February 15, 2011

Lots of Opinion (Journalism)

The unfortunate thing is this: The way the semester works out at the moment, readers of Ozarks News Journal have to wait about six weeks into a given semester before our main features and the television show begin showing up on the web. That will change by this time next year (because we’ve created a new 100-level class to teach basic web/new media/ social media skills so students are up to speed by the time they get to my multimedia journalism class).

But, even better, the site is open for past students to use. And, still better, the site will soon be open for citizen contributors.

The goal: By this time next year ONJ should be a year-round news organization with a steady stream of local content.

Students have been blogging from the first week, and transparency has been job #1. Their first assignment was to post bios that tell readers “where I’m coming from.” The comment feature is wide open. We also have a corrections & amplifications form linked on the top menu for citizen feedback. We have a Facebook group for citizen feedback (where we post the reporting group assignments). And you may subscribe by e-mail, Twitter, SMS text, and RSS.

The main features will fall within the parameters of “news” and “features” — i.e. content reported and presented using the best practices (we can muster) of multimedia presentation and journalistic craft. The blog posts are (supposed to be) opinion journalism, and, at the editor’s discretion,  well-handled blog posts may be placed in the featured position. Neither I nor the editor edit or otherwise supervise these posts (although we may edit if we find glaring errors of fact/usage. ONJ reporters are supposed to approach their blogging by these criteria:

  1. Does the post pass the grandmother test, i.e. don’t shock your grandmother. The point is to keep content appropriate for younger readers. We don’t do pornography or violence.
  2. Does the post demonstrate good opinion journalism? i.e. based on one or more of: reporting, first-hand experience, and/or demonstrated expertise.

So there’s plenty of opinion on ONJ. And plenty of opinion about the topics the students are reporting because they are supposed to blog about the news and features they are working on. How is that going to work? You’ll find out as we do.

Also of note, the editor of ONJ last semester is doing an independent project in online opinion journalism. Her blog is Blogging and Opinion Journalism. Check it out.

January 29, 2011

Beta Testing Google Chrome OS Laptop

What a surprise from UPS yesterday!

I filled out an application to receive and beta test a Google laptop with the New Chrome OS. It arrived on my doorstep without warning. I felt like I had won the lottery 🙂

The appilcation included making a quick argument to persuade Google that you are worthy to become a tester. I said I was interested in the machine for remote, multimedia journalism so I could better teach my students to use the cloud.

I’ll be writing about my experiences with this machine and OS mostly on Facebook and Ozarks News Journal. I’ll mention it here when I think the topic is appropriate.

January 24, 2011

What Happens When It Gets Serious

Daniel Cavanagh writes a blog called GerritsenBeach.net, and he is the topic of a story in The New York Times this morning. Cavanagh is practicing citizen journalism, and it’s pissing off his neighbors.

Here’s what I find fascinating: A part of the ire directed at him comes from a desire that Cavanagh do what members of the community think a (non-modified) journalist should do, e.g. (simplistically) get “both sides of the story.” He doesn’t seem particularly interested in such a craft. Nor does he need to be. If there can be said to an ethic of blogging that applies to all bloggers (and their readers), it is surely “my blog, my rules.” I have argued that bloggers (and blogging journalists) ought to make those rules clear because transparency is an ethical standard that arises from the medium itself, i.e. you don’t really have a choice if you want to be taken seriously.

Cavanagh has a comments policy. I could find no blogging policy. It’s time to write one.

And let me gently suggest that applying the craft as articulated in The Elements of Journalism is just another good idea if one’s goal is to be taken seriously. It’s certainly not a requirement. There are plenty of examples of successful, serious, and influential web projects that adhere to different standards. But it might be OK to listen to the complainers to the extent that they seek a journalistic standard of some sort.

Otherwise, good job. I’ll be mentioning this site to my students.

My advice for the complainers in Gerritsen Beach: Start your own blogs.

January 11, 2011

Rhetorica Update

Welcome to 2011 — Rhetorica’s ninth year.

Here are some coming attractions:

  • A student of mine is doing an independent study project in online opinion journalism. I hope Rhetorica readers will check into her site often. I’ll be mentioning her work here as well. Link soon.
  • I’ll pick up the pace examining the work of various opinion journalists. My goal is one per month. I’ll be looking at Thomas Friedman next. Please let me know if you have suggestions — good, bad, mediocre, and any faction.
  • Jay Rosen’s criticism of the “view from nowhere” has been getting a lot of attention recently. This has prompted me to do some more thinking about the role of the rhetoric of journalism — its particular (peculiar) discourse forms — in encouraging this view. I’m especially interested in this now because I think I may be onto identifying and describing the psychology of the “view from nowhere,” which might give us further clues to its sources. This springs from from collaborative research I’ve been doing with Dr. Harry Hom, emeritus professor of psychology at MSU. More on this soon.
  • This should be the break-out semester for the Ozarks News Journal. Last semester’s class got the site up and running. My charge to the current class: make it better (i.e. good journalism) and get attention.
  • Last year I swore off doing any more analysis of  political journalism. I’m sticking to that. And, really, that ought to also mean swearing off analysis of political rhetoric. The two are obviously not the same but just as obviously related. I intend to tread lightly in the realm of politics. My posting of the Olbermann video on 9 January was not treading lightly. Posting it sprung directly from my own raw feelings about politics today. I stand by my statement about violent rhetoric. I could have made it without posting the video. I do not, however, apologize for posting the video. Something more productive may spring from this. I think we need to know what the actual extent of violent rhetoric is in our politics, who uses it, how they use it, and why they use it. Only after we know these things will it be possible to make intelligent hypotheses about the effects of violent rhetoric on our civic discourse. I’m thinking now about the possibilities of doing this work.
December 30, 2010

