Archive for September, 2009

Odd Numbers Reign Supreme
September 28, 2009

Newton had three laws of motion. Kepler had five laws of planetary movement, odd number lists tend to stand the test of time (plus those 10 commandments)…

What is journalism?

Early this August, Professor Danna Walker, defined and outlined the “Seven Laws of Journalism“. These laws are great ideas, however their importance may be slightly overplayed.

Is Journalism Dead? Dr. Walker would have you believe that the newsmedia has held a funeral for itself in the last decade. “The news is shedding its “clunker” status and becoming sleek and efficient.” I believe this description is more effectively describes journalism classes, and not the actual discipline itself. Journalism literally flipped itself on its head in the last 12 years. From a twice a day paper, to twice daily news on cable, to 24 hour cable, to twitter; the news has become a much more constant, and instantly gratifying part of life. Until recently most communications courses have been about “the old ways”. Journalism school enrollment rate were down. But luckily there was a quick shift that has given a pulse back to it. Journalism is like the NHL post-lockout, it is newer, more exciting, and there is much more exposure (and, oh yeah, the best of it happens in DC), but it is still the same fundamental thing .

Dr. Walker’s “laws” also highlight  getting paid, getting outside to be part of what you write about, and not procrastinating. These three laws are great bits of common sense, which would make them a formula in mathematics and science.

The next lie defines the journalist as “a story factory” that must pump out readable, interesting material. This analogy is great. In the book Dr. Walker uses, Scott Byers, a small town sportswriter, writes over 100 stories on a weekly basis. The most successful journalists may not write that many stories a year, however starting out everyone has to do the grunt-work.

Finally the professor makes it “law” to pay homage to democracy, and technology. She warns against turning your back on either situation. This is why journalism is an attractive field. You get to be a cutting edge patriot, and that is why America loves the news (Even Glenn Beck still watches the “fringe media”, although he disagrees with it).

The list is a great way to look at the new-dynamic journalism that is on the rise. The time of journalism heroes is definitely over, but this new profession may bring something even better to the homes of America.


The big ideas that stick out from the reading are how different writing for the three areas covered were. Politicians lie is a great tip. All three do have a few similarities too, they all require good research, a working knowledge of the subject, and basic social skill to write a good story.


Class Blog
September 4, 2009


Comm200 Learns Leads & Canvases Campus-328

By Will Noel

Thursday morning 30 AU students canvassed campus looking for curiosities and conflicts for an upcoming assignment…

The previous lines are an example of how to correctly format articles.

The first line is the date.

The second line is called the Slug. It is a few words that act as an abstract for the article. It often includes basic information about the article (including word count and news cycle).

Third is the by line.

Finally the article starts with a lead (a.k.a. lede). A quick informative line that is also eye-catching. Leads can describe the 5 W’s (who, what, where, when, why), but do not give away the entire story. Harrower offers a small review in creating strong leads on pg. 63.

After the lead, most articles have a summation, called the nut graf. This paragraph is followed by different grafs. The 3rd graf is often a quote. The 4th graf is usually background. However there is no concrete rule (just proven methods).

Using these basic rules creating an article or finding a story can be as easy as finding a location on campus and observing what is happening. Finding primary sources (i.e. people to interview) is a must in these situations.

When you interview a person it is important to quote them exactly, and take good notes. Objectivity comes from good research and factual writing.

These concepts were all covered in Comm200 on September 3, 2009.


If You can’t handle the Truth, will They still print it?
September 3, 2009

“News is what somebody wants to suppress. All the rest is advertising”.
-Lord Northcliffe
It is Wednesday and I want to watch today’s news. I want to know what is going on. One click of the DirecTV remote and I have 30 channels of news. MSNBC, CNBC, Fox News, Fox Business, CNN, HLN, the list goes on. In a perfect world this situation would be easy to fix. Any network would have some story that would help me figure out what is going on outside. I could watch between the channels and feel like I knew what was occurring. But today changing channels makes things foggy and unclear. Fox is conservative. CNN is liberal. HLN only shows tragedies… and most stories dispute or disprove something running as breaking news on another channel. What happened to objectivity?
The journalism textbook my communications class uses has an entire chapter and a half on opinion vs. fact/fairness. The author, Tim Harrower, preaches the use of factual, concise reporting. Harrower advises that opinions should only run in movie reviews (except for the use of colorful adjectives to characterize situations and make an article easier to digest). Objective reporting is portrayed as the most important part of a good foundation in ethical journalism.
In every major practice or discipline, from law to pharmacology, ethics and morals are a BIG DEAL. So why has objectivity become a difficult thing to find? Why isn’t objectivity an ethic, or moral?
In 2005 Dan Gillmor wrote on objectivity, calling it “a construct of recent times”. Gillmor proposed throwing out the goal of objectivity. Gillmor proposed “[The] pillars of good journalism: thoroughness, accuracy, fairness and transparency.” Gillmor’s proposal creates a strong base to create fair and objective articles. I do not think we need to ‘throw out’ objectivity, but to take Gillmor’s pillars and use them to redefine it. Thorough and active reporting based off of transparent research that fairly depicts the situation is objective
News should not be that sensational. Let me know what happened, let me know how it affected people, and then let me know why I care. Then I can go and go to another channel to hear how it is being interpreted by obviously biased TV personalities. Objectivity should be thorough, accurate writing fairly depicted with transparent sources and research. That is what I want to read. Not the super-sensational slop that is scientifically designed to be catchy and interesting…
…But until that day comes, I’ll stick to the 11:00 nightly news on CBS. It’s got slop, but at least no one is paid to offer me their opinion (I hope).

Preseason Football & Pig Fever
September 1, 2009

There is nothing you can do about it, so don’t panic…

Flu season is usually a boring story. People cough, some people get shots and  some people don’t – but if you don’t you might die (cue panic). This year the stories read a little differently. Everyone looking at the “Health” column on Google News is keeping an eye on the H1N1 virus. Yes, Swineflu, the apocalyptically driven bad-ass big brother of Influenza. He’s here, and he’s gonna’ get ya’ (cue hysteria).

All news is bad news in the world of swineflu. The Wall Street Journal is reporting that no more than 55 million vaccines will be ready by mid-October. This is not enough to halt the spread of the virus. To make things worse, college aged kids are getting infected at an ‘alarming’ rate, and oh yeah, the regular flu is still coming around. These are all very serious, and possibly scary realities, but none of these reasons are why swine flu has me snorting in disgust.

I’m pissed because H1N1 havoc has caused American University to make a ‘pandemic plan’. If campus becomes infected then AU will have run classes, just like those online colleges on TV. Students (like myself) will pay over 45,000 dollars for 30-36 credits of online courses. The University of Phoenix (one of those online colleges…the one with largest enrollment out of all colleges in America) offers the same education for only 13,000 to 16,000 dollars.

AU does deserve credit for their inclusion of a refund program if things get real bad. But who the hell made the rest of this plan?  Closing borders, schools, and public transportation has been called ‘ineffective’ by the CDC, WHO, UN, EU, and Obama. These measures will not stop the spread of the virus; it will only slow down the inevitable spread of the swineflu. But AU has made it the foundation of their plan.

For 45,000 dollars a year I should be able to get sick on campus, or at a game, just like everyone else in America. Not because the mailman sneezed on my Sports Illustrated.

This fall two things are certain, you’re gonna get swineflu, and Favre is gonna play (see, there was a preseason football comment). There is nothing you can do about it, so don’t panic. And please, cover your mouth and wash your hands.