Megan Taylor

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


Berlin – Follies and free time

We’ve had a lot more free time lately, which has been nice. I took some time to recover from the past few days of walking and biking to edit photos and think about a subject for my project.

Having just come away from 4 years of sleeping 2-4 hours a night, 8 hours is such a luxury! I crash out around midnight and wake up around 8 a.m. This is great for this trip since I have plenty of good light time.

Andrew PurvisYesterday we went to a meeting with Andrew Purvis of the TIME magazine Berlin bureau. He talked about how to break into international reporting and some of the risks involved in reporting in places like Africa.

Laura Laabs He and intern Laura Laabs also talked about the unique personality of Berlin as a city. It’s certainly like no place I’ve ever been, and is becoming one of my favorite cities.

Next was a trip to Mercedes World. I wasn’t too enthusiastic about this one – I can’t tell one car from another and don’t particularly care for the luxury ideals promoted by brands like Mercedes. I took the opportunity to take a load off and sat around waiting for everyone else.

The last “group activity” was supposed to be a visit to the Helmut Newton museum. But, FAIL, the museum was closed.

Michelle and Robyn and I took off to re-shoot the old and new churches in Potsdamer Platz, visited the ZooBerlin and the Beate Uhse Erotik-Museum nearby. Through Old to New

The zoo was really depressing. I’ve never seen so many bars and cages. In the bird house, a lot of birds were plucking themselves, and the water in most of the tanks looked like lime Kool Aid. Jaguar behind bars

We went to the erotica museum hoping for some giggles, but it seemed pretty tame. Old Asian drawings and sculptures dominated, along with homoerotic sketches, a gold penis the size of a 7-year-old, and a sex store. I was unimpressed. erotica museum

By now our feet were aching and we needed food. We headed to Hackescher-Markt for dinner. A street cafe called Rocco was the nearest source of seating and sustenance. Sadly, the food was bland and the service awful, especially considering the prices!

Today I’m planning to go solo and get my project done, or at least started. I’ve been uploading dozens of photos to my Flickr account, so check ’em out!


Not another effing tour

The days are starting to melt together. Was it yesterday or the day before that we had a walking tour through former East Berlin? When did we go to the Allied Museum? Were those chicks or dudes making out on the bus? Did those break dancers really just try to charge for taking photos in a public plaza? How many times can we get on the wrong bus going in the wrong direction?

The pressure is on: our projects are due in one week. I have a few subject ideas, but nothing concrete yet. We’re going to have a lot more free time from now on, so I’m planning on going back to some cool places and re-shooting.

I’m really tired of trying to get my shots with 15 other people trying to get the same shot or otherwise getting in my way.


Berlin – Bike tour and the last carnival on earth

At 11am yesterday, 14 Americans clambered onto 14 cruisers and set off through the city. Our American guide Marielle was funny and friendly, and took us to some cool, off the beaten path spots.

Key sightings:

  • Commie architecture
  • a segment of the Berlin wall known as the East Side Gallery (the longest section left standing at about 1 kilometer)
  • the Soviet War Memorial
  • a watchtower in a park that used to be part of the “Deathstrip” or “No Man’s
  • the Karl-Marx-Allee
  • lunch at a Turkish hole in the wall
  • a squat called Koepi

After the tour, Professor Freeman told us about a carnival that was taking place in a different neighborhood of the city. There was some discussion within a faction of the group about ditching the carnival and going after hot showers instead. But we were willing to give him the benefit of the doubt.

Points for adventurousness began to melt away as we were led through a park whose occupants looked to be selling happiness in powder, pill or plant form.

When we emerged from the trail of drug dealers, there was a clearing of pathetic little rides and bored carnies. And mud. And soon, rain. The most depressing carnival on earth.

We should have left 15 minutes earlier.


Berlin – Alone no longer

Michelle Harris arrived on Thursday afternoon. I was glad of the company, even if she did wake me up.

We went out for dinner that night at Cafe Prenzlauer for quintessential Berlin food and walked around a bit afterward.

The next morning, (Friday) Michelle and I got up early and walked down to Alexanderplaetze to take photos.
3 churches, the TV tower, some fountains and a museum later, our feet began to complain.
We made our way back to the hotel expecting to have time for showers and naps before Professor Freeman and the other students arrived.
Imagine our horror when we walk into our room and not only have the others arrived but we are expected downstairs in 15 minutes!

