Archive for the 'Assigned Response' Category

The need for context and explanation

For Tuesday’s discussion of explanatory journalism and how the Web can do so much more in helping us make sense of the news, please the “context manifestos” that led off the recent SXSW panel “The Future of Context” (and this good summary of the panel), Jay Rosen’s classic take on explanatory journalism … and … just for fun (thought not entirely related), see Clay Shirky’s latest post, “The Collapse of Complex Business Models.”

Drop in some of your ever-insightful comments below!

Evaluating citizen media sites

Building off where we left off in class today, I’d like you to read this chapter on community journalism from the latest (indeed, very recent) State of the News Media report. Try to grasp the key takeaways about citizen media: what’s working, what’s not, etc. Then visit this map of citizen media sites and identify a few of interest to you. Take a spin through their sites and examine them in light of what you just read from the State of the News Media findings.

In the comment section below, give us a brief analysis of these sites around the following kinds of questions:

  • What does this citizen media site cover, and in what ways? What’s the gist of this site?
  • To what extent is this site “open” to user contributions and control? How easy would it be not only to upload your own material but edit and manipulate existing content? Can you tell how the site manages these issues?
  • Do you have a sense for the sustainability of this site? (e.g., how it is being supported financially, now and in the future?)

Jot down your impressions (along with a link to the site you discuss) in the comments section below, for Thursday.

Citizen journalism

Howdy, everyone! I hope you had a great spring break.

This week we’re going to cover two related but different issues: citizen journalism and crowdsourcing. Both are “problematic” terms, in that people have various reasons for finding problems with those phrases (for example). But both also get at a similar concept, which is this: As the tools of media production have became near-ubiquitous (in western society) and the costs of using those tools to create, remix, and share have fallen to the floor, there are vast new opportunities for the formerly atomized audience to participate on their terms, connect and coordinate horizontally with each other, and do so in a way that creates value through collective intelligence and contributions.

On Tuesday we take up citizen journalism. Before class, please read my chapter from the Future of News book. It’s not the most comprehensive overview of the state of affairs, but it should give you a better background for understanding how citizen journalism has emerged (under what conditions, with what motivations, using what methods, etc.), and where it might be headed in the years to come. There’s little doubt that we’re going to see more of this phenomenon in the future—indeed, probably much, much more than we expect; the “rebooted system of news” clearly is going to be one of greater pro-am collaboration. But we’re left to ponder what the character of this increased contribution will be. What is citizen journalism now, and what will it become—and why should that matter for how you think about your own role in news?

Keep that question in mind as you read for Tuesday, and please post your comments below ahead of class. Thanks.

We’re off and blogging!

Now that we’ve divided the class into group blog teams, to cover various aspects of Austin life for the next 8 weeks, here are a few things to keep in mind:

• Make sure that you’re familiar with WordPress and its functions.

• Keep in mind the requirements of this blog project.

• If you’re struggling for posting ideas, try here.

• If you’re interested, you can find some good tips such as these. I especially like this quote from Mindy McAdams’ post:

Writing a blog will make you better at everything related to being a good journalist. Word. You will become a better writer, researcher, investigator, skeptic, listener, communicator — and editor. You will also become better at everything concerning the Web, if you really apply yourself to blogging. I speak from personal experience on this.

• Finally, for Tuesday I’d like you to read the following articles (see the syllabus for more details):

  • “Say Everything,” by Scott Rosenberg (introduction and chapter 9 on journalists vs. bloggers)
  • Bloggers vs. Journalists is Over,” by Jay Rosen
  • If Bloggers Had No Ethics Blogging Would Have Failed, But it Didn’t. So Let’s Get a Clue,” by Jay Rosen
  • As you read, think about these questions: What is the relationship between blogging and journalism? What are the ethics of blogging, and how do they relate to the traditional ethics of journalism? In short: what does the blog form and the blog culture mean for how we think about journalism?
  • Leave your response in the comments section for Tuesday morning. Thanks!
  • Future models for news: What comes next?

