Monday, September 26, 2011

Page One: Inside the New York Times

Last Friday I went to watch the documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times at Cinematheque in the Exchange District. The film looks at what the future is for journalism and specifically print newspapers in a world where people can get their news from social media like Facebook and Twitter, bloggers, and free online sources.

The film follows David Carr, who according to his bio on the NY Times website writes for the "Media Equation column for the Monday Business section of the New York Times that focuses on media issues including print, digital, film, radio and television." He is seen ironically covering the closings of newspapers and the firing of reporters in the film.

The film shows organizations such as Newser and Vice, and Arianna Huffington, co-founder of the news website the Huffington Post, claiming that traditional investigative reporters, such as David Carr of the New York Times, are no longer needed or relevant. I think Carr quickly negates that argument by holding up a print out of the Newser homepage and then a print out of the homepage with all of the stories originally printed elsewhere cut out. As Carr looks through the holes of the paper at the audience at the Intelligence Squared debate, I believe he makes his point on the value of journalists writing original material, as he does at the NY Times. Carr also shuts up a loud, young enthusiastic reporter for Vice TV in his own undeniable style that is perfectly captured in the film on several occasions by noting that the New York Times had been on the ground in Africa for much longer than Vice.

I think these two instances are important because they show that the need for reporters to be on the ground doing original reporting is a necessity for other organizations in the business of news and reporting because they break the news, which gives others the opportunity to work off the work they've already done. If there weren't reporters on the ground in war zones or personally calling sources and crafting sources, where would the material come from?

But, as I just mentioned, the news is a business. It's hard to keep newspapers running because their business model is incongruent for the digital environment of the news. The newspaper industry has faced hard times lately. I think the film did a good job of highlighting the two main reasons the newspaper industry is struggling: the fact that advertising revenue has gone down and people not buying the print newspaper. I think that the film made a good point in showing that the reason newspapers are struggling is not because that people do not care about the news, the New York Times, or reporters, but because of the clash of a decrease in advertising revenue and free online versions of papers emerging.

At the end of the film we are left with the question of how the newspaper industry will have to change to still produce credible, well-researched journalism and survive as a business: i.e. make money.

The New York Times has issued a paywall for their website, allowing people to view 20 articles a month before being blocked and asked to become a digital subscriber. The New York Times remains loyal to their current subscribers by giving them unlimited digital access to the paper.

I really loved the movie and would recommend anyone to see it, even if he/she is not a journalist. It showed this training journalist why newspaper reporters are important to journalism. I always knew newspaper journalists were important, but now I have an even clearer idea of why after watching this film.

I also thought that it was very interesting how David Carr embraced Twitter, and as he says in the film, it "did not turn his brain to mush." Brian Stelter, another NY Times reporter, also says in the film he doesn't know why a reporter wouldn't be on Twitter. I've had conversations with older people who believe Twitter is a trend. Well, if the NY Times is using it, I think it might be a trend one in the news business might want to pay attention to. I believe Twitter is an important new aspect to journalism, but will not replace it and certainly isn't trying to in my opinion.

Although I loved the movie, and getting a glimpse into the NY Times newsroom, which is visually magically beautiful, I was scared to hear all the layoffs and newspaper closings. However, it may be my youthful optimism, but I think there will always be a place (and a job) for someone who is passionate about journalism as a journalist and I know there will always be a need for reporters who go to the source and create original pieces.

Monday, September 19, 2011

TEDx Talk

Last Thursday September 15th, I attended the TEDx conference in Winnipeg at the Winnipeg Art Gallery.
At the conference I heard 8 18 minute presentations conducted by people with innovative and forward thinking ideas. I think this was a wonderful opportunity as an aspiring journalists to hear from people with some big ideas.

In case you do not know what a TED talk is here is the definition from their website:

"TED is a nonprofit devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading. It started out (in 1984) as a conference bringing together people from three worlds: Technology, Entertainment, Design. Since then its scope has become ever broader. Along with two annual conferences -- the TED Conference in Long Beach and Palm Springs each spring, and the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburgh UK each summer -- TED includes the award-winning TEDTalks video site, the Open Translation Project and TED Conversations, the inspiring TED Fellows and TEDx programs, and the annual TED Prize."

Basically, a TED talk is a presentation, about 20 minutes in length, where someone who is passionate and knowledgeable on a topic shares their ideas. The conference in Winnipeg was a TEDx program, which means the event was independently organized, but used the TED format and name.

TED publishes their talks online for all to see here: I highly highly recommend you check it out.

