Monthly Archives: January 2010

Magazine takes the cake, even in the blogging world

If my previous posts haven’t made it clear, let me lay it out for you – I’m not the biggest fan of blogs.  While I think bloggers have the potential to do something great with the new media technology at hand, most still have a long way to go.  And I am simply not willing to sift through the garbage to search for the few that actually shine.

That being said, a few choice blogs have fallen into my lap but only one has earned its place on my bookmarks toolbar.  This blog had a hand up in earning that top spot, however.

Vanity Fair has long been my favorite and most-respected magazine.  Even with the times calling for a more internet-based set up, VF has won me over.   While I purchase the magazine for its print content, I also follow @vanityfairmag to keep up-to-date on its online exclusives (aka blog posts).  VF Daily, like its magazine counterpart, covers culture, celebrity, political and style news and gossip.

So what is it about VF and its blog that has made me such a dedicated subscriber?:

  • Creative writing:  VF has the uncanny ability to bring entertainment value to even the most serious of topics.  A prime example of this is VF’s take on PETA and other companies using images of President Obama and the First Lady in ads without obtaining authorization.  VF approached the topic by coming up with ads other companies might be able to create using images of the First Family.  The post was witty, while addressing the main issue in a way that no other media had:

  • Pick your poison:  Do you want culture and celebrity news? Or politics and power? No – okay, how about society and style?  While being a compilation of commentary about politics, culture and style, VF Daily allows you to select which topic you want to focus on and gets rid of the others.  It’s a level of simplicity I have not seen on other sites.
  • Contribution to the larger story:  Even with short posts, VF’s blog brings depth to its stories by linking to other sources, articles, videos and photographs.  Writers establish a clear basis in the space they have and allow to the reader to delve deeper into the issue through other links.

Always the pessimist when it comes to blogs, even VF Daily doesn’t quite meet my expectations:

  • Layout/design:  While VF’s blog posts do catch the readers’ eyes with vibrant photographs and smart headers, it lacks the visual appeal design enthusiasts have come to cherish.  Maybe it is too much to ask, but I will say it over and over again until it actually happens: I want to see professional bloggers put effort into the visual aspects of their posts.  The simple header-picture-caption-article layout has worn out its welcome.  One of the great things about the Internet is that it allows for endless amounts of creativity – now someone please take advantage of it.
  • Immersion journalism:  I previously stated that VF Daily brings depth to its stories by providing links to other sites, articles, and images that add to the somewhat basic posts, but the blog would be greatly improved if its contributors added the depth themselves.
  • Continued conversation:  Few of the posts have more than one or two comments (if any at all) and those that do exists merely comment on the article itself without adding content or perspective.  Perhaps this is due to the fact that the posts are written like most articles; they are conclusive and do not imply the wish for readers to comment.  For VF Daily to become as successful as a blog and not just an addition to the well-established magazine, contributors will need to adjust to the demands of the blogosphere.

Maybe my selection of VF Daily as the only blog I find noteworthy enough to follow just proves once again that I have yet to be won over by internet media and am continually dedicated to magazines.   And if I seem close-minded, I apologize.  But until quality design and immersion journalism show their faces in the blogosphere, I will remain devoted to my beloved print magazines.

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New Media Gives Hope to Haiti

On Wednesday, January 13th I logged on to my Twitter account to find my home page cluttered with tweets about Haiti.  Friends and celebrities were telling me how I could donate – but to what? At that point I had no idea.  It wasn’t until I ran across a tweet by @TIME that said “See photos of the devastation in Haiti http://bit.ly/5Ia7gL” that I began to understand what had happened.  The news of the earthquake had spread so fast through social networking that I was already expected to know and, even more, to donate.

Pew Research Center for the People & the Press divulged that “Haiti dominates the public’s consciousness,” while at the same time revealing that:

More than one-in-ten Americans (13%) – including 24% of those younger than 30 – say they have gotten or shared information about the Haiti earthquake through Facebook, Twitter or another social networking site.

In fact, as this table from people-press.org shows, the web is slowing working its way into place as the leader in news communication, especially among young adults.

Despite this increase in use of the web for speedy news and communication, there is still a lack of quality among the reporting.   New media and social networking may have created a faster means to spread awareness, but the journalistic skills behind it still need improvement.

