August 31, 2005

Rhetorica update…

Student bloggers are now at work on The Golden Mean (media ethics) and Bang It Out! (journalism). Wife Rhetorica is teaching JRN270 using Bang It Out! now that I’m teaching a photojournalism class.

I’ve changed the Rhetorica Links page to an Internet Research page. I think you’ll find it more useful.

I created a page template to display embedded QuickTime video. Yesterday I embedded one on the weblog. It looked great, but it caused Rhetorica to load slowly. So when you see this button from now on, clicking it will take you to a video display page. Go to this entry and give it a try.

Finally, I’ll be taking a short blogging break for the rest of the week.

August 30, 2005

Learn something new every day…

What is citizen journalism?

Before last Sunday I would have gladly given you an answer to that question. Now I’m not so sure. You see, last Sunday I practiced a little citizen journalism.

I took the opportunity to cover the opening of a local Camp Casey in Springfield sponsored by the Peace Network of the Ozarks. My goal was to produce a report of the kind that I think one ought to produce as a citizen journalist. But as I pedaled my bike to the camp location at the First Unitarian Universalist Church, I had time to think about it and realized I had no clue about what I was doing.

Now I know how to produce the professional product. Been doing that for more than 20 years. Not a problem. This question occurred to me: What would motivate a citizen to cover this event or any event? What gets people off their butts and into the streets with notebooks, recorders, and digital cameras? I suspect it’s not the same things that get professional news reporters off their butts. In fact, what gets citizens off their butts is, in some cases, distrust of the professional product.

Intention. If you’ve been reading Rhetorica for very long, you know I’m fascinated by intention (rhetorical, linguistic, political, and journalistic). That I intended an exercise made this little experiment quite difficult in a funny sort of way. The report I produced is, I’m afraid, quite conventional. You can read it here. I did try to dispense with the inverted pyramid structure. But you’ll detect the narrative bias (really can’t be escaped) in a rather typical, dualistic drama.

But I think I escaped my training in this regard: The written part of the report is a set-up for the podcast link at the end. It’s a come-on. And if you listen to the podcast what you’ll get is the raw audio of my interviews–uncut, unedited.

So here’s a stab at an answer to the question: Citizen journalism is/can be/ought to be transparent in a way that the professional product is not (sadly). And, as a matter of technique, is/can be/ought to be a multimedia/interactive presentation. There’s more to come because I’m going to keep this up.

So here’s the podcast:

Here are a couple of photos:

Members of the Peace Network of the Ozarks read the names of fallen soldiers.

Linda Gardner, whose daughter serves in the Navy, mounted a counter-protest.

And if I hadn’t screwed it up, I also would have had a snippet of video.

My equipment of choice:

  • Samsung YP-MT6 .mp3 player/recorder: $100 at Best Buy
  • Kodak EasyShare CX7330 (reconditioned): $100 on eBay (stills and video)

My publishing venue: Southwest Missouri Independent Media Center (still in testing phase)

August 28, 2005

Rhetorica podcast, 8-28-05…

I report “live” from the name-change celebration on the campus of Missouri State University last night.

August 28, 2005

Gotta get the easy stuff right…

Oh fercrissakes!

This article in the Sunday New York Times would earn an F in my JRN370 class. Do you know why? Here are hints #1 and #2.


This is exactly the kind of mistake that shakes reader confidence. If the paper can’t get something like this right–especially an obituary!–then what are readers to think of the accuracy of more complex articles?

Such thinking on the part of readers is unjustified in the sense that mistakes happen. Journalists are human. And the publishing of a newspaper the size and scope of The New York Times is a terribly complex task. The problem, however, is this: Without a great deal more transparency in journalism, and a better effort to correct errors and display those corrections prominently and contextually, I simply can’t blame readers for losing confidence.

Here’s something I still believe: The so-called MSM (including news organizations with clear political leanings left and right) remains the best source of independent information that citizens need to make civic life work.

George Perry caught the world record largemouth bass: 22 pounds, 4 ounces. No photo exists of his record catch. Perry and his family ate the fish. George Perry died in 1974.

UPDATE (8:00 p.m.): The article in the print edition has Buck Perry catching the world record largemouth bass at age 19 in 1932, which would be quite a trick for a guy born in 1915. Apparently they caught that error; the online article now substitutes “teenager.” And, yes, I did send e-mail to the NYT about this.

August 25, 2005

Good quote…

Mark Jurkowitz’s praise of Jim Romenesko reminded me of this quote from an essay by scholars Theodore Glasser and Stephanie Craft:

If the press is an important democratic institution, as newspapers and other news media remind us whenever their power or privilege is threatened, then the press needs to open itself up to the kind of scrutiny it demands of other democratic institutions.

That was written, anteblogdom, in 1996.

August 22, 2005


The whole New Yorker-Target thing doesn’t bother me. Mixing advertising and editorial certainly does. But that’s not what I saw when I plucked my issue out of the mailbox on Friday.