    We’re now finishing our brief tour through the “new models for news” terrain. Remember that when I say “models” I’m doing it in the broadest sense: we can be talking about business/revenue models (i.e., models of subsidy) … or “news assembly” models, how journalism gets put together (e.g., via pro-am collaborations) … or even models of thinking that question traditional assumptions of what is journalism, anyway, and how it’s most effectively accomplished in the digital realm.

    We’ve covered just a little territory here—enough to prep you for the midterm, at least!—but I hope this final reading will round out our perspective: it’s “The Big Thaw,” a report that came out just a few months ago by the Media Consortium, which supports independent media groups. I’d like you to read the executive summary, then Vol. 1 (which gets back to the “how did we get here?” question, but with excellent insight) and finally Vol. 3.

    As students today, what do you need to know and do in order to build a better journalism for the 21st century? Reflect on that question as you read. Then, in the comments section, try to sum up your own appraisal of the future.

    Weekend assignment: Learning WordPress

    Because we’re jumping into the group blog project next week, now is the time to make sure you are familiar with WordPress, the basic content management system (CMS) that we’ll be using. (As I mentioned early this semester, I have toyed with using other kinds of blogging software—including Tumblr—but feel that WordPress gives us the most flexibility and bang for our buck.)

    So, this weekend I’d like you to take a practice spin through WordPress doing the following:

    1) Set up a blog—whether you keep it up after this exercise, it’s up to you. But it can be a dummy blog.

    2) Add at least 2+ widgets, including an RSS button.

    3) Make 3+ posts on a consistent topic, and all with appropriate use of links

    4) In one or more posts, use a photo with caption … as well as an embedded video in at least one post

    5) build an “about” page

    6) practice tagging and categorizing everything

    7) finally, leave a comment here on your experience, making sure to include a link to your blog so we can see your work

    And, not to worry, but I don’t think this will take you as long as it sounds, particularly if you’re already somewhat versed in WordPress. (By the way, if you already have a WordPress blog, then just continue to use it during the weekend in the way I’ve described above.)

    The ‘present’ of journalism: diagnosing problems

    For Tuesday, I’d like you to read two pieces that will give you an overview of the “state of journalism”:

    1) The Reconstruction of American Journalism

    2) State of the News Media 2009 (and by that I mean the overview and the major trends)

    On Thursday, we’ll move from discussing the “problems” to focusing on proposed “solutions”—not that we’ll cover everything in just one week, but you’ll at least get a better idea for the lay of the land here.

    As usual, please leave your analysis in the comments section below.

    [p.s.if you're interested, listen to Alex Jones discuss "Losing the News"]

    Here Comes Everybody

    In class this week, we focused on tools (open architecture and Web 2.0 applications) and culture (of participation, collective intelligence, etc.)—these two facets of convergence that are driving the internet we know today. Think of this part of the course as scaffolding work: once we understand how the Web works, at a conceptual level, then we can begin to figure out best strategies for doing journalism in this new context. It’s about speaking the language of the Web—and that requires some fundamentals up front.

    So, our next step is to investigate what this convergence/digital culture means for (1) communities, social action, and information-sharing at a broad society level; and (2) for journalism in particular. In other words, how do these changes in tools and culture play out in the media realm in which you’re going to operate?

    Here Comes Everybody.jpg

    Clay Shirky’s book Here Comes Everybody is perhaps the best book to answer that question. For Tuesday, read chapters 1-5 and come ready to discuss the key principles and how they apply to media/journalism. In the meantime, in lieu of a comment here on the blog in response to this reading, I’d like you to experiment with doing your response in another forum—on your own personal Tumblr or Posterous blog.

