Tag Archives: Megan Wanner

Update on the Future of Journalism

new media

Image courtesy of Google Images

The heart of the matter is that no one can really know what the future of journalism is just as people 20 years ago could not have predicted this would be the future of journalism from then.  The best anyone can do is look around them and predict patterns based on what they see.

Judging from everything around us, technology is taking over the world of journalism.  The Internet is a prominent news medium, delivering news quickly and accurately complete with video and pictures.  No waiting around for the 5 p.m. news; no waiting around for the morning paper.  Instead, we are a few clicks away from constant news updates all the time as often as we want.

 As Brian Solis of TechCrunch wrote in his article, “Can the Statusphere Save Journalism?,” “We’re shifting into a rapid-fire culture that moves at Twitter time.  Attention is a precious commodity and requires a personalized engagement strategy in order to consistently vie for it.  The laws of attraction and relationship management are driven by the ability to create compelling content and transparently expose it to the people whom you believe benefit the most from it.”

The key to catching the attention of an audience is creativity.  Not only do journalists need to report the news, but they need to find new ways of doing it.  They need to provide visual ins for their audiences, something besides just words on a page and a still picture or two.  Something like video, graphics, slideshows, anything to pull the reader into the story and make them understand why it is important and why it is being reported.

Jeff Jarvis in “A Scenario for News” asserts that, “Specialization will take over much of journalism.  We’ll no longer all be doing the same things – commodifying news – but will stand out and contribute uniquely by covering a niche deeply.  Local newspapers, I believe, must specialize in being local and serving local communities.”  This is completely true.  If all of journalism is competing for the same things, only a select few will win the readership needed.

When television came around, it rivaled radio for a place in the world of media.  Radio today is much different than it was back then, but it has adapted to television, finding its own place and its own uniqueness that makes it a worthwhile media outlet. 

Today, the same is true for the Internet.  The Internet is revolutionizing the world of journalism with immediacy and print news just cannot keep up.  But that does not mean that print news will become extinct.  The trick is for newspapers to find their niche in the media world, for print journalists to learn how to be unique from Internet journalists, to make a hard copy paper worth printing and reading.  Newspapers are determined not to lose their place so they will adapt to become a unique news source that does not need to rival the Internet, but can be distinguished from it instead.

There are still people who like to be told what the news is and be done.  Not everyone likes the news to be a discussion.  They like the finality of print, the simplicity of it.  Many say that is just an older generation, but if they really look around it’s a younger generation too.  Maybe not as many in the younger generation, but they’re there.  There’s just something about a tangible paper, newsprint with pictures that is classic, something people may think they want to give up, but once it’s gone they’ll want it back.

The future of journalism lies in the hands of those willing to go the extra mile and step outside their comfort zone into the realm of new technology and a new era of media.  As Solis wrote, “Journalists and reporters benefit from reminding the world that they’re real people who are learning that genuinely connecting and participating online, outside of traditional walled gardens, allows the rest of the world to appreciate who they are and what they stand for.”

Journalism is evolving in ways that could have never been predicted.  Where will the future of journalism go?  No one can be entirely positive about that.  But what they can be positive about is that media and journalism is going to continue to evolve as it strives to bring audiences more immediate, updated, accurate, detailed news.

As Jarvis puts it, “The essential functions of journalism – reporting, watching, sharing, answering, explaining – and its verities – factualness, completeness, fairness, timeliness, relevance – are eternal, but the means of performing them are multiplying magnificently.”

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Elon University Voices on Obama’s First 100 Days

By Megan Wanner

Photo courtesy of Google images

Photo courtesy of Google images

Wednesday, April 29 marked President Barack Obama’s 100th day in office. His first 100 days have been devoted to parting ways with the path the Bush administration had set for the country, among these departures are the remaking of the economy and setting a timeline for reducing U.S. involvement in Iraq.

Obama came out of the gates running, starting to get involved in devising plans to pull the U.S. economy out of the depression it has slumped even before he is sworn into office. By Day 3, Obama had already ordered Guantanamo Bay to be shut down within a year along with overseas prisons and had ordered an end to torture techniques in interrogation.

“I think he’s done great,” said senior Jack Garratt. “I think you can criticize him on his bailout plans but the things he’s done for stem cell research, the environment, his foreign policy I think outweighs that. Just the opening up ties and at least discussing with Ahmadinejad and Hugo Chavez I think he’s obviously not friends with them but I think entering into a dialogue is good for the American economy and politics in general.”

Obama’s first 100 days have been compared to those of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a difference being Obama’s immediate implementation of stimulus programs and passing of bills for an immediate effect on the country, but some, such as Elon University freshman Olivia Dubendorf do not think anything Obama has done has been too remarkable, especially internationally where there has been no change seen from the Bush administration.

