The only way to make money with a newspaper is to not have a newspaper.

Every farm kid can recite an old adage their parents drilled into them from an early age.  For me, some of my dad’s clever words come to mind first, “The only way to make money raising pigs is to not raise pigs.”

This paradoxical statement refers to the fact that our family farm is more hobby than business.  Today, it is nearly impossible for a hog farm to stay afloat in today’s industry unless it produces thousands of pigs and all its own feed each year.  Essentially, get big or get out. 

For agriculturalists, this mentality is reality.  They have never known the stable lifestyle that the rest of society leads so they prepare for the worst and enjoy the best. 

 They are nothing like the newspaper industry.

Today’s newspapers are facing tough times.  Many papers are shutting down the presses after years of circulation and media analysts seem shocked that the long expected hard times have finally hit the industry.  Like small farms, papers have fallen victim to the “go big or get out” curse, however, they seem to have never realized it would really happen.

I used to give journalists more credit than that.  After reading Jack Shafer’s Slate article “Democracy’s Cheat Sheet,”  I have learned that apparently the newspaper industry is exempt from the natural phenomena of capitalism and social growth and should be pitied for their plight.

Top it all off, apparently society thinks that newspapers are essential to the preservation of democracy.

Now I won’t speak for all Americans, but in my mind, the newspaper has no effect on democracy.  Don’t get me wrong, the two work together quite nicely, but you can easily have one without the other!

I’ll grant, big companies who own multiple news venues can control/censor the reporting but if these corporations are not owned by the government then what can you do about it?  Isn’t that what we’re asking for in our free market economy?

Mr. Shafer seems to conclude that newspapers should purposely stay small and risk financial ruin before they face the pressures of big business and propaganda of large news corporations.

I may not be a media analyst or a column writer for Slate, however, I do know a thing or two about the real world.  I know that you evaluate the risks before you get into something, and you prepare yourself to fail.  In my opinion, all the varied issues Shafer discussed are nothing compared to the fact that newspapers do not recognize failure as an option. 

Shafer is not alone in this doomsday view of journalism.  I am constantly reading retweets and blogposts of fellow journalism students who are as frustrated as I am by their elders in the industry.  These are so frequent that I even found one this morning when I logged on my twitter account titled: “Stop exaggerating: journalism is not dying. It’s changing.” 

Shouldn’t today’s journalists have planned for a change in the industry?  Did they really think that they would do the same exact task the same exact way their entire career?  Are today’s journalists really living in this never changing dream world? 

Newspapers could learn a thing or two from agriculture. 

On an individual level, journalists need to evaluate risks and accept change.  Most importantly, the entire industry needs to accept the fact that you do what you do because you love it, not because society is behind you. 

If social support was required, America wouldn’t have any farmers.  If journalists don’t move past the need for society’s endorsement, then America won’t have any newspapers either.

WKU’s “altercation” illustrates danger of crowdsourcing

Journalism is an industry that doesn’t just strive for perfection, it insists upon it.  Sources are always verified, facts are double checked, and punctuation is perfect.  To me, the inclusion of crowdsourcing will make it harder for journalists to maintain this level of perfection.

What better example of crowdsourcing gone wrong than the infamous “altercation” that occurred on the campus of Western Kentucky University in the fall of 2008?

Herald photo (Brian Anslem): Officer subdues a female student who refuses to cooperate.

Herald photo (Brian Anslem): Officer subdues a female WKU student who refused to cooperate with emergency procedures.

On October 22, 2008 at 12:47 a.m. , WKU sent text messages to students, via the university’s emergency notification system, that read: “There is a situation on the south campus involving guns. Police are on the scene. Everyone should stay clear of the area until further notice.” 

By 12:52 a.m., students began receiving a follow up message: “There is a report that shots have been fired at or around PFT. Please stay away, and stay indoors until further notice.” 

Within minutes, emergency sirens were ringing across campus and faculty members began moving students into lock down.

When the sirens began sounding, my friends and I happened to be near our vehicles so instead of locking down, we left campus.  This decision would make my outlook on the entire day’s events very different from that of the students still on campus.

While driving we turned on local radio coverage of the situation.  Calls were coming in from students, faculty, and bystanders.  Everyone thought that they alone knew what was going on and wanted their story to be on the air.  The only problem was that no one knew what was really happening on campus. 

Since the WKU administration was not releasing any information, the local radio and television stations began running these unconfirmed stories as fact. 

By the time I reached a television these rumors had hit national news.  CNN and FOX News were covering the story as it unfolded, although neither had been given anymore information from WKU administration than the students had. 

I watched in horror,  thinking that my campus had been the site of a well planned attack by armed gunmen. 

