Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Brookings New Media Panel

Posted this over at my normal blog, and I figured I might as well add it here too, as it's rather relevant:
well, i've just returned from the brookings panel: The Impact of New Media. overall it was an interesting event, though hardly cutting-edge or anything. i figure that once the brookings institution holds a panel on blogging, the whole medium has more or less peaked (i see that tommy has already made fun of people who keep saying that, but i still think it's true, though not witty). but it was good. the brookings people tried superhard to be interconnecty and accessible to the internet and bloggers. there was a live webcast; several bloggers liveblogged the event while watching the webcast; the bloggers' thoughts as they liveblogged were shown on a big ass movie screen to the people attending the conference; and ruy teixeira blogged from the event while huddled on the ground in a corner of the room. SO META! i got the feeling, while watching the panelists watch the liveblogging screen, written by the livebloggers watching the panelists, that i was in an inescapable vortex of meta blogging hell.

wonkette, andrew sullivan, jack shafer, jodie allen of pew and ellen shatner of talkradionews.com were the panelists, and EJ dionne was the moderator. a lot of talk had been made about the fact that no "real" liberal bloggers were invited, but dionne pointed out that yglesias, josh marshall and kos had all been invited, but for one reason or another (including the fact that at least one of them never responded to the invite) didn't make it.

first off, i have to say that dionne is just as cute as a button, and i thought he did as good a job as possible of moderating. he was engaging, funny, and directed the discussion without being terribly forceful or annoying about it.

shafer, shatner, and wonkette, i thought, didn't really have too much to add to the discussion. shafer was entertaining at times, but then at one particular point when off on this strange rant about how slander is all in the mind of the person being slandered; i believe his quote went something like "one person's slander is another person's truth; it doesn't matter if i slander you and the courts find i didn't slander you and then you are still mad at me because i slandered you but it's not really slander and blogs can slander all they want!" yeah, his particular remarks about slander made just as much sense as my recap of them. other panelists tried to point out that slander does, in fact, exist in many cases; slander is not in the mind of the beholder - there is objective, factual slander - but shafer wasn't having any of it for some reason.

surprisingly, my favorite panelist was andrew sullivan, who arrived late to the panel. he has a very shiny, very red head, weird glasses, and talks in a strange hybrid english-american accent, but he probably reflected my own personal opinions about new media the best; ie, he was somewhere in between "blogs are the savior of the universe" and "blogs are the drug-addled rants of the uninformed proletariat." he thinks that blogging is a new literary genre, that it's more about commentary than real reporting, and that bloggers have to be true pariahs and outsiders in order to effectively comment on topics, otherwise they run into too many conflicts of interest or problems with hurting people's feelings. he did get whacked out though, talking about the women in the blogosphere argument that's been running around for a while. his opinion: blogs will always be dominated by men and that women aren't in any way being discriminated against. basically, i felt the gist of it was: women aren't saying anything worth linking to, so if they're not well-represented, it's their fault. at that point i went and stepped on his namby-pamby glasses and powdered his head, which was blinding me.

jodie allen also had some good points, i thought. she seemed to be less interested in the over-discussed point of "is blogging journalism?" jesus christ. who cares? it is, it isn't, it's different, it's the same, blah blah blah. she was more into "what the hell is going to happen with this medium, how are people going to intwine it with their news gathering, how will journalism pay for and sustain itself, and how can traditional journalism adapt to new media and use it to its advantage?" these are the serious questions that panels like these should actually address, and the kind of thing i want to work on at northwestern. she said she believes that in the Future! we'll all carry around little flat screen displays, on to which we can download newspaper articles, web surf, listen to audio and watch tv clips. this sounds kind of whacky, but i wouldn't be surprised if something like that eventually did replace or at least give competition to the basic print newspaper.

