A First Glance at Digital Journalism

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In beginning the research portion of my project, I started surfing around on a few digital magazine/content provider sites that Professor McDaniel suggested I look into. For those of you who might not know, my capstone project is centered on challenging the notion that print journalism is dead. In particular, I am investigating print articles in a number of prominent magazines, and highlighting what print journalism is still doing better than digital journalism. In this case, though I will not focus on digital content providers, for instance, BuzzFeed, Slate, and Salon, I plan to use them as points of comparison. Below were my immediate thoughts at first glance:

BuzzFeed:
I am extremely familiar with BuzzFeed, and think its content, design, and utility is both innovative and unique. BuzzFeed offers a wide range of article types, including everything from long form to “listicles”. What I like most about BuzzFeed is that its content is presented in a visually appealing manner. Each article is supported with effective images, categorized into sections, or written in a friendly yet witty manner that is easy to understand. I believe, however, that BuzzFeed does not always offer the most newsworthy content to readers. As Michael Massing alludes to in his article on digital journalism in The New York Review of Books, BuzzFeed has a reputation for its cat photos and humorous listicles. I think the “News” section of the site is effective in terms of significant journalism, however, it’s “17 Boozy Ice Cream Recipes To Get You Through The Holidays”- and “19 Times Lindsay From “You’re The Worst” Was A Goddamn Inspiration”-type articles are more effective at entertainment, rather than journalism.

Slate:
I was a bit overwhelmed by Slate when I first arrived on the website. The content seemed endless and sort of all over the place. At the top of the page, the content was not sorted not by topic or category, rather, by reader activity and recency. It was divided into columns titled “Most Read,” “Most Shared,” “Most Recent,” “In Case You Missed It,” and so on. The interface, however, was extremely representative of “digital journalism.” There were videos, slideshows, and audio recordings embedded into almost every article I clicked on. Overall, though it was difficult to sort through the information, Slate offered a very interactive reading experience, as well as a wide range of content.

Salon:
I was more comfortable with my experience surfing through Salon than I was surfing through Slate. There were topical categories at the very top of the homepage, which made it easier to sort through the information. Even still, the website provided me with a very- for lack of a better word- vertical experience. I felt the scrolling process was never-ending, that there was an overabundance of content featured on the homepage alone. I felt I had to personally choose which articles were worth clicking on, rather than being shown or told which were most relevant and worth my time. I do recognize that there are less spatial constraints on the Internet, and that digital news organizations take advantage of posting a ton of content at once. I, however, find this aspect of digital journalism overwhelming, rather than beneficial.

Core, Anti-, and Proximal Audience

Minor Item 4: Capstone Project Audience

At first, I struggled with the following questions: How does the topic of your capstone project relate to people other than yourself? How will you make your project interesting and relevant to the larger public? In choosing a topic as specialized as magazine journalism- print magazine journalism for that matter- the answers to these very questions were initially hard to come by. It is evident that journalism, or content production/ consumption, is a specialized topic in it of itself, let alone the print side of the industry.

Core Audience:

People in my core target audience are those involved or interested in print journalism, specifically feature/magazine writing. They understand that print journalism is at risk, however, value it as an influential and significant source of information. Furthermore, people in my target audience are those who also prefer digital journalism over print journalism, and are unaware of the value of the latter. I hope to change these people’s beliefs, or even simply further their knowledge on the matter. Lastly, I hope to target those generally interested in journalism, information, or news, and those whose consume or interact with such content on a daily basis.

Proximal Audience:

When I tell people I want to pursue print journalism as a profession, they often and automatically respond with disappointment and doubt. It is clear that print journalism is a dying market, as today’s content is predominantly produced and distributed through digital means. Even still, print journalism does not stand alone: there are other markets and industries experiencing similar situations. Consider the book publishing industry, or even the record industry, both of which have been overtaken by either technology or digital media.

In this way, my proximal audience will consist of people not in my immediate target audience, rather, just to the left or right. These people are the “book publishers” or those in the record industry, who are experiencing vulnerability, just as I am, when it comes to their professions and passions. Though they may not be interested in feature writing or print journalism directly, they have an interest in a field of study or profession that is either undervalued or losing value overtime.

Anti-Audience:

People that I will rule out of my audience are those who do not care for information consumption, news, or journalism in any matter. I will not be able to reach people who have no interest whatsoever in the industry, let alone those who are interested in print feature writing. I am aware that my project will not reach/make an impact on everyone, however, I will do my best to reach the audience members I know I am capable of reaching.