“I think the first 100 days it’s hard to say how well he’s done,” Dubendorf said. “With the bank crisis anyone would have handled it the same way.”

Some students feel Obama has taken steps in the right direction, but think he’s been sidetracked by smaller issues from what he promised during his campaign.

“I think he’s getting sidetracked with this whole issue of going through the court cases of the tortures,” freshman Grant De Roo said.  “I’m not saying he’s not going to get around to that but I just think small things like that have really sidetracked his administration so far but he’s obviously taking the right steps in those issues but I think they’ve really sidetracked him from what’s important and what he said he had promised to do.”

When sworn into the presidency, Obama was given many situations to deal with right away. Rather than take them one at a time, Obama chose to tackle them all at once.

“I think he’s definitely doing the best he can with the situation he’s been given from former offices but I’m not a huge fan of his bailout plan at all so I guess that’s been a large part of his presidency that I haven’t been real thrilled about,” said junior Laura Wainman. “But like I said I think he’s really trying to do the best he can and to help us out; I think he’s just chosen the wrong method.”

Elon University Professor Kennth Calhoun Speaks to Students About Aspects of Interactive Media

By Megan Wanner

Calhoun speaks about interactive media to students.

Calhoun speaks about interactive media to students.

Professor Kenneth Calhoun, assistant professor in the School of Communications at Elon University, N.C., spoke to Reporting students April 8 about interactive media and its place in the world of Communications.

Interactive media is a two-way system of communication that allows for active participation with the audience by allowing them to have choice and control. “Compare a CD with the old tape format,” Calhoun said. “If you listen to a cassette when you hear song five on your old Michael Jackson cassette you have to rewind or fast forward because it’s a linear thing…But with a disc, it is all located on the top of the circular shape and there’s a laser that reads and it allows you to get to that information faster. That is a technology now enabling choice because if you want to hear song five you just hit five and it goes there and immediately plays. You always had that choice with the analog format of tape, but it wasn’t as convenient and available.”

Calhoun outlined three “flavors” of interactive media, storytelling, responsive visuals and conversation, students could use to “extend their reach” beyond the writing aspect of media.

Within the storytelling aspect, communicators use media objects such as interactive narratives, digital storytelling and menu-driven multimedia to produce multimedia stories for their audiences. These media objects are seen on Web sites such as interactivenarrative.org and secondstory.com where audiences can have a completely different experience with media. “There are ways that interactive media is being used to tell stories that aren’t just video stories sitting inside a frame,” Calhoun said. “There are stories that you have to kind of navigate your way through.”

Responsive visuals are displayed in numerous formats including games, maps, timelines and rollover graphics. The key to these visuals is to make the audience’s interaction with them truly rewarding as they have the opportunity to touch, play and explore. “Those kinds of responsive experiences are now a part of the storytelling packages or part of the Internet experience because of the authoring tools that enable it,” said Calhoun.

The conversation aspect of interactive media is more focused on blogging, wikis, picture sharing and social networks. Conversation is based on creativity, exploiting and hijacking in order to reach audiences and to advertise.

Calhoun is gearing up to teach the newly introduced Interactive Media graduate program at Elon University.

Check out more about what Calhoun has to say about interactive media:

Sensitivity is Key: Investigating Children’s Issues

By Megan WannerTop 10 Tips sensitivity

When it comes to investigating children, many issues can be brought to the table.  Everything from neglect and abuse to malnutrition and poverty are issues dealing with children.  Children die every year from the many issues we do not always consider childrens’ issues.  As journalists, it is our responsibility to investigate these issues and make the public as well as governing entities aware of them in order to seek reform and prevent more deaths and injuries from occurring.

The children’s beat is not the easiest, by far.  Anything having to do with children is a sensitive issue.  Those at fault neglect to take responsibility for occurrences and those who are knowledgeable about the situations are sometimes weary to talk about them, especially family members afraid of the consequences for loved ones.  This is where a journalist must be especially careful in the way they go about obtaining information.  Sensitivity is a must, keeping in mind the role of all sources in society as well as in the case.  People are much more willing to talk to someone they believe truly cares about their situation and are going to help change things for the better.

When governing bodies or commissioned agencies are the ones responsible for occurrences, especially fatalities, they are typically unwilling to admit their flawed practices are partially responsible.  In this case, a journalist must dig deeper than human sources into paper trails that can reveal the information these entities are withholding.