We were treated to a meeting with Ian Johnson, Wall Street Journal Berlin Bureau chief, Pulitzer winner and UF graduate. Too bad most of us were half asleep! He talked about how he got his job in a foreign bureau and what possibilities there might be for us to crack the competition.

Then we went to the Bernaur Wall Park. I still can’t fully grasp what happened in this city, but the pictures and stories gave me the same quiet, sick feeling that I get from any account of human atrocities (the Holocaust, Rwanda, Cambodia…).

We took a tram to “Prater Biergarten” for a dinner of sausages and beer. On the walk home my ankles finally went numb. Huzzah for scalding hot showers!


Writing from Berlin!

So, after having dropped off the face of the cyberearth for a few weeks, I’m resurfacing in Berlin. I’m taking a Photojournalism class with Professor Freeman and some other students from UF.

And by the way, yes, I did manage to graduate! It hasn’t quite sunk in yet, but I’m sure some day it will. My move to Miami was anything but graceful, but everyone involved survived.

So I’m in Berlin for 2 weeks, then back to Miami for my internship. I’ll start uploading photos tomorrow and blogging about my experiences here.

So far, I’ve managed to get from the airport to my hotel, find food and walk 3 miles. And realize that my German is even more atrocious than I thought. I can read pretty well, but forget the rest.

This city has more graffiti than any other place I’ve ever been. Some of it is even extremely artistic, as opposed to just scribbles on the wall. Unfortunately, I wasted most of the daylight hours recovering from bouncing from plane to plane for 15 hours, but tomorrow I’ll be out and about bright and early. (Could I get anymore cliches in there?)


The Alligator rockin’ at 10,000 Words

Mark Luckie at 10,000 Words isn’t “just a blogger,” he’s a print journalist gone online. Luckie has been looking at college journalism this week, and The Independent Florida Alligator got some awesome mentions:

Online Student Journalism: Best of the Best

1. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida
The Alligator is hands down the best online student newspaper and rivals the pros in its news coverage and use of multimedia elements. Just listing the stellar components that make up the site warrant its own individual post. The Alligator’s standout features are the Gainesville
Explorer , a look at the surrounding city using video and audio slideshows, the use of Google Maps mashups to illustrate problems like apartment overcrowding and rising gas prices, and its 11 blogsthat cover pretty much every spectrum of news. Admittedly The Alligator works on a larger scale than most student newspapers, but it is nevertheless an exceptional example of the possibility of online student journalism.

What a payoff for all the hard work we’ve done!

Online Student Journalism: Outstanding Use of Multimedia or Social Networking

7. Twitter, The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

It seems everyone is Twitteringthese days, but The Alligator is one of very few student newspapers doing so. The site uses twitterfeed to broadcast news stories and links, almost 2,500 of which have been sent since The Alligator began using the service.

Personally, I think we should have gotten more mention of our amazing multimedia, but at least my Twitter obsession has been justified.

Online Student Journalism: Best Site Design

4. The Independent Florida Alligator, University of Florida

The Alligator is an incredible example of the potential greatness of an online student newspaper. Its black and white design makes the fine journalism happening on the site look even better. Sections and stories are easily scannable and the site’s headlines are large enough to catch the eye. The Alligator also makes great use of its footer — a contrasting black to
the rest of the page — something that is rare in online student paper design.

That’s so totally what we were going for!


Less talk, more work

There’s a new trend in online journalism these days: Stop talking, and do it.

Stop trying to convert, stop making lists, stop fighting the print bias with words. Start doing things that will make the difference.

David Cohn

I think the time for evangelizing is over. At this point if you are in a mainstream news organization and you don’t see the need for change, the battle is lost and I’m not going to spend time trying to convince you to change the culture in your newsroom. I will simply shake your hand, wish you an honest good luck and move on…If you want to see real change – don’t tell news room editors what to do – DO IT YOURSELF.

And Zac Echola, writing about Wired Journalists, wrote:

Something happened early this year in the media blogging world. We suddenly stopped talking about what we should be doing and started talking about what we are doing. We started talking about being the change we wish to see. It was at the same time a jarring change in tone and an exhilarating one.
Now is the time to be that catalyst for change in your news organization. No more talking about it. We’re doing it. And we want you to do it too.