At 3:07 p.m., lock down was lifted and WKU held a press conference to explain what really happened.  In all actuality, no shots had ever been fired.  The university had attempted to contain the reports of “an individual with a weapon” at south campus by notifying students to stay away, but were confused by the media coverage into thinking that there was a threat at main campus as well. 

The incident that had incited fear in the WKU student body, Bowling Green community, and viewers of various news media across the country was nothing more than an “altercation“. 

The entire nation was told a story of complete falsities and confusion, all because the media didn’t stop to confirm reports.

What happened at Western should serve as a warning to all media outlets that use crowdsourcing to build stories as they happen.  WKU was lucky, there wasn’t a shooting, no one was hurt.  Will we be that lucky the next time?

Maybe Obama should keep his feet firmly on the ground and out of his mouth.

I don’t do well with people who make fun of the mentally and physically disabled.  Beyond the fact that it is just plain cruel, I know the toll that these prejudices take on their victims. 

Anna competing at the 2008 State Marching Band Competition.

Anna's liver disease doesn't stop her from competing in numerous band competitions each fall.

 My little sister, Anna, was born with a rare liver disease that, among other physical side effects, makes her significantly smaller than other children her age.  I grew up seeing how much it hurt her to be taunted by her classmates and how badly she wanted to be “just like everyone else.”

Anna’s physical abilities have not limited the things she has been able to accomplish in her 14 years.  She is a member of the high school marching band, despite being at least a foot shorter than all the other members.  Since joining the band, I’ve watched her make friendships with so many people who now see her just like I do: as a little girl with a shockingly huge personality. 

What band has done for my sister, the Special Olympics have done for millions of other people who are living life as what society deems “disabled.”  On top of that, they’re good at what they do! Marathon runner and former Special Olympics athlete Billy Quick once said,“You might be able to out-read me, but I can out-run you!” 

To most people, making fun of Special Olympians would seem cruel.  Obviously, President Barack Obama is not one of those people.

During his March 19, 2009 appearance on NBC’s “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno,” President Barack Obama joked that his bowling skills were only good in the Special Olympics.  Leno brought up Obama’s bowling skills by asking if the White House alley had been “burned and closed down.”  This stemmed from Obama’s bowling a 37 while on the campaign trail, in an effort to connect with blue collar voters. 

The New York Times published the entire transcript of the broadcast. 

MR. OBAMA: No, no. I have been practicing all –- (laughter.)

MR. LENO: Really? Really?

MR. OBAMA: I bowled a 129. (Laughter and applause.)

MR. LENO: No, that’s very good. Yes. That’s very good, Mr. President.

MR. OBAMA: It’s like — it was like Special Olympics, or something. (Laughter.)

Before the show even aired, Obama’s team was retracting the comment.  From Air Force One, Obama apologized via telephone to chairman of the Special Olympics, Tim Shriver.  The statement Shriver released on behalf of the Special Olympics maintains that Obama was heartfelt in his apology, however, the hurt and insult felt by the Special Olympics community is obvious from his words.

Only an organization like the Special Olympics can manage to turn this terrible situation into an inspiring opportunity to further their cause.   The final paragraph of their statement read:

“Finally, we invite the President to take the lead and consider hiring a Special Olympics athlete to work in the White House.  In so doing, he could help end misperceptions about the talents and abilities of people with intellectual disabilities, and demonstrate their dignity and value to the world.” 

 Not that this blunder isn’t news worthy enough, but many prominent figures are now asking an even more important question: why is the President of the United States appearing on late night talk shows to begin with? 

President Obama defended his appearance saying it is not keeping him from pressing matters.  He went on to say that he can do more than one thing at a time and is working on a host of issues, including climate change and health care reform.  This defense has done little to quiet the criticism.

“It’s not an accident that no sitting president has ever done a show like this,”  said media analyst Steve Adubato in a FOX News article.

Even the infamous “Coach K ” of Duke University is doubting the president’s latest actions, namely the release of his NCAA Tournament bracket on an ESPN segment called “Barackatology“. 

“As much as I respect what he’s doing,” Krzyzewski said, “The economy is something that he should focus on, probably more than the brackets.”

To top it all off, President Obama is set to do his longest interview since taking office today with 60 Minutes’ correspondant Steve Kroft.  The interview will air on Sunday, March 22 at 7 p.m. ET.  We can only hope that our president keeps his feet firmly on the ground and out of his mouth.

When I was your age we read the newspaper…on actual paper!

You know the cliche all too well.  That dreaded “When I was your age” line that always led to your parents or grandparents rambling about the dark ages they were raised in, without modern conveniences like cell phones, laptops or microwaves. 

