A Spine Transplant- Dan Rather C-SPAN Interview

8 03 2011

American journalism needs a spine transplant. We need guts and courage to come back into journalism,” announced Dan Rather to the C-Span viewers on February 24, 2010. Throughout the interview, Rather emphasized the point that journalism is different than it used to be, no longer do we have the checks and balance system that the media used to utilize on politicians and companies. Investigative journalism seems to be scarce nowadays, and Rather says that in order for journalism to really be journalism, we need to have the passion and courage to dig deep and uncover the truth.

The Watergate scandal is still considered as the most famous investigative journalism example.

Dan Rather, who is an American journalist and former CBS News anchor, joined students participating from George Mason University Video Studio along with Steve Scully, the political editor for the C-SPAN networks, and students from Georgetown, Purdue and University of Denver. Also joining the conversation was Tucker Carlson, who is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller.

Carlson also agreed with Rather, journalists nowadays are “unwilling to take on powerful figures and authorities.”

Rather also discussed how technology and onilne journalism has shaped media today. “Obama is our first Internet President.” 1963 Was the Age of Television but as soon as 2001 hit, the Internet Age began and has been in full force ever since.

Some key points by Carlson and Rather about onilne journalism today:

  • Carlson said that  the Internet is young, and for a smooth transition to online press, there needs to be more money. The media today is better and is worse than it was last century.
  • Dan Rather made the point that right now the public is somewhat confused as to where they should get their news. I completely agree because we have this flood of information from all sorts of platforms, and social media’s job is to figure out what is the best way to present it to us.
  • Rather talked about how social media has been one of the greatest tools against great power, for example a student brought up the crisis that happened a couple of weeks ago in Egpyt, and how Twitter and Facebook played such a huge role. (A sidenote, an Egyptian man was so grateful for Facebook during the crisis that he named he named his newborn daughter Facebook, check out the article here.)

One of the most fascinating parts of the interview was when Rather recounted his reporting on historical events such as the Vietnam War, the 1968 Presidential election (where Rather was punched in the stomach at a Democratic Convention) and the JFK assassination.

Rather during his report on the 1963 JFK assasination

The JFK assasination was “a hammer to the heart, these things don’t happen in America,” recounted Rather. This was a perfect example of when Rather had to ignore his emotions completely when reporting the news to the nation. The most moving part of the interview for me was when they replayed Rather’s report of the assassination, as we seemed to be  transported to that very moment Rather had to announce  that the President was dead. Another amazing point of the report was that Rather adlibed everything, after seeing the video footage just once, while he was describing the sequence of the assassination.
When asked about the lack of coverage on the Afghanistan war, Rather explained how the focus was moved from Afghanistan to Iraq by the government: a perfect example of “herd journalism,” and how more reporters should have a backbone.

What makes a good reporter? A golden question asked by Steve Scully at the beginning of the interview. Rather’s answer? Curiosity, determination and of course, the ability to write.

*One of my favorite quotes from the C-SPAN interview was when Rather was describing how they reported 9/11: “Get zoned, lets get the facts, as many as we can. Lets get as close to the truth as we can, that’s how journalists roll.

The distance learning course, which is produced by C-SPAN, is a unique opportunity for students to interview guests via video conference The course airs on C-SPAN3 on Fridays at 5 pm and also streams online at: http://www.c-span.org/Distance_Learning/.

*Dan Rather is now anchor and managing editor of a television news magazine, Dan Rather Reports, that is on the cable channel HDNet. You can also check Rather out on Twitter here! See, even after decades in the journalism business, he keeps up with it by using the latest social media. Take note aspiring journalists…

Audio Journalism-Chapter 7 Mark Briggs

2 03 2011

Podcasts used to be an unknown feature on iTunes, but has now escalated into one of the most powerful tools an online journalist can use. Briggs explains how you can create full-featured segments that imitate radio episodes and post them on your blog for your followers.

