to the hours dedicated to Anna Nicole Smith on networks such as CNN and FOXNEWS. Everyone paralelled their lives, but the news coverage of their deaths was not.

Truly hard news has become a thing of the past. Even with yesterday's tragedy, we must put every thing in an emotional, personal light. Why can't we have facts like we used to. Human interest stories have run the news for far too long.

I'm not saying there isn't a human side to every story, because there is. But hours after is not the time to show it. Today was far to soon to be interviewing victims, yet there were interviews on TV today. And there is one photo they keep showing and I wish they wouldn't. A guy is a bloody mess as they carry him off the scene. I hate it. Just stop showing it, or at least give us a warning to look away.

I agree with the article. This is a time that America should be speechless... yet no one can shut the fuck up.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Best-Informed Also View Fake News, Study Says

Katharine Q. Seelye
The New York Times
Monday, April 16th, 2007
The Story
The Summary: People who watch fake news are more informed than people who don't.

I like to laugh when I watch TV. As much as I want to be informed, I'd like to be entertained. If I just wanted to be informed, I'd read a newspaper. That being said, I watch The Daily Show and The Colbert Report regularly, and before I had cable... I'd get a lot of my news from Weekend Update. (I was a champion at the Current Events game we played at my elementary/high school.)

Fake news really isn't that fake. The news is real... they report on real stories, they just have a biased and humorous.

I think the people drawn to these shows have a genuine desire to be informed of recent events, but the choose to go outside the mainstream news sources to get it.

The six news sources cited most often by people who knew the most about current events were: “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report” (counted as one), tied with Web sites of major newspapers; next came “News Hour With Jim Lehrer”; then “The O’Reilly Factor,” which was tied with National Public Radio; and Rush Limbaugh’s radio program.

This is the age-old Mass Communication Senior thesis topic. (okay... maybe not age old... but for about the last 10 years?) Every class there's someone who takes the easy way out and decides to do their research on where college students get their news from. (They choose college students because there's a large amount of them readily available, and most professors are willing to give up 5 minutes of class time to allow you to do a survey for academic research) It's nice to see that "fake news" not only rules us academics but those out in the "real world" as well.

There is legitimate news value in The Daily Show and The Colbert Report. It's not made-up news, like The Onion, but a satirical take on the real news. You learn things from it. In fact, you can learn things that you can't from other news programs. (Like the fact that President Bush has used certain phrases, such as "stay the course", repeatedly over the course of his presidency.)

So, here's to "fake" news... because it's not really fake, it's based in truth, and spun to make us laugh.