Final thoughts on my Journalism 65 class….

Well…It’s been 15 weeks and this is the final week of the spring semester at Laney College (in my eyes this semester went by pretty quick), and since this is the final week this will be the final post for my Journalism class…In all honesty, when I originally started this class I didn’t think I would learn as much as I did. I thought it was just going to be a simple online class that wouldn’t take too much effort but I will admit…I was wrong about that.  This class really took a lot more work than I thought…I was constantly changing my mind and doing multiple re-writes on almost every post! 🙂 and I was constantly researching…It was nice…I’m glad I decided to take this class. I feel there are quite a few things I learned in this class that will be useful in my future.  

We have been asked to list the top ten things we learned this semester so…let me go ahead and tell you the top ten things I learned…

X. Twitter is more than I thought it was….

            The original thoughts I had about Twitter were incorrect….somewhat. I originally thought twitter was nothing more than just a bunch of people posting mindless nonsense. After actually opening an account and making quite a few postings my ideas about it have changed. I now see twitter is a great way to spread info to people around the globe quick, research (just type a key word into the search bar and instantly find all kinds of links), promote your business, network with like-minded people, keep in touch with family…along with many other benefits…but….don’t get me wrong, just as I originally thought there still are MANY mindless posts. It’s just a matter of picking the right people to follow… 

VIIII. LinkedIn looks as if it may be helpful for many people…

            I have read of many success stories due to the help of LinkedIn. LinkedIn has 100 million users!! Many large corporations and businesses are said to use LinkedIn to search for new employees. But, just how there are many who love LI there are many LI haters out there too….many say “it doesn’t work…I hate it!”. With LI they say you must constantly be checking your page and networking with people if you want it to work. It’s great if it helps people find jobs…that’s awesome. It’s just that I don’t have much of a use for LI…

VIII. Blogging isn’t as bad as I thought it was…

            Once again, I had preconceived ideas about blogging…it’s actually not as bad as I thought it was, I sort-of like it. I just may open my own personal WordPress blog…just so I can have a place to release my thoughts…or as some would say…a place for me to RANT 🙂

VII. I now know how easy it is to open a WordPress blog…

            Like I said above in number eight…I think I just may open my own personal blog. Like I said…it can be a place for me to express my thoughts on all sorts of topics…I could post some of my art…maybe I could have a day where I post my favorite vegan recipe for the week…I could post some photos…all kinds of things…and best of all its FREE 🙂 I think I just may do it, I think it’ll be good for me ***

VI. Blogging do’s and don’ts…

            Here’s a few do’s and don’ts I found helpful and tried my hardest to follow…

Do start to network and get to know fellow bloggers.

Do know what you are going to blog about…do research…it helps to do an outline beforehand.

Do comment on others blogs (don’t just be a troll 🙂 ) and always be sure to reply to comments made on your blog.

Do BE KIND & BE YOURSELF!

Don’t plagiarize.

Don’t BE CRULE!

Don’t have spelling/grammar errors. Always be sure to do a final check before you publish.

V. Social Medias beneficial role in education…

            Many teachers are bringing social media into the classrooms…some middle schools teachers are running their entire class through social media. Students are each in class on a computer participating online…there are benefits to this. Kids younger and younger are being involved with social media so it would be smart to teach them in a way they can relate to but, I feel there is also a large downfall to this. It’s cutting back the face to face interactions…the expression of true emotions. But, being in this class we all now know how beneficial online classes are.

IV. Social-media joins people….

            With the help of social media, people are sending their voices around the globe…we have recently seen how social media helped fuel the revolutions in the Middle East. The youth used the power of social media to organize the uprisings, it was something that has needed to be done for years…and with the help of social media their goal was finally accomplished.  Mandy Naglich, a staff reporter from The TCU Daily Skiff  wrote a great article about how Social media helped spur revolution in Middle East; she quoted Manochehr Dorraj who specializes in the studies of Middle Eastern politics, he said “If it was not for this technology there would be no revolution.” I completely agree, and I’m sure there are many more who agree with this as well…I don’t know..we’ll see later down the line if this was a good idea or not…

III. Always be thoughtful with your postings…

            We must always remember that ANYONE can read what you have posted (unless it’s in a private group). So be careful…try not to post anything you’ll end up regretting later!