  • Audio Journalism is the next big thing for journalism because it lets you add layers to any story . The editing can be as complicated as you want it to be. Audio can help you build a multidimensional  story by:
  1. Presence: The reporter can bring the reader to the scene, and the simple fact of being there boosts credibility.
  2. Emotions: The tone of your voice, along with your pauses and intonations, can enhance the story.
  3. Atmosphere: The natural sound from the scene pulls the reader in closer.
  • Podcasts are pre-recorded audio program that is posted to a website. While they are time consuming, as you should update regularly, it’s great for building an audience on a particular subject.
  • NPR or National Public Radio is the biggest online audio journalism site today, and its success comes from the reporters. They bring familiarity and engage their listeners.

*Lots of major news sites are jumping on the audio clip bandwagon: CNN, BBC, Fox News and The New York Times.

*Want tips on starting a podcast? Click HERE.

Visual Storytelling-Chapter 6 Mark Briggs

22 02 2011

If you were to choose between reading a two page essay or flipping through a picture book on the same topic, which one would you choose? Our minds usually just wander to the picture book answer because pictures are visually more engaging. They tell a story within themselves and are a must-have for every article you write.

Libyan protesters, photo taken from CNN article.

  • Digital photography is the one of the biggest features to an online journalists story. The convenience of a digital camera is one of the reasons why people are rapidly switching from traditional cameras to digital. You can see your picture immediately after you take it, you picture taking is not limited by the amount of film remaining, and you can upload the pictures anytime, anywhere. You can also edit the photos no matter where you are as long as you have your laptop.

*Always remember, when you take pictures from other sources, you need to CITE THEM. Otherwise you could be sued and that opens up a whole lot of legal troubles that I have no idea how to explain. Just cite your sources.

  • There are two types of digital cameras:
  1. A point-and-shoot, is more compact, easier to use and less expensive than other types. They usually come with a built in flash, video mode and lens, making it easily packable for a reporter on the move.
  2. A DSLR camera, this will capture better quality photos because the image sensor is 10x larger than the other type of camera, but it will cost you two or three times more. It is more complex and the accessories (like lens and flash) are an additional cost.

  • Tips for taking better photos:

Hold the camera steady: If you must, support yourself on something steady while taking the picture

Fill the Frame: Be careful not to leave to much headroom

Focus on one thing: A good point of focus is the subject eyes

Get closer: Get the right angle and move around

Go vertical: Follow the subject, if the subject is vertical, go vertical

Shoot action: Capture in the moment photographs, avoid poses

The famous National Geographic photo of a young Afghan girl on the June 1985 cover.

  • Editing and uploading a photo has become easy with sites like Twitter, Facebook, and Flickr. Briggs gives you these simple suggestions when your editing your photos:
  1. Edit a copy of a photo-never the original
  2. Crop the photo
  3. Resize the picture
  4. Modify the resolution
  5. Tone and color correct the picture
  6. Save a web version
  7. Keep the photo editing simple

*Check out 2011’s best photo editing software here.

Mobile Journalism- Chapter 5 Mark Briggs

22 02 2011

The evolution of cell phones have raised the bar on reporting. Now that phones can capture quality videos, photos and audio files, readers don’t have to wait for first hand coverage. A reporter can rush to the scene and capture everything on his or her mobile device without having to wait for the camera crew to appear.

  • Mobile reporting is a whole new field of journalism where the reporter does it all: write, update and transmit photos and videos directly to their audience. Mobile reporters don’t have to work for JUST print, online, radio or TV, they can work in all mediums because they can update from anywhere and whenever they want. Increasingly, news footage is coming form citizens who were on the scene by coincidence and picked up their phone.

*The only technical gadget necessary to be a mobile journalist is a mobile device that connects to the Internet and allows you to publish texts, videos and pictures. You don’t need a hikers backpack full of equipment to haul around from place to place, just an iPhone or a Blackberry.