Unsettling Contradictions

The first set of claims I felt uncomfortable making, mainly because of their contradictory nature, had to do with the genre of writing I most closely identify with: creative nonfiction. A large portion of my essay deals with my transition away from creative fiction writing and toward creative nonfiction writing. In my essay, I explain that creative nonfiction writing, for a number of reasons, has become the writing I love and enjoy most, as well as the writing I am best at. Toward the latter parts of my essay, however, I blatantly contradict my claims. As a former intern at Hearst, I have gained access to the corporation’s editorial database, one that allows people within the Hearst community to submit creative feature stories to potentially be published by its national titles. Thus far I’ve submitted three stories, none of which been picked up. Instead, I’ve received a “declined” notification alongside my submissions- time and time again. How can I confidently and truthfully claim that I am “best” at a particular writing form, if nobody of higher status (aside from a professor or two in an academic context) has validated this notion? I leave this issue sort of unresolved, as my contradictions do not make much sense.

The second set of claims I felt uncomfortable making, also because of their contradictory nature, was the evolution I underwent as a seven year old when my parents told me, time and time again, that I was a talented writer. At first, I claim that these moments of direct and positive feedback were moments of transformation. My parents telling me I was a talented writer gave me a sense of identity in the world. It helped me to believe in myself and more clearly view myself as a “Writer” with a capital “W”. Later, however, I contradict myself, claiming that these moments were not true moments of transformation; rather, they were simply moments of encouragement. I then go on to say that the times I truly learned, changed, evolved, and became better was when I received criticism or suggestions or some form of feedback that made me revisit my writing, or even rethink my interests in and passion for writing. Not only are these claims contradictory, however, they are also sort of unsettling. Can we only become “better” if we are told we did something wrong, and taught how to fix it? Can we become “better” through mere praise? In retrospect, I do not feel I found time in my essay to illustrate the latter: positive evolution through positive feedback.

One Last Post

It is now the end of the semester, and it is safe to say I’ve learned a lot, a lot about myself as a writer, myself as a student, and myself as a person. The process of developing my eportfolio has allowed me to more clearly see and interpret these things about myself. I am very happy with the way my portfolio is coming together. As I compile pieces and artifacts to upload to my site, I am learning that my accomplishments as a writer are more diverse and significant than I had realized. I have experiences in argumentative writing, digital writing, resume writing, magazine writing, newsletter writing, research-based writing, and more. I spent a lot of time carefully choosing an array of pieces that would illustrate the diversity in my experiences, which, after seeing them all in one place in my portfolio, has made me proud of my work.

In addition, I am content with how my theme is coming together. At first, I was not sure that each page significantly contributed to the advancement of my theme, which is centered on eraser shavings as a metaphor for my life. However, when I met with Professor Silver, she instilled confidence in me, and told me she thinks I am on the right track. One of the main difficulties I face as a writer is articulation. I often ask myself, “Is my reader going to comprehend my intended message, or am I completely rambling and not making sense at all?” This was a constant struggle for me throughout this entire eportfolio process.

I still want to work on structuring the pages that include my drafts and revisions of my “Why I Write Essay.” I’m not sure if I need an introduction to explain why/how the purpose of this essay fits into the theme of my portfolio. If I were to include an introduction, I would want to express that WHY I write is the only aspect of my writing that I am truly certain about and confident in; however, I am not sure I have enough to say about that to make it its own page. Perhaps I will incorporate this idea into the sub-pages instead.

I am also still deciding which artifacts to upload to the “My Professional Side” page. I am struggling because I did not get permission from my boss that I can publish the article I wanted to publish. Instead, I may upload pieces from my English 229: Professional Writing course, however, am afraid this, in a way, overlaps with the idea of academic writing.

I have worked extremely hard on putting my eportfolio together, and hope I can show it to professionals in the long run. I can’t wait to create a finished product!

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Overcoming My Fear of Blogging

At first, at the very beginning of the semester, I was almost afraid of the blog. Frankly, each required and optional blogpost assignment freaked me out. It was intimidating to know that I was publishing my thoughts, feelings, and ideas in an open space for others to read. I was afraid of being judged, both on my writing style and as a person. Therefore, I stayed within the parameters of my comfort zone, and blogged in a more informed and academic manner.

As time has passed, however, the blog has become my best friend. Nowadays, my blogging persona is very casual and conversational. I use the blog as sort of an outlet for my stream of consciousness. I write whatever comes to mind, which allows me the freedom to make my blog my own. The blog has allowed me to share personal and academic thoughts in an almost therapeutic way. I have used it as a virtual space to store my worries, concerns, struggles, accomplishments, solutions, and more. In fact, at this point in the semester, the optional blogpost opportunities excite me. I take advantage of them, as they allow me the opportunity to openly and freely express myself through what I love the most: writing.

