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Monthly Archives: February 2013

One of the things the Missouri School of Journalism teaches its students is the importance of transparency. With more people engaging in the process of journalism (and it is a process, not a product), transparency is necessary to encourage well-informed participation. If journalism’s end goal is to inform, the collective knowledge and intelligence of professional journalists and civilian contributors can ultimately lead to more people being well-informed.

The Columbia Missourian has embraced this philosophy. The Web-first and Monday-through-Friday print publication is “a community news organization directed by professional editors and staffed by Missouri School of Journalism students who do the reporting, design, copy editing, information graphics, photography and multimedia.” ColumbiaMissourian.com is their primary news site, but MyMissourian.com allows readers to become writers. According to the Missouri School of Journalism website, it was the second citizen journalism website in the country, and the best pieces are published in the daily print edition of the Missourian.

Tom Warhover, the executive editor of the Missourian, published a Dear Reader editorial this morning (Saturday, Feb. 23) sharing the collaboration between Missourians and the public in covering the snow storm that hit Columbia Thursday, Feb. 21. Warhover discloses the use of Google Maps apps, Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and RebelMouse, an app that organizes text and photos in an easy-to-read format. He describes how Missourians tackled issues with website stalling, being trapped at home and encouraging citizens to join the conversation. The process of covering the storm is fleshed out, both in this article and on a Social Snow page that allowed Columbians to share weather-related posts Feb. 20-22, 2013.

The idea of citizen journalism can scare professional journalists and journalism students. If anyone can do our job, won’t we be out of one?

The way I see it, journalism students and professionals are trained to analyze and filter through the mass of information. We spend years honing the craft of storytelling in all its forms. We are taught to question, investigate and verify for ourselves. We learn to discern what is quality, authentic, reliable knowledge and what is not.

Those skills set us apart from citizen journalists. But ignoring or underestimating their contribution would be the biggest mistake a contemporary journalist could make. If our job is to serve the public, informing them so they can make educated decisions, we cannot not set ourselves above them. We must work side-by-side to piece together the most accurate, comprehensive picture of the world around us that we can.

Media transparency inspires extra eyes and ears around the world to enrich the dialogue. I challenge you to share the journalistic process. Show people what you do, how you do it and invite participation. Citizen journalists can be an asset, helping you do your job better: take advantage.

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This blog is part of a multimedia journalism class. In J2150, I’m learning how to tell stories across multiple platforms. I’m learning how to take still photos, record audio, shoot video and utilize social and mobile media.

Right now, we’re focusing on individual forms of media, but will soon produce cross-platform content. A great example of cross-platform content is a collaboration by producers KBIA and photographers and photo editors at the Columbia Missourian.

The project is called ‘My Life, My Town: Teen Voices from Rural Missouri’. According to their website, the objective is to “document a slice of time in the lives of teenagers from small Missouri towns. These are the youth who make up the hope and future of rural life – if they decide to stay. Our hope is that getting to know the children these villages raise will provide a unique look at the day-to-day joys and struggles of rural life.”

I find this venture compelling for because the perspective and the storytelling format are unique to me.

The subject matter intrigues me. More than 25% of Missouri’s population lives in rural areas. Born and raised in St. Louis, my experience of this state is narrow and vastly different than the experience of most living here. Gaining some insight into the daily lives of people living in rural Missouri, as opposed to suburban and urban Missouri, helped me better understand my fellow Missourians.

The combination of audio, still photos and video intrigues me. I listen to NPR and already recognize the difficulty and complexity of telling an engaging story through audio alone. As a broadcast journalism major with a passion for documentaries, I love documentary-style filming of this project. A photography virgin before J2150, I’m gaining appreciation for the eye, instinct and intellect it takes to compose a single shot that captures a moment comprehensively and beautifully. I’ve rarely seen storytelling in this format, particularly the still photo + audio storytelling, though I enjoy the various combinations of all three. 

I think ‘My Life, My Town’ is a really special, well-done undertaking. One of the reasons I aspire to be a journalist is because I want to tell untold stories. I love meeting new people and learning new things, and I want my work to be engaging, informative and educational. This project does just that.

The skills and principles I gain in J2150 may equip me to meet these goals. I look forward to learning to produce multimedia content, hopefully at the level of quality of ‘My Life, My Town’ . 

Cross-cultural journalism means presenting people as accurately as possible. Every person falls into five fault lines: class, gender, generation, geography and race/ethnicity. Awareness of your own fault lines and the fault lines of those you cover should not hinder storytelling, but inform it. Entering a situation with an open mind, after researching your story subject to gain familiarity, allows you to capture the reality and truth of people.