One aspect of journalistic writing that seems to disappear in many blogs is the use of one specific story to illustrate the whole.  Reading about the number of deaths, the action different governments are taking, the relief efforts of various countries can only capture an audience for so long.  To really make a reader feel the impact that the disaster had on this country, bloggers need to reach their audiences on a personal level.  Bring it down to earth, something that others can relate to.  Telling the detailed and emotional story of one family will express the heart-wrenching stories of many. Such detail cannot be expressed through short blog entries; it requires in-depth investigation and time.

Bloggers, especially ones that hope to provide news, truth, and real stories, should use every aspect of multimedia to their advantage.  Show high-quality photographs that stop the viewer’s heart.  Include videos that bring tears to the viewer’s eyes.  Write articles to add depth, detail, and information to the visual stimuli that will capture the audience.  CNN’s Reporter’s Notebook does this best, as its entries specifically cover “what images can’t convey.”  However, the web page would have been much more captive had the writer(s) included stunning images to supplement its writing.

There is so much opportunity among new media to really capture an audience and show them what is happening in Haiti, or any other news event for that matter, but I have yet to see someone challenge its potential.

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Why am I doing this again?

As journalists, we have been trained to triple check every fact, have someone else edit our pieces, and publish stories that matter.  By entering the blogging world, respected journalists are placing their articles on the same playing field as too-fast-to-publish gossipers, opinionated individuals who will never consider the other side, and even hormone crazed teenagers looking for an outlet for their feelings.  In essence, we are leaving it up to the readers to sift through all the garbage and find the few blogs that shine with the same integrity that I like to think print journalism still holds.

In the blogging world, it is up to the reader to make educated decision regarding which blogs to follow and which to disregard.  Therefore, a journalist’s blog must be pristine.  It is more important than ever for sources to be named, facts to be triple-checked, and to find stories that matter.  The speed of blogging makes timeliness a bigger fact than ever, meaning journalists must be up on their game 24/7.  If you miss a beat, someone else with have published the story and your article will be old news.

It is a challenge for sure – one that I hope I, and all the other dedicated and educated journalistic bloggers, can survive.

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“No-restraint journalism”

Constant speculation about the integrity of blogging has kept many journalists, including this one (until now, that is), from joining this wave of new media.  Sure, some upsides can be found: there’s no downtime between finishing a story and getting it to your audience, blogs can express your personal style and opinion in both layout and content, and anyone and everyone can start one.  But wait… couldn’t those all also be considered flaws of this new media form?

The speed at which news can be presented is both a blessing and a burden. Without the middle-man editor taking the time to read over and question a story, the writer may release a post that is poorly written, researched, and/or received.

“Here’s something you frequently see with bloggers that trained journalists usually avoid: Making accusations or strong criticisms without asking the target for reaction. For the sake of balance, it just makes sense to be fair and to seek the other sides of the story.” – excerpt from “What Bloggers Can Learn From Journalists” by Steve Outing

That being said, bloggers have the advantage of correcting their mistake immediately while newspaper, magazine, and TV reporters have to wait for the next issue or show to be released.  Nevertheless, having a second pair of eyes read over a piece is always a good idea.

Despite the potential for premature reporting, blogs do have the opportunity to break barriers.  No editors means no cut stories.  Newspapers and TV news stations are expected to be objective (whether they are or not is another issue), so reporters present the news as just facts, no opinion on the topic at hand.  Reporters try to represent every side, include all the research, and make a story as thorough as possible every time they write.  In other words, they treat each story like they only have one chance to tell it, so they better tell it right.

“Big media has to learn to be more honest,” says Jeff Jarvis, a media executive who moonlights as a blogger, “that is, to level with its public, to reveal its prejudices, and process as citizen journalists (bloggers) do.” – excerpt from “What Journalists Can Learn From Bloggers” by Steve Outing

Outing and Jarvis describe news as a conversation.  It does not start and end with the publishing of one article.  Instead, the release of an article should be seen as the beginning of a conversation; one that requests the reactions, input, and perspectives of its readers.

As Outing has so clearly pointed out, bloggers can learn from journalists and journalists can learn from bloggers.  It is a balance between the well-researched journalistic form and the outspoken and speedy blogger that will take new media to a whole new level.

Now if only journalists and bloggers would listen.

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