  • Deciding on whether to go “mobile” on a news story can be difficult. Here are some places that Briggs suggest you take the cellular plunge:
  1. Breaking news, such as fires, shootouts, auto accidents, plane crashes etc.
  2. Important speeches or announcements by prominent figures
  3. Sporting events
  4. Protests/Political rallies/parades
  5. Criminal and Civil trials
  • Mobile microblogging: Microblogging is still being held up by many cell phone holding hands, with Twitter being the dominant Web site. Many journalists use microblogging as a way of taking notes, say during a sports game, Tweets bring up to the minute plays that a reporter can later go back and consult for an article.

Twitter is the King of Microblogging- Chapter 4 Mark Briggs

21 02 2011

News is never reported the day after anymore. You don’t have to patiently wait for the evening news or tomorrows paper to catch up on the latest stories. Briggs explains the phenomenon that has swept the Web: Microblogging.

  • A microblogging service allows someone to publish small messages, usually no more than 140 characters, where you can use links to other Web sites, photos or videos. The most famously addictive Web site out of all the many microblogging sites would have to be Twitter. Ashton Kutcher first made this site a hit when he started tweeting a year or two ago. Soon teen girls around the country basically put their heads through the computer screen trying to follow Kutcher’s (or aplusk as he’s known in Twitter nation) daily tweets. The ease of publishing and the ease of consuming a message is the reason for microbloggings rapid growth over the past couple years.

I’d follow his Tweets.

*Another example of microblogging would be Facebook‘s status updates. The “What’s on your mind?” box has probably grown to be the most used feature on Facebook.

  • Microblogging is quickly causing an information revolution. We get updates in real-time and, somtimes, we get the news straight from the source itself. Take Egypt for example, just a couple weeks ago the protesters in Tahrir Square tweeted their grievances, thoughts, ideas and protests to the world via Twitter and Facebook. When the government soon caught on and blocked Internet access to the country, Google and Twitter launched a service where Egyptians could call a certain number and leave a voicemail, then resulting in a Tweet that was recognized with “#egpyt.” Read the article here.

*To understand the world of Twitter, you must learn the language.

Tweet: A verb that meaning sending a message on Twitter, as a noun it means the message sent or received.

RT: Retweet, is when you copy someone else’s tweet and posting it so your followers can see it.

tworld: simply Twitter world

tweeples: those who use Twitter

This brings us to hashtags or simply “#.” They are used to mark key words or topics in a Tweet, ultimately creating a trend out of the word. (like the #egypt example used earlier)

Whether you hate it or embrace it, you can’t deny that Twitter and other microblogging sites are taking over the world. Literally. Kim Kardashian is reportedly being paid 10,000 USD to tweet to her followers about a product. If that kind of money doesn’t motivate you to create an account than I don’t know what will.

“Crowdsourcing” Is the Way To Go- Chapter 3 Mark Briggs

18 02 2011

Now you can imagine why there is a whole chapter in “Journalism Next” dedicated to collaborative power, because that is exactly what the Internet lives on. Without the constant help of the online community, places like forums, blogs and most of the websites out there that have comment boxes would be useless.

  • Crowdsourcing” is harnessing the sustained power of a community to improve a service or information base. This term distributes reporting to everyday citizens who can log onto their computer. In some cases, crowdsourcing works amazingly, but when your news blog gets spammed with ads for cat food or you get a million comments from religious extremists saying your going to hell, it doesn’t seem to work so well. Opening up the reporting to the community is an on-going experiment, but this helps with open-source reporting, which is a form of transparency.

*Examples of crowdsourcing, or collaborative publishing, are: YouTube, Facebook, and Photobucket.

  • Links power the Internet. That is the appeal of the Internet isn’t it? You can click things that take you to a totally different Web page, wherever and whenever you want to. The mentality that people used to use that “if you use links, you’re going to send your readers away and they might never come back,” is the exact opposite of how you should feel. Take Google, Bing or Yahoo for example. All they do is send people away to different Web sites and people can’t stop coming back.