I cannot say that I don’t edit my work. When I am done expressing my thoughts, I go back and reread my post one time through. In doing so, I do not wish to formalize my writing, but instead, wish to simply ensure my thoughts are making sense. Throughout the semester, I used the blog as a way to directly speak to my classmates and peers, as a way to honestly and genuinely speak my mind. In this way, before publishing my posts, I ensure they are clear, organized, and interesting to read. After all, a boring blog is a useless one!

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Revisions, Revisions, Revisions

In my opinion, revision has been the most useful part of this class. Revision has taught me the most about how to become a better writer. Revision feels refreshing; it feels like clarity. It feels as though I am truly learning something. Picture yourself sitting in a large lecture hall, quickly scribbling down everything your professor says out loud. Although you do not know what she is saying, or what her words mean, you keep writing. You write down every word, every definition, and every side note she makes, trying your best not to miss a beat. But is this truly learning? I think not. I think true learning is being proactive and interactive. It is thinking about our own thinking. It is working with our writing as if we are working with a partner, colleague, or friend.

Revision allows us to take our own work, and improve it. It allows us to take what we had once wrote, and reorganize our thoughts. It makes room for cohesion, for clarity, and for change- good change. This semester, I have learned that revision is nothing less than a great thing. Particularly, in revising my Why I Write essay, I was able to pinpoint the weaknesses in my argument. I was better able to see what outside readers could not. I learned ways to improve my style, strengthen my thesis, and further build upon imagery and emotion when necessary. It was not until after I had finished revising the essay that I was better able to see where I went wrong in the first place.

When tackling the revision process, I suggest removing yourself from your work. Do not think about what you like about your paper, or what you think are the best parts of your paper. Instead, have the opposite mindset: What in your paper can be improved? Where are there gaps? How can your argument be strengthened? Thinking critically in this way is what will get you the best results.

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#STYLECHALLENGE: Navigation

From the very start of my remediation project, it was a goal of mine to incorporate the “journey”/”travel” feel that my repurposing project consisted of. After deciding to create a website for my remediation project, however, I knew this would be a bit more difficult than it was for a magazine spread. How was I going to incorporate this journey/travel aura on a multi-page website? I needed to find a way to string all my pages together, in a way that would allow the users of my site to feel as though they were traveling to different places in the world.

After meeting with Professor Silver, she gave me great insight into how to fix this problem. Instead of simply having a menu at the side of my site with different tabs, I figured out how to link the different pages under particular tabs together. For example, one of my tabs is a review of different restaurants in Ann Arbor that serve unique and tasty salsas. When you click on the tab, which is called “HOT” SPOTS, you are taken to an introductory page about Ann Arbor in general, and how it houses many Mexican restaurants. Then, instead of putting information about the three restaurants I chose to include (Isalita, BTB Cantina, and Chipotle) all on that same introductory page, I created hyperlinks that takes users to separate pages, each with information on just one of the restaurants. This also solved the problem of having too much text on a single page. The “HOT” SPOTS page now looks like this (the red words are the links):

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In addition, Professor Silver also mentioned that instead of forcing users to click on the tab menu each time they wanted to get back to the introductory page or read about a different restaurant, that I should string the pages together. At the bottom of each page, I put a link/button to help users navigate through, or “travel” to the next restaurant. This way, they can move back to the previous page they were on, or move ahead to the next page, without having to go back to the introductory “HOT” SPOTS page and search for the link for the restaurant they want to read about. An example of this new style feature on my site looks like this (the links are in yellow):

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#TECHCHALLENGE

This past summer, I interned as a Junior Account Executive at a PR firm called Buzz Creators, Inc. It is located in Westchester County in New York. I was put on a dentistry account, and was asked to write a newspaper article about tooth fairy traditions across the world for one of our clients: Valley Pediatric Dentistry. For this tech challenge, I re-created my experience, and turned the unedited and unpublished word document version of the article I wrote into a newspaper article. I used a newspaper template website that I found through Google, and replicated the layout one of the newspapers Buzz Creators, Inc. worked closely with, The Journal News. For my purposes, this article is meant to replicate an online newspaper article, not one that was published in print. I made it “kid-like” to match the tooth fairy tradition theme. Here is a snapshot of what I came up with!

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Eportfolio Introduction

The header image of my eportfolio goes with my introduction…. it looks like this:

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EPORTFOLIO INTRODUCTION:

The Heart-Shaped Pile of Eraser Shavings: Eraser shavings are a metaphor for my life. They represent confusion, mistakes, uncertainty, and messiness; they represent refinement, alterations, and an attempt at perfection. Eraser shavings represent writing that is “out there,” writing that challenges us, and writing that is new to us, explaining why we often feel motivated to erase, reform, and retry. Eraser shavings are adaptable: overtime, they pile up, and can be formed or moved into any shape as they sit vulnerably in the middle of our paper. If my life were eraser shavings, they would lie in my notebook in the shape of a heart. I have a passion for pencils and paper; however, my passion is nothing less than messy.

