Megan Taylor

front-end dev, volunteacher, news & data junkie, bibliophile, Flyers fan, sci-fi geek and kitteh servant

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Newspaper Summaries

Philadelphia papers offer summaries for really busy readers – New York Times
The idea for Inquirer Express and Daily News at a Glance came from former readers who had said they canceled their subscriptions “because I feel guilty that I never get to read the whole paper,” says a spokesman for the papers. “This is an attempt to say, ‘If you can’t get to the whole paper, that’s okay, here’s a summary.'”
(Romenesko)

I need this.

My Editing class requires that we read the New York Times and The Gainesville Sun every day. Each week, we are quizzed on current events. Unfortunately, since all my news comes through RSS and I have over 200 feeds a day, the information doesn’t always stick.

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Newsies and CMS

The UF Newsies are moving from The Undertone to our own blog on the Gainesville Sun site.

This is great, because the site will be geared towards what we write about rather than just filling in space.

However, I’m already seeing some problems with the CMS (content management system).

Rather than uploading a full-sized image into the blog post, the best you seem to be able to do is add a thumbnail to the post which people have to click on to see the full sized image. While videos, podcasts, and photos can be uploaded to the blog, they are not
integrated well with the blog posts themselves.

The photos at least, show up nice and big in the RSS feed. (That’s right, we have an RSS feed now!)

I don’t know what program is powering the site.

I’ve seen this a few times now, where the CMS that a company is using just doesn’t lend itself to facilitating the use of multimedia. It makes me want to go back to old-school HTML editing. (Not just because it would increase my own marketability.)

I even have trouble with WordPress occasionally, though to be honest some of that is because I haven’t had a chance to go through my CSS and PHP with a microscope yet.

Is there a favorite CMS among media companies that makes this easy?

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I am not a storyteller

I am not a communicator by nature. At least, not on a one-to-many level. Excepting a close circle of people I’ve known for 6 years (or more) I tend to keep myself to myself, opening up on rare occasions to someone new. When I try to recount a story to my friends, there is a lot of backtracking and explaining, because I know what happened and I’m too busy reliving it to tell the story.

Then why am I a journalist? Why do I think I can tell stories for a living?

I’m a good listener. I may not open-up, (and thus jeopardize my networking skills) but I watch and I listen and I understand people.

I know the shifty, nervous, over-enthusiastic look of someone who knows a secret. And the sound of a story that isn’t sure it’s worth being told. The sparkle and jingle of the perfect quote.

I’m also a good writer. Writing slows me down so that I can tell the story well the first time. I may stumble over my own tongue, but my fingers on the keyboard are agile.

But can I show the story, instead of telling it?

I don’t know. I’m afraid that I’ll graduate, able to do all kinds of nifty things with technology, and not be able to communicate the story.

Learning HTML, CSS, audio editing, Photoshop, Flash, etc., is fun and exciting and necessary. BUT, it’s also useless if I can’t tell a story to begin with.

What if, in the desperate and fearful dash toward technology, the story gets left behind?

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11 Philosophical questions and journalism

Neatorama posted the 11 most important philosophical questions today. While I read through them, I thought of how each could be applied to journalism.

  • “The unexamined life is not worth living” – Socrates (470-399 BCE)
  • The unexamined isn’t news. But, almost anything, once examined, is news. Everyone has a story, and it is a reporter’s job to find out what that is and what’s interesting about it.

  • “Entities should not be multiplied unnecessarily” – William of Ockham (1285 – 1349?)
  • Applies more to Web design, but since newspapers are learning how to do that: Remove all unnecessary design elements. Simple is better.

  • “The life of man [is] solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.” – Thomas Hobbes (1588 – 1679)
  • Sure. But relate it back to the first one. Even if everyone’s life is “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short,” there’s always something unique and interesting that warrants inclusion in a story.
    The quote originally describes man in his or her natural “uncivilized” state. The dissemination of news is part of what we like to call a civilized society. Thus, news prevents the life of man from being “solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”

  • “I think therefore I am” – René Descartes (1596 – 1650)
  • I am, therefore I write. I think, therefore I have something to write about.