what she also said that i really believe in is that people are, more than ever, becoming their own journalistic assemblers. we're not passive consumers of traditional news sources; we're picking and choosing what we listen to and read and compiling, in essence, our own bureaus or, like, staffs. like we're the crazy newspaper editor and we decide that kevin drum is going to our go-to guy on social security; abu aardvark will be who we read for middle east coverage; kriston will give up the hott arts coverage; and for an overview of stuff and if i need to look up a particular point, i'll still read a lot of the washingtonpost.com site every day. and it's all delivered immediately and directly to your desktop, especially if you have a good RSS reader or a bloglines account (which you should really look into; i think the adaptation and integration of RSS is going to dictate and control a lot of the future of online journalism).

anyway. i'm getting a bit nerdy. overall: panel, fun, not incredibly revealing, but not a bad way to spend two hours getting out of work. and ana marie cox was wearing some nice shoes. but it's true - she really does make too many sex and drinking jokes, even in person. it actually got uber annoying. but her incorporation of the phrase "circle jerk" was probably the funniest and truest part about the entire panel.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Medill on mediabistro

mediabistro.com's forums have hosted a couple of fairly interesting discussions in the past few weeks regarding j-school (Medill in particular), life after j-school, and is it even worth it? Here's a forum topic entitled "Life After Medill?", and some excerpts:
I graduated from Medill about five years ago, and at that time, quite a few people did get full-time jobs. Of course, the economy was much better then. Some people went on to work at trade magazines, a few got EA positions at glossy consumer mags, and others took reporting jobs at community newspapers or small dailies. I think it is unrealistic to expect a job at a big daily, though. Going to j-school can sometimes help you start a little bit above the bottom rung of the ladder, but not much.

Also, the school has lots of job contacts in the Chicago area and the Midwest, but not so many in other parts of the country. I wanted to return to California and I ultimately found a job there, but I did all the legwork myself--the career counseling office didn't help at all. Still, I had a great experience at Medill, mainly because I went into it expecting to learn about the industry, not necessarily expecting to use it as a launching pad to a fabulous career.
and
That 99 percent placement line is -- unfortunately -- nothing more than a marketing tool. Yes, I'm sure close to all Medill of Master's grads have some kind of a job (journalism related or not) about six months after they graduate, but after graduating last summer, I'm quite sure that is more representative of the hard work and intelligence of Medill grads, NOT the placement office. After I told the woman in charge of the office multiple times that I was interested in working at a glossy consumer magazine (I had worked at two in NYC before going to Medill), she suggested I interview with a trade magazine dedicated to the meat industry. No, thanks.
It took me three mos. to find a job (pretty standard for my classmates), and I did it all on my own.
That being said, I loved my time at Medill and learned a ton. It made me a much better journalist, and that did help me get a job. But there certainly wasn't a line of people trying to hire me when I was done with school.
Heartening, no?

Another post on Medill admissions, and Medill vs. other grad schools, was posted here a few weeks ago.

Saturday, March 12, 2005

Fear not

Matt Yglesias has a good post up today about the continuing and nearly-beaten-to-death topic of blogging vs. journalism, what does it all mean, are bloggers journalists?, and will triumphalist bloggers, armed with mighty flashing keyboards and capes fashioned out of pajama pants be THE END of the MSM?
Clearly, bloggers -- amateurs or even professionals acting independently of larger organizations -- are never going to be able to replace the core information-gathering function provided by traditional print or broadcast media. An online-only operation of sufficient scale certainly could, but lone bloggers simply can't conduct long-term investigations, operate foreign bureaus, or even just fly someone to Beirut really quickly to cover some demonstrations. The flipside of this, however, is that the blogosphere tends to cast into relief the extent to which a lot of what the traditional print and broadcast media does isn't really reporting in this sense.
Something I hear a lot when talking to journalist friends and older people who don't really understand blogs is that they are vaguely under the impression that blogs are trying to take over newspapers, TV, other standard information sources, etc. And something I hear (and read) a lot when talking to bloggers is that they indeed are on the verge of taking down the mainstream media, it's the beginning of a revolution, standard journalism can't compete with blogs, and die old media, die! (This is also apparent in the comments to Matt's post.)