II. Social Media is a VERY VERY powerful tool!

            There’s a lot of power in social media. With the recent revolutions we have recently seen how this can an extremely good thing but, we have to be careful because this power can also be an extremely bad thing if it’s in the wrong hands. We always have to keep our eyes open and we must always check facts before we believe anything we hear.

I. I know I already listed it in my do’s and don’ts but I’ll say it again…MOST IMPORTANTLY ALWAYS BE KIND & BE YOURSELF!!

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The future of journalism…

I feel we are all journalists, to a certain degree. Let’s go ahead and refer to the definition:

Jour·nal·ist  _ noun \-nə-list\

1a : a person engaged in journalism; especially : a writer or editor for a news medium b : a writer who aims at a mass audience

2: a person who keeps a journal

As we write our blogs, tweet our tweets, post in FB, etc.  we are journalists…and with the use of free social media it makes it much easier to get our voices out to the mass audience. Now, this does make it hard for the journalists who have gone through years of college and not to mention countless dollars in order to call themselves journalists. My interviewee Greg Lowe brought out that there are some who feel the e-revolution has weakened the profession. Weakened the profession…hmmm….I guess you could say weakened…or you could say it has revolutionized the profession. It has definitely changed the profession but, it doesn’t have to be a negative thing…in my eyes it’s great, we are all able to get our voices out. We are lucky to have that opportunity.  

I feel journalism has been taken it to the next level. As I said before, it’s just the natural evolution of things. There’s no need to fight it…it’s a great thing…but, I can sympathize with journalists who are losing jobs due to this step journalism has taken. That would not be so great and I could see how that would cause a hate for social media. We must find a way to keep everything balanced…that’s the hard part.

The future of social media?

I feel social media will continue to grow and grow…there will definitely be other sites that are released that will try and dominate the market. Maybe they will begin to incorporate videos more…or maybe live feeds…only time will tell…we’ll just have to wait patiently… 🙂     

Will this course impact my personal future?

How could it not! I have learned many things that I previously didn’t know, that will always impact your future. I don’t think I’ll be taking a step into the journalism industry or anything but its great knowledge…personal knowledge…and that’s the best kind of knowledge. And, I think I may just start my own little blog…I’ll start my blogging adventures….

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Great interview with Greg Lowe…

I was very fortunate to find such an accomplished journalist to interview.

Greg Lowe is a Bangkok-based editor and journalist with 11 years publishing experience. I found Greg in a LinkedIn group for journalists, I requested an interview and he kindly accepted.

I began by asking Greg if he could tell me a little about himself…

I’m English, I come from Romsey, in Hampshire on the South Coast of England, but got into journalism in Bristol, my university town, where I lived for about nine years. Basically, I finished my Masters degree (in Ecology and Society) and there was a big political demonstration being organized in London, one of the groups I had covered in my research was involved and by serendipity I met the senior news reporter from a regional weekly (The Big Issue) had a chat with him about it and he suggested I write a feature on it.

Fortunately they liked it and I ended up writing weekly news and features from then on. This was 1999. A few months later I wrote the first feature to be syndicated by the group’s flagship paper in London from our metro edition in the Southwest which had been running for about eight years at the time.   

Before I left the UK in August 2001, I was the senior news reporter; I had a couple of other strings and occasionally subbed at Future Publishing, which was the largest independent magazine publisher in the UK. I edited a local music magazine for free, essentially to get more experience, but mainly because it was good fun. I was also offered the position of news editor at The Big Issue in the North, but I had already made plans to go travelling for a year, so turned it down. I’m sure my career would have taken a different trajectory, but I have no regrets.