Admit it, you hate those stories!  You swear to yourself that when you’re 40+ you’ll never subject people to those ridiculous tales.  Ironically, you probably won’t have to wait until then to prove yourself wrong.

Last week, I told my 15 year old sister, “When I was your age, we IM’d (instant messaged) each other.  I used to spend hours online at night talking to my friends on msn messenger.”  She responded with a blank stare and a four word answer, “Oh…we text now.”

There are only 5 years between us but it seems like my sister and I grew up in different times.  I started texting in college, she was a fluent in “chat lingo” in middle school.  I remember photocopying articles from magazines to use for research, she downloads the web versions.   I used to bring my disc-man and CD collection on every family road trip, her ipod never leaves her purse.

For today’s teenagers, print newspapers are purely nostalgic.  Their lives have been so digital that they look at print news the same way I look at cassette tapes: little more than a vague childhood memory.

As journalists we must learn to make online users, such as these teens, read the newspaper somewhere other than on paper.

RSS seems to be the most logical news source for today’s tech savvy teens.  These kids are accustomed to personalization and ease of access; RSS is centered on those concepts.  Since it is easily accessed from their laptops and cellphones, I expect that while they finish high school, college, and move into the work force, RSS will likely be a natural part of their lives.

Then there’s the world of pod casting.  The major drawback of podcasts is that they require a desktop or laptop computer because they are frequently downloaded to devices that are not web enabled.  Obviously, that’s changing.  The iPhone opened our eyes to the reality of carrying unlimited technology in your pocket.  Since then more and more cellphones, mp3 players, and other mobile web enabled devices become more affordable for the average consumer.  I expect podcasts to gain more popularity as Santa Claus starts bringing more web enabled ipods, mp3 players, etc…

So what happens when future technology surpasses 2009’s cutting edge users?

I can hardly fathom a day when news is delivered in a more user friendly way than it already is through RSS: free, personalized, and immediate.  No matter how inconceivable, logic tells us that technology will continue to develop at its current exponential rate. 

With such a quick turn over of technology, I expect that all users will reach a point where they, as individuals, settle for their favorite method of news delivery, whether print newspaper, podcast, or broadcast news.  Sure, new methods will be released and the tech savvy will take advantage of them but people reach a point where they like what they are familiar with.

I can’t begin to imagine how people will get their news 10-15 years from now.  By then we’ll have a new generation of teens to torture with our “When I was your age we read the newspaper…on actual paper” stories.

Idk…my BFF Candice?

Everytime I watch the AT&T commercial with that quotable punchline “Idk…my BFF Jill?”, I immediately think of one of my old BFF’s: Candice Orm, my former FFA State Officer Teammate and master text-er.  This girl’s texts, facebook messages, and emails are so abbreviated that I often have to ask her to resend it in proper English.

For example, she sent the following message in response to a teammate wrecking his truck: “aw. sry bout da truck. if i win da lotto il by u 1 if dat counts. luv u man hope it gets betr.”  (Translation: “Aww, sorry about the truck.  If I win the lottery, I’ll buy you one if that counts.  I love you man, hope it gets better.”)  This illustration is nothing compared to some of the texts I received during the year we served together. 

For English purists like myself, this “chat lingo” is ridiculously frustrating!  I constantly get made fun of for sending grammatically correct text messages.  When did the English language become uncool?  This phenomenon is every grade school teacher’s worst nightmare: proper spelling really is for losers!

 As a creative writer, I love the fact that English is so structured that it allows itself to be written in the way it is meant to be spoken.  The loss of proper punctuation takes the magic out of the words, something that breaks the heart of my inner poet.

Though I am annoyed by “text talkers” (those who constantly throw “nbd” or “brb” into conversation) I know that I’m fighting a losing battle.  The “language lovers” that Diane Mapes msnbc article Fastidious spelling snobs pushed over the edge discusses haven’t accepted that.  The people Mapes mentions are a different breed altogether, people who correct menus at restaurants and mark errors in magazines in sincere hopes of helping the punctuation perpetrators. 

While I do love grammar, I’m never going to go up to a stranger and tell them that they’ve misused a word or spelled something wrong.  Sure, it may get on my nerves but big deal, who am I to judge?  I have nothing against these people, I call some of them my closest friends.  Who you ask? Idk…my BFF Candice?

If you can read this you made it!

If you can read this you’ve made it to the new blog!

When I was updating my site for my Journalism 232 class I accidently rerouted some things and basically crashed the old site.  The only remedy was to unistall everything and start over…loads of fun!  I’m going to repost all the old blog posts that were for my 232 class assignments as soon as possible.

-Celeste