Personally, I think "old media" journalists are being too fearful, and bloggers are too flush with power and youth. Why can't anybody see that what we've got going on and will always have going on is a very complementary relationship between standard and new media? I've heard this argument many times before, and agree with it: bloggers need traditional media resources to survive (and the hard info and news gathering that they provide), and if traditional media would suck it up, they could see that there's a lot of potential to blogs for media: buzz, guerilla marketing, a personal touch that audiences enjoy, and topic experts that can explain something specific, like economics or regionalized foreign policy, better than a general reporter can.

Traditional journalists and reporters don't really have too much to fear from bloggers. I don't think most bloggers aspire to be reporters (there are, of course, people who were reporters first, then blog on the side). Haha, can you imagine Instapundit picking up a pen and notepad and working long hours for probably a lot less than what he makes now as a law professor? No, I think most people are content to have blogging as a hobby.

The real people who should be running scared are pundits. Bloggers are experts on paticular subjects - economics, foreign relations, history, hair weaves, whatever - and they can expound on these topics just as well as any high-paid NYTimes opinion page pundit (and they love writing about their topic of choice so much that they do it for free and at the expense of leisure time). As time goes on blogs grow, I think more people will be reading bloggers as opposed to pundits, which is something I am absolutely fine with. Whoever died and decided they were the experts on all things good and interesting, anyway? Nobody.

But hard news writers have little to worry about. And if blogs mean that "traditional media" will be forced to go back to more serious, hard news instead of offering up feckless, meandering pundits and talking heads, that will be totally awesome.

Six months

Is about how long I have until I actually enter the Medill program. So, just in case anybody actually starts reading this between now and September 19th, 2005, I won't have too much insightful stuff to say about Northwestern, Chicago, studying journalism, etc. It'll mostly be my incoherent, random thoughts about journalism (especially new media stuff, as that is what I'll be focusing on in my studies), possibly stuff about media in the nation's capital (where I am currently located), and many anxious posts about how I am going to freeze to death in the Windy City.

Friday, March 11, 2005

Not to be mean, but...

Regarding the mediabistro Cocktail Party photos at The Reef: do journalists not know how to properly work a camera flash? Could they really not get people besides account executives to come out? Why can't they use proper grammar in the opening blurb - or, actually, write an opening blurb that makes any sense at all? "Be there!" Is that like, a new slogan? "mediabistro cocktail parties - catch it!"

They should have invited DC Media Girl - I'm sure she would have livened up the joint.

FYI

I dropped the "We." It was too pretentious, even for us. I mean, for me.

A night with a real, live Medildo

Last night I met up with X, a current print journalism student at Medill who's spending a couple of quarters in the D.C. newsroom. She was kind enough to show me around the D.C. bureau, and then we headed out for drinks so I could pick her brain.

Regarding the D.C. newsroom: there's a program during the year at Medill where you can choose to study for one or two quarters in D.C. My impression was that it's mostly the print and broadcast students who are interested in doing this. Apparently when you go there, you are taking seminars and whatnot, but mostly writing articles (in print journalism, at least) - you get assigned to a particular newspaper in almost any region of the country, and act as their D.C. correspondent. So you end up with a ton of experience and a ton of clips.

The newsroom was pretty quiet when I arrived around 5:45 p.m. - people were huddled at their computers, many with headphones on, typing away, studying notes, or talking quietly on the phone. The broadcast students were on the other side of the room, working on who knows what. X said she often stays there till 8 or 9 at night, but this evening we headed off early to a bar to drink and talk.

Most of the night ending up being me blathering on about blogs, since X had professed an interest in them. I was absolutely shocked to learn that most of her fellow Medill students rarely ever read blogs, and that when X had tried to introduce the idea of blogs into the program, the professors totally resisted, mostly because they were afraid they couldn't keep a blog about political reporting objective and neutral.

To that I say: pfffft. If I were to start a Medill blog about political reporting (not that I know anything about that subject anyway) it would only tangentially be about politics; I'd like to keep the focus on the process and the experience. These students must be having some pretty amazing times, trotting around Capital Hill and talking with senators. I don't think they need to go into nittygrittys about their dealings, but I would be fascinated to read, for example, how they decided to do a particular article or any interesting things that happened in the writing of the piece. I don't care so much about the articles they end up writing - I want to know what happened along the way and what they think about it.