I and have been living in Thailand for almost ten years. I arrived here on my mountain bike having cycled around Mongolia, Tibet, Nepal and then Thailand with a friend from August 2001 till May 2002. We ran out of cash. I got a job on a local magazine where you could smell the rubber burning and me and an American colleague got sacked after demanding that we and the rest of the editorial/design team got paid some three months later.

[I met my long-suffering girlfriend Mint around the end of 2002. We got married in Kanchanaburi overlooking the ‘Bridge on the River Kwai’ (not the same one in the film) in 2007 and our daughter, Isabel, was born in January 2008.]

But after that I was offered a job as managing editor of a local books magazine which had a minimum two-year commitment. I stuck that out for three-and-a-half years. It was generally a good job and I interviewed plenty of leading authors, business people and thinkers, as well as covering off quite a lot of local travel and lifestyle features. Human interest was generally the name of the game. I also helped brainstorm ideas for the company’s book publishing programme too.

After that I was headhunted to lead the English language buying team for a local chain of bookstores that was expanding. I was also meant to be starting a publishing programme, which was what was most interested in, but the whole thing was a nightmare. It took 18 months for us to part ways, after which I went back to freelancing (having just bought a house and with my daughter’s birth due two weeks later).

Never matter how bad that job was, I picked up many useful skills. One was a much more in depth understanding of the worlds of business and finance from both a technical and operational level. This would provide invaluable as I ended up working as a business journalist. The other matter was understanding the world of book retail, i.e. what sells, which helps me in my other line of work, publishing consultancy/literary rights management.

* You have been in the journalism industry for over ten years, what originally inspired you to begin writing?

As I mentioned earlier, it was serendipity. I had planned to continue my academic career with a PhD in politics/social sciences, but after writing my second dissertation I wanted to get out into the real world and use what I had learned. Journalism was a good channel for that.

* What has been your favorite topic to write about? What has been the biggest story you have written about?

That’s a tough question.

When I first started out, I wrote a lot about politics, social exclusion, homelessness and I started to develop solid expertise on drugs use and drugs policy. I’ve always been linking big picture events and political or social dynamics with the people who either cause the problem or live with the consequences of them. At the end of the day, whatever the story is, if it involves people, then it comes to life through those people.

If you look at drug use, for example heroin addiction, then talk to the people who live with it. Find out what an addict living on the streets goes through to feed their addiction. Look at what it does to communities and families. Interview doctors who work with addicts and find out what they think about the effectiveness of the related criminal justice and health service policies. Get them to provide the analysis and discuss the issues.

The same approach works well for any feature story, be it hard news or a piece on gay rodeos (my friend had a ball writing and shooting that story for Maxim).   

Last year, I wrote a fair bit on the political situation in Thailand, but that’s become quite depressing of late.

Without wanting to sound glib, I like writing about anything that gets me excited. Flying down to Singapore to interview Jeffrey Archer, a former British politician who did time for perverting the course of justice, but was also a phenomenally successful author (of terrible books!) was great fun. You would probably have to jump through fewer hoops to get an interview with Gadaffi. It was great fun. I was completely disarmed by his charisma and force of personality, but I still managed to write a very sarcastic feature about him when I got home. So it was a win-win situation.

I’ve interviewed Paul Theroux face to face a couple of times. He’s fascinating. As are many authors I’ve interviewed, including Malcolm Gladwell, Iain Banks (an all time favourite) and Michael Palin.

I don’t really know what the biggest story I’ve written on has been, but I was one of the first British journalists to start writing about hepatitis C (in 2000). I was proud of that.

* What has been your biggest struggle in writing?

Discipline. Time management. Making sure you get paid as a freelancer, which is not easy.

I wish I had done an NTCJ (National Council for the Training of Journalists ) course as shorthand would save a lot of time transcribing tapes.