When Washington Post reporters Sari Horwitz, Scott Higham and Sarah Cohen revealed DC’s child protection agency’s part in the deaths of 229 children from 1993 to 2000, they had to take all these considerations in mind.  The more the Post discovered, the more dismal the story became, especially as they discovered that many of these childrens’ deaths could have been prevented had the agency been more careful with the cases, monitoring children they were supposed to and investigating cases that needed to be considered.

An important part of the investigation was the examining of documents having to do with the deaths.  “The Post obtained the previously undisclosed records of the child death reviews: death certificates, police reports, autopsies, caseworker notes, hospital records and internal death summaries,” the reporters wrote in their article.  These records opened the door to more information than reporters had obtained before, opening doors to sources who could not only verify the information, but who could shed more light on the stories the documents could only begin to tell.

For more information on investigating the disadvantaged check out “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook” by Brant Houston and Investigative Reporters and Editors, Inc.

The Internet and Literacy: Positive and Negative Effects Felt in Local High Schools

By Megan Wanner

See the full layout on http://issuu.com/mwanner/docs/literacyeffects

DSCN1992

Alexa Battey, a student teacher at Southern Alamance High School, looks around the room at her 20 College Prep English seniors. Most of them look bored reading Macbeth which some have even referred to as “MacBoring.” Far from the Internet surfing these teens are used to, Macbeth requires interpretation, not just the surface reading these teens have become accustomed to.

“The novels seem to be over their heads,” Battey said. “They’re not used to that type of writing…They’re used to things being very basic. Things on the Internet today are easy-reads, just stating the facts and basic details. They’re smart, but they’re used to things being put in front of them and not having to dig deep.”

To Teach or Not to Teach

Perhaps one of the reasons why adolescents struggle with texts they are given in school is because they cannot relate to what people consider “classics,” making it hard for them to read them in their entirety.

“I think it’s almost a bad idea to force them to struggle with classics or with difficult texts because I think it just eventually kills their interest in reading altogether,” said Laura Williams, director of the Curriculum Resources Center in the School of Education at Elon University. “I think that, at least as far as what they might encounter in English classes, it would be much better to use texts that they have the ability to relate to, young adult literature that deals with the issues that are real to them, the characters feel real to them not these things that are ancient with tortuous vocabulary and sentence structure.”

Many teachers believe the best way to encourage students to read more difficult texts is to make the readings more relevant to their lives. By making them relatable, students are more likely to enjoy these books as they view them as worthwhile reading.

“I try to find classics they like and do projects that connect them to their lives,” said Lynn Bare, an English teacher at Southern Alamance High School.

But classic texts can relate to teens lives more than they realize. Once they get past the difficulty of understanding what is written and delve into the plotline, it is easier to see the connections.

“Shakespeare is relevant to anything the kids are doing,” said Mark Meacham, English teacher at Walter M. Williams High School. “The issue is understanding the language and vocabulary and if you can get to where they understand that you can devote more time to what is going on…It really depends on the language and getting them to buy into it and…putting [the content] up front so they can understand what is going on.”

A New Age of Literacy

definition of literacy wordpress

Before tackling the question of how the Internet is affecting adolescent literacy, the term “literacy” must be defined. As an age-old definition, literacy is simply the ability to read and write. However, with the growing use of the Internet and technology, literacy has taken on a new meaning.

According to research done by the National Council of Teachers of English, “Twenty-first century readers and writers need to be able to: develop proficiency with the tools of technology; build relationships with others to pose and solve problems collaboratively and cross-culturally; design and share information for global communities to meet a variety of purposes; manage, analyze, and synthesize multiple streams of simultaneous information; create, critique, analyze, and evaluate multi-media texts and attend to the ethical responsibilities required by these complex environments.”

This new definition of literacy could be a good thing. While it is changing the traditional view of literacy, technology is transforming our ideas and encouraging us to broaden our scope of knowledge and abilities.

“Both the challenge and the opportunity of technologies, including video, are that they offer more ways to make meaning but they also require new ways to derive meaning,” said Stacey Novelli, legislative associate for the National Council of Teachers of English.

Even so, a digital age where having the ability to analyze and interpret video is considered just as important as having the ability to read comprehensively is certainly an interesting one. The Speak Up 2008 report sponsored by Project Tomorrow states, “For most students, technology is an integral part of their toolkit for participating in the world—they use it to communicate, organize their life, collaborate and create content and context for their own learning.” However, many people do not believe this is how adolescents view the Internet.

“I do think especially teenagers, adolescents, and maybe even upper elementary they are more geared toward viewing it as entertainment that they are gaming online or they are Facebooking or they’re going to YouTube and the focus is on diversion,” Williams said. “The focus really isn’t on trying to see it critically, trying to put it in a social context, trying to decode the messages that are embedded in whatever media is coming at you.”