Wired Journalists is a social networking site set up by Ryan Sholin, Howard Owens and Zac Echola after Owen’s post on getting wired.
In a very short amount of time, the site has gained over 300 members. It opens up discussions, not on why online journalism is important, but how to start doing it. Members are both newbies and established “wired” journalists.

I realized today that consciously or not, the “just do it” trend is affecting me, too. I spent a lot of time at The Independent Florida Alligator last semester trying to win over some very print-oriented editors. I spent a lot of time making lists of projects I wanted to start. Not that I didn’t get anything done; we made a lot of progress on getting our content management system working the way WE wanted it to work.

But this semester I’ve spent more time actually ticking projects off that list. I finally got the Gainesville Explorer project running. A multimedia stringer made a map of apartment complexes in Gainesville. Yea, that’s right, I have stringers. (I think we need to change this lingo, minion is a much cooler word.) I met with some of the business staff regarding the missing alumni page. I’ve gotten the editor and managing editor for print writing blog posts. All in just three weeks.

This is a hell of a lot more fun than fighting print bias and trying to get reporters to see the light.


Post-graduation plans

My plans for this summer just got more interesting.

I got an e-mail yesterday notifying me that I could do a photojournalism study abroad program in Berlin! I’ve wanted to go on this trip for some time, but it was always full when I got around to checking on it. This time I got lucky; it was my last chance because I am graduating this semester.

I’ve been to Spain and Costa Rica, and my parents took me to Japan when I was 1. Here’s to another ridiculously long flight.

During the week after I get back from Berlin, I’m moving back to Miami. Hopefully, the people my parents leased the house to when they moved to Costa Rica will be out by then. I’ll be attending the IRE Conference and then starting my internship at The Miami Herald.

After that, who knows? But life after college is looking better and better.

One of my favorite discussions was about topics that seem not to get the coverage they should.

Some things to think about from my abstract on this discussion:

In political coverage of candidates, journalists are likely to focus on the big dogs, ignoring the puppies. In doing this, the story becomes more about who wins than about the issues being addressed by the various candidates.

Journalists want to give readers what they want to read. That’s not our job though. Our job is to find the flowers and the dog turd, and tell the reader about all of it.

It all goes back to the same idea. No matter how uncomfortable you are with a topic, there’s always someone with a story to tell, someone who will explain to you the angles and issues at hand. Yes, with newsrooms cutting employees all over the country, that means more work for the individual reporters. But papers everywhere are trying to win their audiences back from the blogs and personal Web sites that address the issues that mainstream media can’t seem to grasp. If they are going to succeed, they’d better start hiring people back on, cause they need to cover all of those topics and more.

At least once a day I hear a student in the College of Journalism say somethings along the lines of “I’m going to be a journalist because I can’t do math.”

It makes me shudder, especially when I then read an article that required double-checking figures.

Math and I aren’t friends. I can do just about enough math to keep my margins and padding in CSS from going nuts, and manage my budget. But I know people who can do math and I’m never afraid to make a phone call to find out how to work something out.
And I have a slight advantage: I took 4 years of psychology, which included some intense statistics. (Stats ain’t math.) Check through your local newspaper, and you’ll notice that the majority of articles use just that – and often, badly.

So how do we solve the math problem? I made a cheat sheet of oft-forgotten formulas and rules. It currently exists only in hand-written format, so I can’t share it (writing out formulas on a keyboard is obnoxious). But I recommend that every j-student identify what’s necessary and their own weaknesses and make up something similar. Mine is taped to the wall next to my monitor for easy access.

Classes in Review Series
Advanced Editing pt 1

I decided not to take a class for this second half of the summer, so that I can concentrate on my three jobs and 465 personal projects (like redesigning this Web site).

While I am appreciating the extra free time, I miss class. So I thought this would be a good time to write about some of the classes I’ve taken and what I got out of them.

I’ll write about Editing, Advanced Online Media Production, Applied Fact Finding and more, including some non-journalism courses that I think contributed to where I am today.

In the meantime, students, journalists and teachers: What was your favorite class in college and why?