*Link journalism: using editorial judgment to provide links to other sources of information and news, based on the needs and interests of a particular audience. It enriches the story by giving the reader videos, background information and places to learn more about the subject. So go put some links in your blog/forum. Right now.

  • PRO-AM Journalism: otherwise known as participatory journalism. Probably the best idea ever for news companies, they give the chance to thousands of people to be a reporter anytime they want, and they don’t have to PAY them. Best example would be CNN’s iReporter.

Advanced Blogging- Chapter 2 Mark Briggs

17 02 2011

To sum up this chapter, today an aspiring journalist needs to have a blog. You need to be able to keep up with all the media outlets, Twitter, Facebook and all the other web pages that are making news travel at the click of a button. Blogging is the art of keeping up an online conversation. No longer are we forced to go out and make connections first hand, because now we can turn to our cell phones, ipads, or laptops to find out what we want at any time.

  • A blog is a simple form of communication, because they’re fast, interactive, and allows you to further illustrate your story with links, videos and pictures. Blogging can help you cover a beat and build a loyal band of followers whose interactions contribute to your coverage.


Briggs “Blog Basics” include three characteristics that define a blog:

1. It is a frequently updated Web site with entries displayed with the most recent posts on top

2. Each entry, a post, has a headline and a body. Entries can contain links to other sites, photos and videos.

3. Most blogs allow the readers to comment on these posts.

The simplicity of the blog is what made it so popular today. You don’t have to spend hours hunched over the computer going cross-eyed staring at the screen trying to figure out how to make a web site by computer code. Nowadays, creating a blog is almost as easy as sending an email.

  • Becoming a blogger: READ OTHER BLOGS. Go straight to Google and find blogs about topics that interest you. The blogs you read, the more acquainted you become with the language and the format. Note what you like about the blog and what you would never want to look at again. I go to about five everyday, all of which are either music blogs or food blogs, but still I’m at least getting out into the world of blogging.



  • Customize your blog. Now don’t go crazy and put flash animation with sparkling pink fireworks all over the place, and please don’t add a little icon that follows your mouse around the screen. Those are quite frankly annoying. Make it appealing and use basic CSS to customize the style and feel of your blog. For an example, you can do this by uploading your own header image, the picture at the top of your blog. Customize it to reflect something about you or the topic your writing about. Widgets are also something to add personality to your blog. They are small applications that can be added to any Web page, for example a search bar, or an RSS feed.


  • Build an audience for your blog. Post early and post often, so people can rely on you to get fresh news daily and at the start of their day. Know what your reader wants, by looking at comments and your most popular posts. A good blogger knows how to keep their readers interested by knowing how to clearly communicate and idea, news or analysis quickly.

If you’re looking for any inspiration, check out TIME magazines best blogs of 2010 here.

We Are All Slaves to the Internet Now- Chapter 1 Mark Briggs

17 02 2011

This first chapter of Briggs’s book “Journalism Next” is like a web 101 for dummies. I thought I was insanely familiar with the web as I have been one of the people that “have been online since grade school,” but when I read this first chapter, I learned new aspects of the web that I’ve never even heard of before. There have definitely been a few life lessons and common Internet courtesies that I learned in this chapter:

  • This first one has to do with bytes. A byte is a unit of measure for digital information, and with that comes prefixes such as kilobyte (1,024 bytes), megabyte (1,048,576  bytes) and giga bytes (a number too long that if I typed it your mind would automatically skip anyway because it doesn’t want to bother processing how big it really is).

*Briggs notes never send an email with an attachment bigger than 1 M (megabyte), especially to a company email as your email will clog up their server and your server. This would result in a sluggish internet and you may end up having some very annoyed business people angry at you for slowing their internet browsing time.