Reading and Writing in a New Age

With the Internet comes a plethora of information all at the tips of our fingers. This can be both good and bad when it comes to the way adolescents use it and how it affects them.

“There are too many opportunities for them to not have to think on their own,” said  Angelique Austin, an English teacher at Southern Alamance High School. “I preach to my Advanced Placement students every year to not even look online for analysis, to think for themselves.  It’s also given them the outlet to read Sparknotes, Cliffnotes, etc. Now, there are so many summaries of what we study that they feel there is no need to read the actual text.  What they don’t understand is that they lose the experience, the language, the passion of that author.”

The Internet is changing the way we view many aspects of our lives, especially when it comes to students researching for papers. Rather than going straight to the bookshelves, students head straight to the computers.

“One of our librarians had a discussion with my students and I about using more books for their research projects, and she had a very good point,” Emily Byrd, English student teacher at Hugh M. Cummings High School.  “I had scheduled computer lab days for my students to do online research for their projects.  When I suggested we go into the media center to search through the books as resources, they thought I was crazy!”

While the Internet is changing the way adolescents read and research, it is also changing the way they write.

“Research over many years shows that technology can affect writing positively,” said Novelli. “For example, people revise more online so that they can improve their writing more easily and thoroughly.”

Abbreviations and slang are in common use on the Internet, especially with social networking sites, blogs, Instant Messenger and other communication sites. Proper English is rarely used when adolescents are communicating with peers. Unfortunately, adolescents seem to have lost the ability to switch between what is considered proper and what is not.

“They use abbreviations and slang when they are doing college resumes and essays,” Bare said. “We have to go through and eliminate abbreviations. They want to just use that in their communication with other people and don’t realize other people don’t use that.”

ABSS teachers

Just Skimming Around

Tara Ariel, mother of five, has always homeschooled her children. She currently has two daughters in the fourth grade, one who is 9 and the other who is 7. While her 9-year-old does not enjoy reading, her 7-year-old cannot stop picking up books. Ariel says the differences between her two daughters show especially when they have reports to do that require research.

“It’s funny, my 9-year-old is the one who drawn to the computer and my 7-year-old is the one who would rather go and look at a book and look at all the pictures,” Ariel said. “We just did a report on whales and she didn’t even want to get on the computer to look. We have a bookcase, we had some books, and she found out her own information on her own. So she chose that over getting on the computer, but my 9-year-old would just read the captions and write down a couple of things and thought she had already done her report.”

This is the exact reason the Internet is more appealing for adolescents, and for kids moving into adolescence, especially those who do not like to read. Rather than feeling like they have to read everything, they can read surface-deep and feel like they have all the information they need to be knowledgeable on a topic.

However, when taught how to use the Internet proficiently, students can effectively use their skills of skimming to their advantage, quickly assessing Web sites for trustworthy information. This can help them to find the information they need quickly, an advantage of the Internet over books.

“They know how to and have had practice with evaluating the information they find on the Internet (sources for their research projects) for accuracy and relevance,” said Byrd.  “I would say that it is helping them.”

tips for parents

Shortened Attention Spans

In addition to a lack of comprehension, surface reading while surfing the Internet has also allowed kids to have a shorter attention span. Rather than push through reading something, kids can click a link for something new and never finish reading what they originally sat down to read.

Part of the problem with the Internet is the attractiveness of it all. As adolescents are in the constant search for something new and interesting, any advertisements or links that are eye-catching have potential.

“I think the problems with young people are they are a little vulnerable to the razzle dazzle, a little vulnerable to the distractions that are often there on the page,” Williams said.

Part of the issue with reading books is that they take time to read and process, time adolescents are not willing to devote to them. They want the information to be straight to the point as fast as possible so they can move on to other things. With the already short attention span of a teen of around 30 to 40 minutes, they do not want to spend this time processing a few pieces of information. Instead, they want as much information as they can get before becoming bored. The Internet allows them to do this. Rather than having to motivate themselves to push through pages of information, they can type in a search word and instantly discover multiple sources with straight-forward information about it.

“They are used to a fast-paced world; they are used to getting information at light speed,” said Austin.  “When they actually have to read and think and deduce on their own, they give up a lot quicker than I think they would have in the past.  They also have shorter attention spans,

so reading is boring to them.”

Pleasure Reading Decrease

A report issued by the National Endowment for the Arts included research on the book-reading habits of teens in correlation with school workloads to determine if this was a factor in the decline of pleasure reading in teens. A long-term trend analysis revealed that while the number of high school seniors who spent six or more hours a week doing homework decreased from 47 percent in 1987 to 33 percent in 2006, the leisure reading rates for high school seniors did not increase but rather decreased as well.