I did see, however, a clever ad campaign that taps into the visual style of The New Yorker.

Lewis Lazare wasn’t amused. He called it “the most jaw-dropping collapse of the so-called sacred wall between editorial and advertising in modern magazine history,” which I think is a bit over wrought. I would have preferred a well-crafted litotes of concern instead.

Wife Rhetorica chuckled when I blurted out: “I don’t see the problem here.”

She explained: “It just goes to show you how good they are at tapping into a certain image. You read The New Yorker, you like New York, and Target is your favorite store. So that’s what I’d expect you to say.”


Okay, but I still don’t see the problem here.

Lazare, on the other hand, says that it is “almost impossible to discern any line of demarcation between Target’s advertising and the New Yorker editorial product.”

Well, yes, in the sense that the illustrations have a New Yorker feel about them. That feel is certainly part of the editorial product broadly conceived. Further, none of the ads carry any explanatory copy or label of “advertisement,” so one might (if one were really really stoned) confuse the Target ads with editorial illustrations. But, as I understand the ethics of the separation between editorial and advertising, what’s commonly thought bad is the blurring of lines between informational contents, i.e. articles reported and written by journalists as opposed to ads written by whoever it is that writes ad copy.

I find it difficult to miss two things: 1) The hype that preceded the issue, and 2) All those red and white targets plastered all over the ads. Which means I find it difficult to believe anyone would confuse these ads for editorial or think that The New Yorker was doing anything more than…what? Hmmmmm…are they creating an event? A spectacle?

The New Yorker is certainly a product of journalism. But it is also a product of a format, a culture, an ethos, and of reader expectations. Considering the kind of magazine it is, I’m wondering if the slickness of the presentation and its purposeful identification with a certain urban lifestyle offers (was meant to offer by The New Yorker? by Target?) typical readers a cultural event to critique as part of a particular discourse community (does that make it art?). In other words, a line was crossed between the The New Yorker as a magazine of a certain kind and the New Yorker readers as critics of a certain kind–Target asking readers to imagine more than shopping at Target (how common!), but also to imagine Target as part of their critical urban culture by way of an important pipeline of that culture.

Can you imagine Wal-mart trying this? Or The New Yorker accepting it from Wal-mart?

I should also mention that I have a double standard. My attitude about this would far more closely match Lazare’s–including the hyperbole–if a newspaper pulled a stunt like this.

August 22, 2005

Rhetorica update…

Classes begin today. First up for me: JRN378 Photojournalism at 2:00. I’ll be spending the morning printing and mailing the manuscript for Language and Politics that I’m co-editing with Max Skidmore. This means we’ve made a first baby-step toward publication. More details as I have them.

Radio Rhetorica is back on the air! I think the schedule will be 9 a.m. on Wednesdays. I’ll know more after the Growl meeting tomorrow night. I may not be able to give you much warning, so if you’re among our two or three loyal listeners (that means you, Mom), just hit the “on air” button at 9 a.m. CDT and see what happens.

Paul Katona and I will be doing an hour-long show again this semester. I’ll post a podcast, sans music, on Rhetorica ASAP following the show. I’ll also post it to OurMedia.

August 18, 2005

How many read news online?…

Akamai offers a new, free service that tracks the use of internet news sites. See the tracker here. Read more about it here.

August 18, 2005

“Local” means everyone…

Just in case you’ve forgotten what the business of a newspaper chain really is, along comes a reminder:

With the newspaper industry frantically searching for new readers and revenues, certain segments of the ethnic press have become popular targets in recent years. From Knight Ridder’s Vietnamese newspaper in San Jose to Gannett’s Hispanic publication in Phoenix, major media companies are scrambling to plant a flag in the growing ethnic marketplace. That strategy appears vindicated by a June survey conducted for New California Media, an association of more than 700 ethnic-media organizations, which concluded that 29 million adults in the US prefer their own ethnic news sources to the mainstream press.

The news: The New York Times Company is launching a free weekly newspaper in Gainesville, Florida for the African-American community.

Should I laugh? Should I cry?

I think part of the decline in newspaper circulation in the United States is directly attributable to a desire to shed unwanted readers, i.e. those that advertisers don’t care to reach. This has typically meant poor and minority communities. So what happens when certain minority populations all of a sudden become a market? Well, news companies are left scrambling. The ill will news companies created over the years by not adequately covering poor and minority communities means that advertisers now need new advertising venues. If the Gainesville Sun had done a better job of local coverage of the entire community, this silly (and doomed) venture wouldn’t be necessary.


It means everyone.

Journalism loses its way when it forgets that its responsibility as a provider of information to help make civic life work is grounded in the community in which the news organization resides.

August 17, 2005

Geeks drinking beer…

Yet another meeting of Springfield Bloggers.

UPDATE: Duane Keys bothered to post all the names and links. I’ll do better next time 🙂 And here’s more from Vapor.

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