See You Next Year

The cat picture can mean only one thing: I’m taking it easy during the holiday break. I’ll be back in the saddle when school starts on 10 January.

November 3, 2010

The Whole Blogging Thing

As announced recently, the focus of Rhetorica is now on the rhetoric of opinion journalism. It is the topic that has increasingly piqued  my interest. And as I mentioned last week, the next two subjects will be Thomas Friedman and Nicholas Kristof.

I realized something today that I have been blocking or avoiding: I have come to loathe political journalism as practiced in the U.S. today. I’m slogging my way through the election coverage by The New York Times today and hating every moment of it because our so-called newspaper of record is a shining example of how broken this beat is from top to bottom. Political journalism is actually doing more harm than good. It is a failure of craft and ethics on a massive scale.

But I don’t care anymore.

Now, on to more practical matters. Averting my gaze from political journalism means that I can do something that I have been wanting to do: Offer fewer but (I hope) better posts on a particular topic. The whole trying to blog everyday on Rhetorica thing hasn’t been working for a long time now. I’ve finally faced up to why that is: I dislike the original topic, and I’ve had very little (zero?) impact on press-politics

If you’re one of the thousands out there that just absolutely must read something from me almost everyday, then you’ll need to read Carbon Trace, my blog about walking and bicycling for basic transportation 🙂 I’ve come to realize that it is important for my blogging to have an actual impact. This local blog has an actual impact on my world.

I would also encourage you to follow Ozarks News Journal — the local news site for my JRN378 Multimedia Journalism class.

Rhetorica soldiers on. But I’ll be following something like the Jay Rosen model of blogging. Watch for my immediate commentary on Twitter.

September 3, 2010

Student Blogging at ONJ

The Ozarks News Journal is taking shape.  Students have begun blogging on the site with brief introductions and biographies.

Their first post was simply an easy exercise to make sure everyone is up to speed on the basics of WordPress. So far so good.

Up next: I’m going have them work on a bit of experiential reporting this weekend so they can post next week incorporating a photo, a video, and a simple podcast.

Here are some resources for following the class:

Class textbooks:

ONJ Twitter feed: ozarksnews

The students also have individual Twitter accounts dedicated to the class. You can find their tweets using the #sgf hashtag. And we have a class Twitter list.

News coverage will begin soon.

May 7, 2010

Rhetorica Update

Something I realized lately is just how important Rhetorica has been to my academic research. I’ve used it in part as a way to work things out in public. Every academic essay and book chapter I’ve published since 2002 has begun as an entry on Rhetorica and/or was hashed out here.

For a year now I’ve been a in a bit of a post-tenure slump, and it has shown on Rhetorica.

That’s about the change.

The move to emphasizing media ethics turned out to be a mistake. But I do not intend to go back to press-politics. I will be pushing ahead with something different. I’m in the process right now of figuring out what that will be. This I know: It will still involve my primary discipline of rhetoric and and my secondary disciplines of media and journalism.

I’m signing off until 1 June 2010. I’m taking a blogging break. During that time I’ll be finishing the spring semester, taking a head-clearing, week-long solo bicycle ride on the KATY Trail, and sitting on my front patio reading.

On the day of my return I will post a comprehensive essay on the Rhetorica’s next mission.

Thanks for reading! See you in June.

April 23, 2010

Ancient History

Eight years ago today I posted the first entry to Rhetorica.

With the discipline of rhetoric as its foundation, Rhetorica began as an examination of press-politics and morphed into an examination of media ethics. That change represented my changing interests and my academic emphasis on media ethics.

Rhetorica has enjoyed periods of high readership and influence. And, at other times (such as now), it has limped along with a handful of loyal readers while making hardly a dent in the greater conversation.

Through it all I have enjoyed writing this blog, and I will continue to do so. Thank you for reading. And — especially — thank you for participating.

February 22, 2010

Rhetorica Update

Rhetorica has always had an open-comments policy. No matter what happens in the blogging world, I will always try to ensure that anyone who wishes to comment here can do so with minimum effort.

I require, however, that comenters be civil and on topic. I’ve rarely had any problems along these lines.

Someone recently has been leaving numerous comments that I have decided are intended to be disruptive and annoying. Basically, s/he leaves numerous comments in a row (without waiting for a reply). The comments are, to the best of my ability to determine, utter freaking nonsense. I have marked them as spam as they come in. I have banned the IP addresses. And I’m looking into other minimally invasive measures to thwart this person.

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