The Heart: I am certain that I am a writer. I am certain that one of the most prominent pieces of my identity consists of my obsession for words, letters, punctuation, and sentences. I have been truly passionate about writing every since I was a child. When I was just seven years old, the kids played outside. They ran freely across the playground, ignoring the poking woodchips stuck at the bottom of their shoes, and the violent winds that blew hair in front their faces. From the desk in my bedroom, I could hear the swing set creaking, and the monkey bars shaking. But the noises and temptations never fazed me. Instead, I sat inside. I wrote, for hours on end, scribbling word vomit across the pages of my notebook. I wrote short stories, poems, and journal entries- everything you could possibly imagine, and I enjoyed it. I enjoyed it more than anything else in my childhood, even more than the swing set and monkey bars. Writing is what kept my blood flowing as a child, and what keeps my blood flowing now.

The Eraser Shavings: I am certain that I am a writer. However, the confusion and messiness lies in both the mental processes I go through as a writer, as well as the assortment of pieces I have produced in my life thus far. Some of the writing I am asked to do, choose to do, and am even forced to do is challenging, confusing, “out there,” and imperfect. As an editorial intern at a local magazine, I was once asked to write a Features piece on interior design trends, a topic so unrelated to my life and expertise. The task and process was messy; it was tricky, and it made me think. In many of my writing-related endeavors, I refine, alter, erase, reform, and retry, pursuing a sense of perfection I know is essentially unobtainable. Similarly, the different genres of writing I have dabbled with create an assorted, messy picture when seen collaboratively: magazine writing, newspaper writing, research/academic writing, creative writing, professional writing, and more. In this way, I do not know where my writing is going to take me, but that is okay. I have come to terms with the fact that eraser shavings will always be a metaphor for my life.

WHAT WILL MY EPORTFOLIO INCLUDE?

I want to paint a picture to my readers that shows I do not know where my life as a writer is going, and what genre I ultimately want to stick with in the future, but what is certain is that I love writing in general. Therefore, my eportfolio will include a number of different pieces I have worked on throughout my life, from a number of different experiences/places. It will include some of my professional writing from previous internships, and some of the academic/extracurricular writing that I’ve done for the online food magazine I write for at U of M (Spoon). In this way, I will present many different genres of writing to my readers, which will tap into the “messiness” aspect of my introduction.

WHAT AM I STILL STRUGGLING TO FIGURE OUT?

I am still struggling to figure out if my overall message/theme about eraser shavings is coming through. Is it clear? Does it make sense? Should I change my argument in any way? Like I mentioned above, I want to get across the idea that my life as a writer is message (both the process and in terms of figuring out what I want to do with my life in the field), however, writing will always be my passion and obsession. Does this idea come through?

 

Who Knew?

This week, I would like to, yet again, blog about the process of my remediation process, however, this time from the technological perspective, rather than the writing, editing, structuring, or storyboarding perspective. Who knew that when I was accepted into the Minor in Writing program here at the University of Michigan, I would learn more about technology than I ever thought I could? When people think of writing, they often think of essays, papers, peer-editing, drafting and re-drafting, punctuation, sentence structure, and all things related to letters and words. However, I now have a entirely different perspective on writing, one that I would have never gained if not for the Minor.

Writing has a lot to do with technology. In today’s world, where technology is the center of mostly everything that we do, it has become the center of writing, editing, and publishing. Consider print journalism. Today, newsreaders use the Internet as one of their main sources for finding out about the world. Fewer and fewer people turn to print sources (newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, brochures, etc.). Instead, they simply turn on their computer and Google whatever it is they need to Google. Technology has made information-searching easy as pie. In this way, my remediation project in particular has taught me ways to take advantage of a world in which technology is so embedded and prevalent in our writing practices.

For my remediation project, I am creating a website on WordPress. Through this project, I have learned so much about presenting an argument through technological mediums. Not only has WordPress allowed me to insert text into its interface, but I have learned to insert links to online news stories, am in the process of creating an iMovie video for my site that will combine YouTube videos featuring cooking shows, and have uploaded a multitude of images to my site. All in all, my website has allowed me to use video, images, and links to create an argument, rather than simply text. Although this is not necessarily the most conventional way to write, and is far from the usual 5-page essay, my website has adapted to today’s version of what writing has truly become: technological.

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