With all that in mind, I covered the You in Mizzou race dialogue Thursday, February 7th. The Chancellor’s Diversity Initiative states: “The You in Mizzou program is designed to give MU students, faculty and staff the opportunity to learn about a variety of hot topic issues as well as challenges participants to respectfully discuss their differences and discover their similarities in a safe environment.”

You in Mizzou hosts dialogues the first Thursday of every month in Memorial Union. In honor of Black History Month, February’s topic was: “Race-Conscious vs. Race-Neutral: How Do We Move Forward?”

Two dozen MU students and faculty attended the two-hour open forum. The discussion focused on what affirmative action means without racial quotas and whether or not universities should consider a holistic view of an applicant when making admissions decisions. Some participants felt affirmative action did not lead to true equality, and that race-neutrality levels the playing field. Others suggested the initiative is currently the only mechanism recognizing a history of unequal opportunities for disadvantaged students. The group found consensus in the idea that quality education and diversity early on could provide truly equal opportunity for all students.

Asian, white, black, latino and mixed peoples participated in this dialogue. While racial/ethnic experiences informed their viewpoints, socioeconomic status and geographic culture seemed even more influential in shaping different world views. I say this because my own fault lines had me volleying between different perspectives. 

I am a half-white, half-Puerto Rican young female raised in an upper-middle-class, predominantly Catholic environment. I identify with different aspects of who I am based on my context.

Listening to this race discussion, things different people said revealed who they were. Some unknowingly screamed, “I’m a privileged white who doesn’t realize my experience is not universal.” Others subconsciously shouted, “I’m an underprivileged racial minority who resents you for being born into wealthier circumstances. You cannot understand the adversities I face, and if you don’t recognize discrimination, you are ignorant and I will not explain it to you.”

The upper-middle class, white part of me identified with the white privileged students. But the Puerto Rican part of me recognized those students’ lack of awareness of other cultures and discrimination. The Puerto Rican part of me identified with minorities’ frustration in unequal opportunities and representation. But the white, upper-middle class part of me was taught that hard work and active pursuit of goals can open those doors to opportunity.

Before the You in Mizzou dialogue, I hadn’t realized how much conflict resided within me. But now that I recognize the different fault lines at play, I think I can use my own diversity to my advantage.

I will never be able to fully comprehend other peoples’ experiences of the world. But I know now that I can identify with and recognize diverse human experiences. Perhaps having both a minority and majority viewpoint will enable me to remain open to multiple perspectives when researching and covering different groups of people.

I’m aware of the fault lines I stride. I’m open to learning about the fault lines of the people I cover. I’m armed and ready to be a cross-cultural journalist.

Last night, I broke the seal. I took a step towards the dream I’ve held since the eighth grade. Last night, something I made aired on the 9 and 10pm Friday-night newscasts for KOMU 8 News.

If you’ve ever watched the news, you’ve seen anchors introduce a story, then speak over footage of whatever they’re discussing. This is called a voice-over, or VO. VOs are usually less than a minute long, telling a story both clearly and concisely.

My job at KOMU is to make those VOs. As a VO patroller for the 9 and 10pm newscasts, I arrive at the station at 5pm every Friday with stories to pitch.
Yesterday, I pitched the Artlandish Gallery First Friday show, the first of the year. The Tiger Chair (aka the professional adult supervising the newsroom) approved my pitch and introduced me to my producers. After exchanging contact information, the producers sent me to the equipment room, I grabbed a camera and tripod and left to cover my first story!

After interviewing artists, visitors and the gallery owner, I shot footage of the artwork and the people. I listened to live music, watched models strut and tasted new foods. That seems to be the biggest perk of this job: meeting new people and learning new things.

When I returned to the station, I uploaded the footage to an editing bay computer. While my video converted, I wrote both the script for the broadcast and a web story for KOMU.com. After editing the video, the Tiger Chair approved and finalized my work. Once the VO aired on the 9pm show, I copied it to the 10pm show and added a photo and video to my web story. By 10pm, my job was done.

Every time I had a question, a producer or reporter lent a hand. With dozens of other students to tend to, the Tiger Chair went out of her way to ease things on my first night Having that support made me feel like part of the team. It assured me that it’s ok not to know everything yet.

That’s why I’m working at KOMU: to learn. Classroom learning can never replace professional experience. I’ve earned an opportunity to practice my future profession and I plan to take advantage.

I’ll update this blog with my progress throughout the semester.