  • Another useful bit of information that Briggs lays down for us is RSS. What in the world is an RSS? And for someone who thought they knew their Internet pretty well (but obviously just googling for pictures of James Franco is not considered an experienced web master), I was very confused when I saw this word. RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, and it allows you to subscribe to an information feed that gets delivered to an RSS feeder or web browser. An example of an RSS feed is to look to the far right side of this web page–>

*RSS is one of the most effective ways to consume mass amounts of information in a clear and organized way. Briggs’s even says that “acquriing a daily RSS habit is the best way to increase your knowledge of any subject” (14). Who doesn’t want to increase their smartness by signing up for such a simple web device?

  • Subscribe wisely. Don’t be that over-achieving journalist who subscribes for absolutely everything he/she sees on the web. If you do, you’ll end up being like this. No, that’s just not normal so follow what Briggs says and pick:
  1. Sections on news websites that are targeted to your interest or beat
  2. Blogs that discuss a certain topic or interest
  3. Blogs by companies/people you cover
  4. Web searches such as Google news alerts on terms, companies and names of people
  5. Content from your own web site ( the stuff that is worth tracking, like your most popular stories. Not the stories that you think are exceptionally funny about your cat)
  •  Computer coding scares me. The terminology itself makes me shrink back and say “absolutely not.” The bad part is that many people think that most of the younger generation has experience with this stuff, but I am here to say that we know squat about it. Your average teenage kid does not know how to modify a web page code because he/she is more worried about passing the driving test and not getting caught sneaking back into their house at 4 AM. This isn’t everyone though, much respect to the young people who actually understand this computer language.

    This makes me confused.

    *Learning code opens up opportunities for your web site, seeing as you can create a new idea yourself and don’t have to wait for the “web person” to do it. HTML is a collection of tags that tell a Web browser how to display information on a Web page. HTML tags usually come in paris, with an opening and a closing. For example, the HTML tag to bold face is format: <b>word you want to bold</b>. It becomes increasingly simple the more you do it and the more you become familiar with it. Almost like learning a new language, only your turning into a computer geek, not a bilingual hot shot.

    • CSS, or Cascading Style Sheets, “makes web sites look cool” (33) and is basically a collection of rules. CSS enables you to modify, troubleshoot (to figure out how to solve a problem) and edit web pages and designs.

    *The key to CSS is being able to set a style for a collection of elements to your website/blog.

Joel Achenbach Article Response

6 02 2011

Joel Achenbach’s article from The Washington Post, “I Really Need You to Read This Article, Okay?” describes how our society is becoming less interested in print news and more interested in the instantaneous news the web brings.

No longer does a journalist have to wait for a response to his article, because he can check his page views and comments instantly online. It used to just take a journalists “gut instinct” to determine whether or not a story is newsworthy, now it is determined by how much online circulation it gets. Achenbach makes a great example when he says “What if it turns out that most readers are sick of Iraq, or don’t want any foreign news at all? Do you just toss it out? That’s not journalism, it’s marketing.”

I have to admit, I would probably click on a story that said “Britney’s Dog Menaced by Sharks,” because who wouldn’t want to see the crazy reaction that Britney probably had during that debacle? While we do love our tabloids, what we do or don’t click on in the instant that we scan our homepage news shouldn’t determine what is considered newsworthy. Journalists should never be “chasing readers,” they should be reporting on the stories around them.

A journalists responsibilities are not changing in my opinion, it will always be up to them to decide on what stories the world should know about. The platform on which they tell those stories are what is changing constantly. We now can add more pictures, hyperlinks, videos and additional websites to better tell a story.

As for the age of the newspaper slowly fading away, this may be true, but literacy will never disappear entirely. It will just convert to a new form.

Media Pyramid

1 02 2011

My media pyramid- This shows what media outlets I use the most, and which ones I use the least. I usually log onto Facebook, check CNN or flip through TIME magazine to get the latest news.