    Yes, this leads us to this weekend’s social media assignment. It’s pretty simple:

    1. Sign up for Posterous and learn how to use it (hint: it’s dead-easy blogging). Create some content (photos, text, whatever suits your interests), and otherwise just try to get the hang of it. Perhaps just think of it as a public diary, and try posting at least once a day for 3-4 days. Play around with different forms, with links, etc.

    2. Ditto for Tumblr, which has a slightly different structure but offers some similar easy-to-post options and other ways to incorporate flows from elsewhere (like your Twitter feed). Guides like this might also help. The key here is just to become familiar with both blogging options.

    3. IMPORTANT: Of your posts on either blog, make at least one in response to the Shirky reading, just like you normally would have done so here on this blog.

    4. Then, in the comments section here (below), please drop a line that includes links to your Posterous and Tumblr sites so we can see each other’s work.

    Finally, keep up with your RSS readings as you go … in fact, I would encourage you to take cool items you find via RSS and integrate them into your blogging streams, if you can … OK, have a great weekend!

    The culture of the Web

    Today we covered some of the basics of Web 2.0—how the tools of the internet have changed, and why that’s significant for the creation and circulation of media content (of all kinds, not just journalism).

    On Thursday we complete the circle with a discussion of how these tools get bound up in a particular cultural ethic—in other words, a “digital culture.” We find this in two pieces I’d like you to read: the first chapters of “Convergence Culture” by Henry Jenkins and “Media Work” by Mark Deuze (in that order). I’ve put both PDFs on Blackboard for you.

    You can catch Jenkins discussing more of his work here, or visit his blog. For Deuze, check out his blog, read this interview, or watch a clip of Deuze discussing his research:

    As you read Jenkins, I’d like you to ask: What does the blending of production and consumption, of professional and amateur, through the digitization of media and the tensions that creates … well, what does it all mean, exactly? What does it mean for media industries at large? Journalism in particular?

    As you read Deuze, think: What is the present and future of working in/with the media? How does work, play, and “life” get mixed together in today’s world, and what are the implications of this change?

    Deuze writes in the preface: “The aim of the book is not only to prepare media students to become competent media practitioners, but to also enable students to become competent citizens in a media-saturated ‘hyper-reality,’ where meaningful distinctions between public and private life, work time and non-work time, local and global, or lived and mediated reality are fading.”

    In other words, knowing how to function in this digital culture is going to be essential going forward—whether or not you plan to work in the media industries. The key takeaway here is that we need to understand what it means to have “cultural competency” in this digital culture. Do news organizations have that kind of cultural capital? Why or why not?

    A few additional questions to get you thinking, on both readings:

    —What is convergence culture? What is digital culture? Are we talking about the same thing, or not?

    —What does it mean to develop relationships with media? Where does the “real” end and the virtual begin?

    —What is the emerging “workstyle” for the digital media worker, and how do you feel about it?

    —What does it mean to be connected and have a sense of community in today’s media experience?

    All in all, think of how digital media and culture are changing (or not) your own life and the future of our field. I look forward to your responses for Thursday. And … bear in mind that I’d like you to be analytical—that you should approach this with the eye of a critic, forming an opinion about what you’ve read and using evidence from the reading to illustrate your point. Sharp thinking.

    Questions? Just let me know…

    Weekend assignment: Learn del.icio.us

    Because social media tools are a part and parcel of today’s online journalism (whether to find sources, promote your work, or listen to the community), many of our “weekend assignments” (see the syllabus for the explainer if you’re confused about those) will involve learning something new about the social web.

    We’ll begin with social bookmarking—in particular, Delicious. If you need a refresher after my overview in class, try this:

    Your assignment:

    1. Bookmark at least 10 articles of interest to you.

    2. Use the “share” function to share some of those articles with others (e.g., via Twitter, or look for a Facebook integration)

    3. Just experiment, explore, and have fun getting familiar with this tool.

    4. Post a comment to include a link to your public Delicious feed.

    p.s. We may get back to this later in the term when talking about link journalism, but check out Publish2—it’s like Delicious built for journalists.


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