Anyway, I guess I shouldn't have been so surprised - a Gallup poll just revealed that 56% of people have no friggin' clue what a blog even is. But 44% of those who do read blogs are ages 18 to 29, so it's only going to grow.

But! Back to the original topic. X told me a lot about her experience thus far at Medill - fabulous professors; she did a work study program and recommends it, because you're working for a faculty member and get to do research for them; wonderful education; and each program is VERY segregated - for example, New Media doesn't spend a lot of time with Magazine. And! - apparently a lot of your fellow classmates are wicked cutthroat ambitious. Not that I didn't expect this, but it was still kind of unsettling to hear, because personally, I'm not really like that. And am not looking forward to dealing with people like that. But I suppose it's all part of the experience. The $60,000 experience.

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Shit, then what am I spending that $60,000 on?

Slate ruins my lifelong dreams of journalistic elitism with this article: "Who Is a Journalist? Anybody who wants to be:"
For journalism, the Internet is having an even more immediate but no less beneficial effect. Blogs and Internet publications have essentially solved one of the biggest worries of the past few decades, that media consolidation is diminishing independence and plurality of voices. At another level, the ability for readers to respond to the mainstream press is raising standards of accuracy, care, and professionalism.
Goddammit. This is what the bloggers hath wrought. Equality for all, and boundless opportunities for anyone who can peck on a keyboard. DAMN THEM TO HELL!

So apparently I'd be saving myself a lot of money if I just took a breeze through the new OJR journalism wikis, which so far reveal such gems as "Don't plagiarize," make sure to interview "folks who were or are directly involved in the incident or subject that you're covering," and "Start your stories with a lede." Oh holy enlightenment!

But seriously - I'm sure they'll grow to be a more useful venture with time and input. Actually, looking for Technorati links to the OJR wikis, I came across this catfight between bloggods Jason Calacanis and Nick Denton, which is interesting in regards to blog ethics; Calacanis is accusing Denton of allowing his tech site, Gizmodo, to sell out to Siemens. Seems Calacanis thinks Denton is pimping Siemens products on Gizmodo in order for an all-expenses paid deal at CeBit.

It wouldn't surprise me at all if Denton had done that, and I think it'll be one of the bigger ethics issues that blogs will have to address in the coming year: how okay is it for you to receive compensation for posting about an item or topic? Obviously this is a big no-no in journalism, but in the wild wild west of blogging, it's not nearly as clear.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

where to start?

Well, here we are. Accepted into graduate journalism school in the beginning of March; one week later we've got a blog. Wealth, fame and respect are surely next. Hopefully without any military prostitution escort services along the way.

Anyway, a little bit about us:

-We currently work in publishing in our nation's capital
-We'll be attending Medill come September 2005
-We're starting this blog to record the trials and tribulations of being a journalism graduate student, specifically at Medill
-We really might have to go into gay military prostitution in order to finance our studies
-We've got a fondness for using the royal "We"

Hopefully, as the months go on, we can give insight into a) the world of preparing to move to Chicago (a place we've never actually, you know, been before) b) preparing to attend Medill c) thoughts on the world of journalism, especially new media and online publishing and d) whatever ass-hattery flickers across our feeble brains.

We hope you enjoy!

and so it begins...

Received March 2nd, 2005:

Dear Medildo:

Congratulations! The Admissions Committee has approved your application to Medill’s Graduate School of Journalism with a concentration in Wankery.

Your first quarter in the program will be the “Journalism Methods” package of courses, which is designed for students who have not had professional daily newspaper experience. This quarter consists of a media law and ethics seminar, and intensive work in news writing, beat reporting and copy editing. It is required for approximately 80 percent of our students.

Blah dee blah dee blah blah, buncha other stuff that is probably important, but which Medildo is currently too delirious to process.


...Get ready, world! We're gonna be a REAL JOURNALIST!

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