But I think the biggest issue is my dyspraxia (it’s similar to dyslexia but without the vocab. and grammar issues, most of the time). Sometimes the mechanics of writing can be a real chore. But it’s always worth it in the end.

* What do you think will be the future of journalism?

Journalism will always be around in one format or another. A free press is the bellwether of democracy. There are many problems though. The corporatization of news is seriously affected the way people report. Too few powerful magnates (i.e. Rupert Murdoch etc), have too much power and can manipulate the news agenda to serve their own agendas. This has resulted in a dumbing down of reporting around the world. These issues are not new, but I believe the global media power wielded by a small group of people has never been so disproportionate.

The changes in media and communication (internet, social media etc) means everyone wants everything for free. Journalism costs money and it always will, but the impact of the e-revolution has weakened the profession. It started with the so-called democratization of photography via digital cameras and the internet. That does mean more people take better pictures, but the overall effect is a reduction in standards.

As you can see with video, photography and now comment, news agencies are using so-called citizen reporters and comments from bloggers a lot more. Why? Because they are free.

However, I do think convergence devices such as tablets (iPads etc) will give magazine style journalism and newspapers a shot in the arm, once the businesses work out how to effectively monetize these platforms.    

* How do you use social media?

I use my website as a digital portfolio more than anything else. If I pitch stories a prospective editor can check me out by browsing my site and decide whether they want to commission me. Twitter is useful at times, e.g. when the riots and crackdown took place last year it was one of the best channels for keeping up to date in real time. I also use it to drive people to my blog. This helps with SEO so I now beat other Greg Lowe’s (founder of Lowe Alpine and an American jazz musician) in the Google rankings. This helps when people search for journalists in Bangkok and I have been offered work by publications which found me this way. 

Facebook is more for friends. I have very tight security settings on my account. Anyone can search it otherwise and any HR department will look at your page when you apply for a job, so I’d suggest having two accounts to separate church and estate, so to speak.

While social media and the internet have revolutionized communication and the dissemination of information, they are not magic bullets. In many ways they have opened the flood gates and allowed a sewer of half truths and hyperbole flood the world. 70% of stories nowadays may have been sparked by a blogger or some comment on a social networking site, but that does not make the story. A credible journalist needs to verify the facts and work out if there really is something newsworthy in whatever was said. Verifying such facts is challenging, but this is what separates news organizations from bloggers. 

* What do you feel would be the biggest mistake an upcoming journalist could make?

To think that you’re owed anything or that you’re entitled to anything. The belief that you know more than other people, especially you’re interviewees and readers. To think that you are the story (save for really good gonzo/immersionist writers).

Journalism is a job. It is a vocation. If you take news, your job is to provide accurate, verifiable information as quickly and accurately as possible, in an engaging way that makes people want to read what you have written. You are not there to educate people or tell them how things really are. Your job is to inform.

In the UK, journalism degrees are generally looked down on by the news industry. This is because the job of a reporter is not to deliberate on or debate the philosophy of the media. The job is to get out there and find stories. Back in the day people were trained on the job. Some of the best people I have ever worked with never went to college, they never went to university. They started on a paper when they were 16 and were brought up to speed by hard news men and women. If they didn’t make the cut they lost their job, it was that simple.

 In the UK the NTCJ is the benchmark vocational qualification and it is tough. I now wished I had taken that course, but my editor at the time said there was little point as I was working and doing fine learning on the job. The point is that learning how to write and report is a visceral process. You learn by doing and technical theory has nothing to do with it.

I have seen no correlation between someone having a masters in journalism and them being especially capable or skilled when it comes down to getting on with the job. It may help them get a job, but I don’t believe it makes them any good at it.

At the end of the day, you’re only as good as the stories your write. That is how you must measure yourself.

* What piece of advice would you give an upcoming journalist?