  • “To be is to be perceived (Esse est percipi).” – Bishop George Berkeley (1685 – 1753)
  • To be written about is to be perceived.

  • “We live in the best of all possible worlds.” – Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz (1646 – 1716)
  • Maybe, but bad news sells papers. And there always seems to be plenty of that.

  • “The owl of Minerva spreads its wings only with the falling of the dusk.” G.W.F. Hegel (1770 – 1831)
  • You never know what the real story is until you sit down to write it.

  • “Who is also aware of the tremendous risk involved in faith – when he nevertheless makes the leap of faith – this [is] subjectivity … at its height.” – Søren Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855)
  • Decisions, in writing, reporting and editing, are not always crystal clear. Sometimes you just have to take the risk.

  • “God is dead.” – Friedrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900)
  • Print is dead? Not yet, but it’s on the way out. A healthy dose of skepticism is good in a reporter, but cynicism can ruin a good reporter.

  • “There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide.” – Albert Camus (1913 – 1960)
  • There is but one truly serious ethical problem: Do you print it as a suicide or not?

  • “One cannot step twice in the same river.” – Heraclitus (ca. 540 – ca. 480 BCE)
  • You can’t write the same story twice. There is always a new angle, a change or some background you didn’t know about the first time around.

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-est Ever?

I’ve got an editing dilemma. My editing teacher is a big fan of the word ever. As in biggest ever, longest ever, best ever.

I, on the other hand, argue that ‘ever’ in that context is redundant and unnecessary.

What’s your take on this?

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A shrinking “marketplace of ideas”

In today’s Editing class, Professor Rodgers talked about the media monopolies and shriveling newsrooms.

The Boston Globe is closing three foreign bureaus. Other papers are restricting international and national coverage. The newsroom is getting smaller as media companies like Times cut budgets and lay off employees in a rush to increase profits and concentrate on the Internet.

Over the past 10 years, the number of major media companies has gone from 50 to 5.

I guess the CEOs figure that the New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, and AP wire can handle the in-depth, large-scale reporting. They’ve become more obsessed with profits, despite the fact that newspapers still provide a better return on investments than any other industry.

But one of the principles behind the free press is the “marketplace of ideas.” If papers trade in their own voices for those of larger outlets, the number of voices in the arena, the number of perspectives heard by the public, is reduced. And we, the public, won’t stand for that. Instead we’ll retreat even further into the Internet, searching for the news and voices we want.

We’ve already started to shift our loyalties to bloggers (vloggers, mobloggers, etc.) and alternate sources of news. That’s why you, Mr. Media CEO, are getting rid of seasoned reporters and recruiting newbies with online capabilities.

Way to shoot yourself in the foot.

On the other hand, I’ve heard and read a lot about the future of newspapers being hyper-local. This suggests that people are more interested in what goes on in their neighborhoods than across the ocean. The social implications of that are just scary.

I want to know what’s going on down the street from my house. I also want to know what’s going on on the other side of the world. And I want to hear it from the left, the right, the middle, the opinions, the facts, the stories. Because that’s the only way I can decide what my world is like.

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Mavs ride into the Web with a Wiki

From Micro Persuasion:

The Dallas Mavericks have a wiki where fans are encouraged to document games and submit photographs. This may be the first wiki in professional sports.

From MavsWiki:

The Official MavsWiki is a collaboration of Mavs history, official stats and the all important FAN perspective. Editing of this site is open to all and we encourage everyone to share thoughts, comments and photos of their experiences with the Dallas Mavericks.

Now that’s citizen journalism. What would happen if the same idea was applied to online news?

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The Importance of Editing

My editing class began today. Here are a few helpful resources:

I really think the key to good editing is focus more than anything else. I’ve always read a lot, and that gives me a good sense of what looks right or wrong, and my background in Linguistics helps to identify complex parts of speech. But unless I force myself to slow down and really look at each sentence, I still make sloppy mistakes.