Wade Barnes, the CEO of Farmers Edge, talked about how the population of the world was rapidly increasing and the fact that a higher quality and greater volume of food was needed from the same amount of land for an exponentially greater amount of people. He proposed that grain should be grown in Russia, which it currently isn't, as they have a significant amount more rich top soil than the fertile prairies.

Megan Prydun, a masters student at the University of Winnipeg, shared her experiences with new immigrants to Winnipeg. She shared her stories of four young men she met from Sudan who had escaped the war of their home country to come to Canada and the struggles they face with gangs, violence, and using drugs and alcohol to numb their trauma. She asked us if we should let people come from war torn countries, so only die on the street of Canada, and what we as a society should do about this issue.

Jim Kor was one of my favourite presenters. Kor and his team designed the world's greenest car. Kor took us through the evolutions of the design of the car called Urbee. The most incredible part was that the actual car was unveiled for the first time at the conference to attendees and Kor. Kor had never seen the life size model, which was printed from what only seems like something that exists in Star Trek, and 3D printer. Basically all the measurements of the car are entered into the 3D computer and the car is printed instead of manufactured.

Meghan Athavale, President of PO-MO Inc., showed her free downloadable software at which helps children learn. She showed us a program which projects light on to the floor or any flat surface that has motion sensors and can be interacted with. For example, a bunch of spiders were displayed in one program, and when one walked on them they would move and interact.

Another one of my favorites was Donna Morton, CEO and co-founder of First Power. She shared her idea that we live in a world and economy that has been built and maintained principally by men. Stemming from insights from recent brain science, social innovation and personal experience she showed women's potential to re-shape economics in the world. She showed incredible women working around the world to help empower other women. She told one story where a non-profit was paying women to go to school and trained them in exquisite embroidery to earn money.

I think that these types of conferences with big ideas are really important for journalists to participate in. I think this type of idea sharing can open the mind and make us ask questions we would have never thought of asking before.

There will also be a TEDx Winnipeg app launching soon where all the talks I experienced will be in case you missed out.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Are talk shows journalism?

Last year in first-year journalism class Steve Vogelsang, our instructor, showed us a clip of Oprah interviewing Naomi Campbell. Steve showed us how Oprah got the questions that everyone was thinking answered. After the clip, I asked if Oprah was considered a journalist. She did start her career as a journalist, but was she considered a journalist on her talk show.

Journalists are expected to be unbiased and report the news. However, Oprah and many other talk show hosts inject their opinion when interviewing people. I believe Lisa Ling's show, Our America,falls into this category as well. Ling tells important stories happening in America, but her reactions from her experiences are included in the show.

I think that talk shows, which tell people's stories, and a 6 o'clock news story are both examples of journalism. I think why I questioned if a talk show would be considered journalism is because of the difference in time and interviewers. On a talk show, the interview is usually longer and often perceived as entertainment. On the news, interviews are often used to tell a story, rather than the interview being the news. Also, on the news there are different reporters, and the reporters are often not even featured, or if they are, are shown for short time. In the time of branding and celebrity, I think talk show hosts are made to be personalities, not just a reporter who is completely separate from the story.

To me, I think that talk should and the news are examples of journalism. Both tell stories, the core of what I believe journalism is.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

What is Journalism?

I'm not sure if I know a complete definition of what journalism is. I think there are a lot of different interpretations of what journalism is.

I do know that I think journalism should do certain things though. I think that journalism should aim to tell a story without bias and disseminate information in a timely clear way. Although some bias is almost impossible to avoid, I think the intent of the journalist should be pure to telling the story truthfully.

I also think journalism is the place to bring stories that people may not know about to the forefront of peoples' minds. Movies and books often tell stories that have been heard before, but journalism tells true stories that may have never been heard.

Along the same lines as unveiling the unknown story, I believe journalism exists to inform people. Journalism can inform people on the smallest scale like the weather to informing that a war has been started or ended.

I think that journalism also has the privilege of being a form of communication that is allowed to inform and delight at the same time. Documentaries are excellent examples of what I think is journalism that entertains, delights, and informs. I think broadcast journalism as a whole is able to visually stimulate, while getting a message or important information across to an audience.

I think journalism is a tough business. A journalist is under tight deadlines, with sometime short resources or sources, but with the obligation to inform an audience with the truth.

I think journalism is kind of frightening, but I hope I can take the next year to gain and hone the skills to be a journalist who can inform, tell the truth, and entertain. I mean if my story can't engage my audience, how can I get the story they should be aware of to them?