Listen to what people say when you interview them. Don’t prejudge them or any other aspect of a story. Give voice to all sides and be balanced in doing so. This means you do not let your own views or agendas dominate your reporting. It’s harder than it sounds and in my early days I definitely fell foul to this. But I learnt quickly enough. Nothing’s more boring than a preaching sanctimonious journalist. Objectivity is a myth, but balanced writing and reporting is essential.

 Also listen to your subeditors and be willing to learn. Most of the time people change your stories it is for a good reason. I have had some very annoying people rewrite my work to make it sound like them and put mistakes in the copy at the same time, but those experiences are few and far between. If a sub or editor changes your copy significantly, don’t take it personally, simply ask them why. They are likely to be very frank, but learn from your mistakes. It’s the only way to really improve. Everyone has been there, and the copy editors and desk editors will notice when you listen to their advice and learn from it.

Develop a specialism. I used to be specialist in drug policy, but over the years I’ve held a number of posts from features and literary journalism to news and finance reporting, with some lifestyle and political analysis mixed in. Part of that was due to my circumstances and what the market had to offer. But even if you don’t get paid to write on your specialism, stay sharp with it. I think this is where having a blog can be very useful. If you have time outside of you paid work, you can create a platform for focused reporting and commentary, even if you cannot always successfully sell the story.  

You also need to be flexible. I took up an opportunity as a bookseller mainly because of the chance to start a publishing programme. I love working with content and writers, so I’d be happy doing that and it’s not to far a step from magazine type journalism. While that opportunity evaporated when the reality of the job came clear, the publisher I previously worked from was sold three weeks after I jumped ship. If I had have stayed I would have been out of work.

During the financial crisis I did communications consultancy and copywriting as well as journalism. That proved prudent when many of my strings were cut as advertising revenue plummeted at the papers and magazines I worked with which meant the cut freelance contributions (as with my gig as the Thailand correspondent for The Business Times, which took a year to get back), or they just stopped paying.

As a freelancer I would always recommend having some non-journalistic work to spread your risk.  

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Greg, thank you so much for the inspiring interview *

Take care & good luck with all of your future endeavors *

Live in joy * Live in Love * Live in peace

Journalist/Curator…what’s your opinion?

I had never before thought of journalists as being curators; a great article by Shari Weiss http://sharisax.com/2011/03/22/is-curation-the-future-of-journalism/ inspired me to research it further. What first comes to mind when I hear the term “curator” is a museum curator but, after looking into the exact definition of the term curator, I now don’t see how journalists could not be called curators.

cu·ra·tor

noun \ˈkyu̇r-ˌā-tər, kyu̇-ˈrā-, ˈkyu̇r-ə-\

Definition: One who has the care and superintendence of something; especially one in charge of a museum, zoo, or other place of exhibit. Origin: Latin, from curare to care, from cura care.

Definition derived from http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/curator

Journalists care about and supervise the information they release to the public [at least they should 🙂 ]. They organize the information they have compiled into a nice little package for the reader. I feel it takes a lot of effort to put together an article that will be read by many, I don’t feel it’s such an easy task.

Now, there are those who feel that the title of “curator” should exclusively be used for museum curators. I somewhat understand this…as Christy Barksdale brought out in her article; Content Curation: Bringing Order to Information Overload, many museum curators have PhDs in their area of expertise, and believe that it is only with the highest level of education, and many years of research and experience, that one can be a true curator. Museum curators put forth a lot of time and effort to get that title, so like I said; I can somewhat see why they would be irritated if their title could easily be given to journalists.

Christy Barksdale also points out that merely sharing information over social networks is not curation; I agree. Spitting out mindless information on social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter is not exactly curating information. But, when someone takes the time to research and put together a well thought out article I view this as curation.

But, honestly…we can go back and forth on whether or not journalists should be called curators. I feel it’s only a word…why should we really give so much value to any title?? Is it really necessary?? I don’t think so…but, that’s only my opinion. I know there are many who will agree but, I also expect many to disagree too and that’s ok…we are all different and that’s the beauty of life.