Archive for September, 2005

When novelty isn’t that cool

The only thing better than making a wish list is making a wish list to be purchased with someone else’s money. I better get this out in the open right now: I am a tech-head. When someone asks me what to buy in the tech world, I get a bit weak in the knees. But when Uncle Rick asked me about cell phone cameras, I just didn’t feel that oomph that I get from, say, a TiVo purchase or a stand-alone digital camera.

That said, the idea of an all-in-one device -€“ mp3 player, cell phone, digital still/video camera, and pda -€“ is very appealing. I just haven’t seen anything yet that really impresses me. The new Rokr phone, also known as the Itunes phone, is nowhere near worth running out to buy. Sure, it is cool that you can answer a call while listening to your music. But there are many points that I see as very “uncool”.

You have to wear those stupid earbuds that also have a dangling microphone on them and the device only holds 100 songs. For those of us with sizeable digital music collections (I am holding strong at 25,000-plus mp3s) narrowing that down to 100 songs to take with you hardly seems feasible, let alone worthy of the expense. Not to mention the “sort of” bluetooth technology that works for voice, but does not work for the music.

Of most interest to journalists, the camera of the Rokr seems pretty good and does shoot both stills and video. But if you are listening to your music and then the phone rings, how are you supposed to use the camera at the same time? Can you manage to get the shot without getting tangled up in the headphones?

I’m not saying I need all of my music with me at all times, or need to use all of my technology simultaneously, but we have the technology, so why not use it? There are other phones out there that can hold as many as 1,000 songs. For you mac-ers or mac-ees or whatever you call yourselves, no, they don’t have the intrepid design of the Itunes phone. Call me crazy, but I would rather have my choice of 10 times the music than the rather boring layout of the Ipod. I would rather a company give me far too many options than a half-assed attempt at ingenuity. No, seriously, call me crazy. I dare you.

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Is there a thinker in the house?

I am growing increasingly aware that my perspective on journalism education is far different from that of my classmates. I entered the graduate program at KU so that I might study why journalists do what they do, both good and bad. I came here thinking that I would be among a community of scholars that wants to think about what we are doing as journalists. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but that just isn’t happening here.

I didn’t come here to be taught how to be a journalist. Personally, I don’t think that requires much training. I guess the only training I think you need to be a journalist is complete when someone hands you a pad of paper (or a digital camera or a digital recorder) and says, “Go find out what happened!” The rest is interdisciplinary.

You need to be a good writer, you need to take good pictures, you need computer skills, you need to be able to think on your feet, and you need to have an ethical frame of reference that recognizes the duty that journalists have in society, not a re-hash of Aristotle. Journalists are no less important than lawyers, yet are far less revered. I happen to think they are more important. Lawyers do not control the public’s perception of the world around them; journalists do. This is an awesome power that needs to be recognized and contemplated.

My classmates, at least in open discussion, do not do that.

They want job skills.

They are here to learn how to be journalists.

They are here to make good grades.

This is a problem.

This is not going to be the most popular blog entry of the week. People are going to be angry about this. I can see it now: “How dare you tell me what I am thinking?” “Who are you to sit in judgment of journalists?” I am a citizen. That should be enough. Moreover, I am a citizen in their midst. I am simply finding out what is happening. I am a journalist.

The future of journalism education is bleak unless we start talking about our impact in a serious manner. Let’s start today. Leave me a comment.

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What’s In A Catch Phrase?

I love catch phrases, especially when the mainstream media (MSM) gets a hold on them. (Do we smell the fetid stench of sarcasm?) In the never-ending quest to capture the life force of anything that seems to actually be thriving, the MSM has landed upon the Citizen Journalist. It isn’t just MSNBC that is trying to catch the authenticity of the eyewitness news. Hell, many local newscasts are called Eyewitness News.

The problem is, eyewitness news is hardly reliable. Defense attorneys and psychologists are the first to tell you that you cannot rely on what a person thought they saw. Entire academic departments are dedicated to the study of false memory. So what are these major media outlets doing trolling for citizen reports? My best guess is that they just want your pictures. Well, that, and they want you to feel empowered. Don’t let all this power go to your head. You citizen journalists aren’t bloggers.

Bloggers are the hyenas nipping at the heels of the lionized MSM. While there can be overlap in the two groups, generally speaking citizen journalists are eyewitnesses to breaking news stories that phone or email their stories in to the MSM. Bloggers, whose definition is a bit more mottled, generally do the writing themselves and have editorial and creative control over their content. If anything forecasts the future of journalism, the decentralization of the blogosphere might be it.

In 2015, the mythical date when all things will be revealed, my money is on things being largely the same. The Internet will continue to leech viewers while television news will have devolved into a complete punditocracy. But we can see that already from the vantage point of 2005. Ten years from now, we will see the tipping point. Can you guess which way it is going to tip? Your guess is as good as mine. Tell me which direction you think things will fall.

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