“The majority of my students are not picking up books to read, regardless of their access to the Internet,” said Alison Welch, an English student teacher at Western Alamance High School. “Some students are completing reading assignments for class, but very few of them are even doing that, it seems.”

Clubs 4 Kids: Elon Women’s Club Soccer Teaches Kids the Basics

By Megan Wannerdscn1882

Elon Women’s Club Soccer participated in Clubs 4 Kids sponsored by Elon University, N.C. Club Sports Council Saturday, April 4 on the South Campus Fields.

The team taught children ages five through 12 to dribble, pass, shoot and goaltend as they led them through multiple drills involving cones and small pop-up goals.

Clubs 4 Kids is sponsored once a month by the Club Sports Council where two club sports divide a two-hour session to teach their sport, using drills and activities to offer exercise for Elon University faculty and staff and their children.  It was developed to give faculty and staff the opportunity to interact outside of school while spending time with their children.

Clubs 4 Kids seeks to promote an active lifestyle for children by providing opportunities for Elon families to learn about new sports, get active and have fun together. They believe an active community is a healthy one. Clubs 4 Kids in partnership with the Club Sports Council, will take an active role in the creation of this healthy environment, both as student athletes and community members.

Join the Club Swimming Team and Club Water-Ski Team at Beck Pool on Saturday, May 2 as they participate in Clubs 4 Kids.

Check out what freshman Becca Moffett has to say about why she participated in Clubs 4 Kids:

Investigating Court Cases

By Megan WannerTop 10 Tips court cases

One of the most important things to remember when investigating criminal or civil cases is to pursue sources and information with a passion to discover the truth.  This may mean constantly asking potential sources for interviews, simply observing outside courtrooms journalists are not allowed inside or finding any documents that might possibly be linked to your story.  Close scrutiny of all information received is pertinent to discover new angles and injustices.

When it comes to investigating civil cases, the court is a great place to search for sources both paper and people.  Paper trails including files attained through the court clerk, lawyers or plaintiffs and defendants themselves are a journalist’s dream, according to Brant Houston in “The Investigative Reporter’s Handbook.”  All of these people are key sources to an investigation.

This is the type of paper trail the Willamette Week found when investigating former Portland governor Neil Goldschmidt’s sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl while in office:

“Public-records searches identified court documents in Washington County and Seattle that described his sexual abuse of Susan in great detail, without actually naming Goldschmidt.  In late March, WW began to talk to people, eventually speaking with more than a dozen who told a remarkably consistent story about what happened from 1975 through 1978,” wrote Nigel Jaquiss in “The 30-Year Secret.”

From these paper trails, the Willamette Week found more and more people who knew the governor’s secret which lead to another story for its readers based on the statuses of those who knew and their reasons for not revealing the scandal.

It is important when investigating a civil case to check documents against information from sources and against each other.  In the case of the Goldschmidt abuse scandal, reporters used this technique to ensure the accuracy of their facts when it came to determining how long the abuse continued.

“Court documents, both in Seattle and in Washington County, say the sexual abuse occurred from 1975 to 1978.  Goldschmidt, however, says the ‘affair’ lasted less than one year.  WW checked with Jeff Foote, the lawyer who negotiated a settlement with Goldschmidt on Susan’s behalf.  ‘Our records indicated that the abuse started when she was 14 and ended when she was 17,’ he says.  ‘It happened, and it happened over a sustained period of time,’” wrote Nigel Jaquiss in “How Gov. Goldschmidt Aided One Man Who Knew.”

No matter what topic or beat you are assigned to cover, it is important to be on the lookout for another story that could potentially surface.  This is how Willamette Week discovered the beginnings of the scandalous story that unfolded surrounding Goldschmidt and his relations with a 14-year-old girl.

“In February 2004, WW began reporting on Goldschmidt’s consulting firm, Goldschmidt Imeson Carter, and the extraordinary degree of influence it exercised in the gray space between business and politics.  During the reporting, WW kept encountering whispers about Goldschmidt’s past.  Most involved affairs with adult women, but a few sources said there was also a young girl.  In late 1988, he arranged for Susan–who was trying to contact him regularly and speaking with increasing indiscretion about him–to get job in Seattle.  In that city, she suffered a brutal rape and told authorities about her earlier sexual abuse at the hands of a “trusted family friend,” who was 21 years her senior–creating the first public document in which she referred to Goldschmidt’s crime,” wrote Nigel Jaquiss in “The 30-Year Secret.”