Monthly Archives: February 2010

This I Believe…

This post is submitted as a contribution to “This I Believe”, which is an international public dialogue about beliefs and values that guide our every day lives.

Listen to or read the transcript of my submission below:

I remember the first moment I realized I was in love.

We were standing over a wishing well near his family’s mountain cabin, surrounded by a sea of blooming flowers, when we looked at each other and knew that we were about to wish for the exact same thing.

But just as vividly, I remember the first moment I realized my heart was breaking.  I was nearly choking from the pain of it and all he could do was hold me and remind me to breath.

He was my best friend even before we started dating, and we promised to stay best friends even after – no matter how hard it may be at first.  We were still in love but we were also very young.  And it was time for us to move away and experience our own, separate lives.

Nothing really changed at first; I’m sure most people still thought we were together.  Slowly, but surely, though, we began to drift apart.  One less phone call this week.  One less text today.  And, eventually, we started dating other people.

It was weird at first and to this day, we rarely talk about our separate love lives.  It’s been a constant challenge for both of us, but our promise held strong – we are still best friends.  He was the first person I wanted to tell when my brother’s baby was born, the first person I called when my grandma’s cancer came back. We still care about each other.  We still love each other.

But our love has changed, just as our relationship has.

No matter how much I wonder what it would be like if we had stayed together – how much different our lives would be today – I know I would never change a second of our relationship.

It has been six years since I first told him I loved him and though the sentiment behind the words has changed and matured and grown with us, it stands as true today as it did back then.

People may have told you that love changes you forever, and, to be honest, I think they are right.  The lessons and memories I gained from this love can never be duplicated.

As F. Scott Fitzgerald once said, “There are all kinds of love in the world, but never the same love twice.”

That love may fade, that love may change, but that love can never be replaced… This, I will always believe.

Wordle: firstlove


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To Tweet or Not to Tweet

That is the question.

It may not be as poetic or eternal as Shakespeare’s version, but it does hold quite the meaning for today’s journalists.

Is this Twitter thing here to stay? Is it an effective contributor to the media world? Will I benefit from participating in this microblogging phenomenon?

Yes, yes, and yes.  If you aren’t already on Twitter, make your account now. Even if Twitter doesn’t survive, another form of microblogging is likely to take its place, so you might as well get acquainted with it.  At least that’s what Mark Briggs, author of Journalism Next and Journalism 2.0, preaches.

Photo courtesy of

As a visitor to the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism and Communication, Briggs spoke to hundreds of journalism students and professors about the future of journalism.  Unlike many traditionalist journalists who think the field has taken a turn for the worst, Briggs sees a bright path ahead.  As long as we are willing to do the leg work.

Briggs emphasizes that we are the future of journalism.  You, me, and ever other aspiring journalist.  Not the current or future technology.  It is up to us to decide where journalism goes.

And if you’ve made that Twitter account, you’ve taken the first step towards influencing the future of journalism. It is a powerful media tool that, if used correctly, can influence millions of people.

As Briggs put it, Twitter is what you make of it.  While some people use it for social purposes, the major Tweet geeks have found more professional and productive uses for their 140 character entries. Whether it be a news article, video, or piece of your own work, Twitter allows its users to share information with the rest of the microblogging world.

If you don’t know what to say, then just listen and learn.  If you follow the right crowd then Tweets can actually add to your education.  The more you read, the more you learn.

If you are worried about privacy, do not fear – you can make your profile private so that only those you give approval to can read your entries.  Doing this keeps you from contributing to the whole sphere, though, so I strongly encourage you to leave it public.

Still skeptical? Start small. Just log on and search a subject that interests you. You might be surprised at what you find.  (Or if you just want an example, check out my Twitter feed on the right of this page.)

Microblogging is just a small piece of the future of journalism.  But it is a step in the right direction.  Who knows where it might lead you.

Take it and run with it.  Find your niche. “Make a dent in the universe” like Briggs hopes you will.

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Competition: a blessing or a burden?

I have often heard it argued that competition fuels progress.  Scientists fight to be the first to prove a new theory.  Athletes push each other to get the new world record.  Journalists scramble to be the first to cover a story.

It is competition which drives us to do better, make advances in our career field.  We view competition as a reason to push ourselves, take risks.

But, as Mark Briggs points out in Journalism Next, sometimes competition can hinder progress.

Journalism is ever changing, with arguably the largest change to date being the incorporation of the Internet.  This transition was, and still is, burdened with uncertainty.  Everything was new and there is so much that had yet to be explored.  But the competition remains.

In this beginning, however, the competition hindered risk taking and advances.  Competition kept journalistic sources from taking risks that would provide better material for their audiences.

I’m talking about link journalism or, as Briggs describes it, the use of  “editorial judgment to provide links to other sources of news and information, based on the needs and interests of a particular audience.”  It is the opposite of competition; it’s collaboration.  It goes against all our competitive instincts, but it can bring new life and depth to journalism if we allow it.

Before the Internet, the option to link one news source to another was simply not there.  Linking one print story to another would only have caused confusion amongst the audience.  So, as Briggs explains, when linking did become an option, many journalists were hesitant:

“For years, linking to ‘the competition’– other news sites –was either explicitly or tactily prohibited.  ‘If we send readers somewhere else, they might not come back,’ the thinking went.”

Link journalism provides the opportunity for reporters to provide more well-rounded coverage of any given story.  It allows readers to see more of what journalists see – what contributes to the article they produced.  This includes previous coverage, background information, and video and photography related to the subject.  And more than that, it challenges reporters to be the source that their audience looks to for great coverage.

It took some bold reporters and editors to start this wave of new journalism, and even bolder ones to take it to the level it has currently reached with link journalism fully incorporated.

Not only has link journalism made its presence known in journalism, but it has also opened to door to even more collaborative journalism strategies such as crowdsourcing, pro-am journalism, and open-source reporting in general.

And to think, if those few bold journalists had listened to their competitive instincts link journalism and all the advantages it offers may not be available today.

Competition: both a burden and a blessing.

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Precision journalism today

How do you get your ideas for news stories? Through police reports? Twitter? Trusted sources?

Journalists come up with all different strategies to get the lead on a story, but whether it be waiting for a source to call or a tweet to spark your interest the process is passive.  Patience is a virtue, right?

But what if we didn’t have to wait for a lead? What if we could create the news? I’m not saying to go provoke an incident just for the story, but actually create a news story from what you already have at hand.

That’s exactly what Stephen K. Doig does: he creates the news.

During the half forgotten days of mainframes and tape readers, Doig and his colleagues turned coverage of a hurricane into the unearthing of major building code violations.  If he could do that in times where few newspapers could afford such technology, imagine what we could unearth with the endless technology that has fallen at our finger tips.

Satellite imagery, mapping programs, Microsoft Access and Excel, and readily available databases have made precision journalism a possibility for all reporters.

As Doig said, these are an “empowering set of tools to learn.”

Interested in following in Doig’s footsteps? Here are some tips to get you started in computer-assisted reporting:

  • First, check out Doig’s “What Went Wrong” to see how statistical analysis and hypothesis testing can work itself into a Pulitzer Prize winning piece.
  • Get acquainted with Excel.
  • Know which databases will serve you well over and over, like the property tax database and Census 2010.
  • Be relentless. You may even meet obstacles when trying to obtain a public record, but you need to show them you are not going to back down easily.
  • Always interview the people you are reporting about; confront them about the data you found.
  • When it’s time to turn it into a story, focus on one big number or pattern.  Don’t let the data clutter the story. You can show the rest of the data in a table on the side.

It takes education and dedication to become a precision journalist.  Not everyone can do it. So, use the tools that have been given to you and go create some news.

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Finally: Immersion journalism and multimedia combine

Ian Fisher, his family, friends, and the U.S. Army allowed Denver Post reporters and a photographer to follow them throughout the entirety of his 27 months in the Army – from recruitment to return home – documenting how a soldier is made.  And the result is everything I hoped it would be:

Ian Fisher – American Soldier

Photo credit: Craig F. Walker

Photographs.  Videos.  In-depth story.  And extras that let the viewer to delve even deeper into Ian’s story than the 63 page article, 10 videos, and endless number of photos already allow.

My favorite part? The fact that they used an interactive magazine layout for the story section. The reader literally flips through the pages of the story, where captivating photographs meet even more captivating words. While this is not the first interactive magazine to hit the web (see FLYP Media), it is by far the best and most creative combination of multimedia and immersion journalism that have come across so far.

No matter how much I boast about this multimedia extravaganza, the best thing I can possibly do is pass on the link and let you experience it for yourself. So:

Look, read, watch, and feel the power of emotion and intrigue that such dedicated journalism can create.

This is everything (and more) that I have been craving from new media journalist. Good work, Denver Post. Good work.

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