Category: Journalism (page 2 of 2)

Look behind the curtain

As someone who tries to teach students about evidence, support, reasoning, etc., stuff like this just makes me mad, and I”m not sure if it’s because the cartoonist is ignorant of basic background information and economics, or because he thinks his  readers are that ignorant, or because he’s right. (I’m sure he’s right a lot, I’m just not sure how right).

The cartoon is correct as far as it goes, but it leaves out a key point, a point that would establish whatever blame there is in this more accurately.

Even if you didn’t know about the Community Reinvestment Act (which we’ll consider in a moment), a little bit of thinking based on what’s presented here should bring you to a different conclusion than the cartoonist implies, and it’s contained in this statement: “And taxpayers with no connection to the bank had to pay all the money to fix it.”

The eye-opening question should be: “Why?” To expand a little bit, “Why did the taxpayers have to fix it?” Because they told the banker ahead of time through their congresscritters that they would. Continue reading

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Intellectual property in the age of blogs

Merlin Mann keeps the 43 Folders site. In “Free as in ‘Me’” he does an elaborate but interesting examination into issues of intellectual property and ownership that go beyond the merely commercial. My opinion: the assumption that intellectual property is mainly about commercial interests taints the discussion on the part of both proponents of protecting intellectual property and opponents. Commercial interests matter, but mainly because of far larger issues that lie behind commercial interests and transcend them.

Given the nature of the article, I am certainly not going to summarize it–not because I fear Mann’s reaction (I doubt he’ll ever know about this post), but because I respect his point, and I would like for you to see what he has to say.

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A new look at journalism

Kristen King (no relation to me, as far as I know) attended the Region 2 conference of the Society of Professional Journalists, and shared her summaries of several of the sessions. This is very useful information for information workers of any sort, but particularly for journalism and even PR students. This is boiled-down, pure, cutting-edge information. Take the time.

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The myth of government source reliability

When we teach speech students about evaluating sources, we usually tell them that government figures are more reliable than others. We teach journalism students the same thing. Maybe the operative word here is “more” and “than others.”

The greater lesson, perhaps, is to be skeptical of anything that any source tells you until you see the original data and understand how it was gathered and what it means.

As FOXNews reports in The Myth of 90 Percent, a “fact” that has been floated around by a whole bunch of government officials and passed on uncritically by a number of media outlets is just flat wrong, i.e., the “fact” that 90% of the guns used in Mexican crime comes from the United States.

It’s not just a little wrong. It’s a lot wrong. A more accurate way to look at the facts is this: about 17% of recovered weapons used in a crime in Mexico could be traced to the U.S. Continue reading

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Examining an educational urban legend

I love these kinds of stories.

Students know I’m a fan of sites like snopes.com and truthorfiction.com. The average person is too willing to accept what they “hear” without doing any verification. It’s not so much that these two sites do the work for you (although, for the most part, they do), but rather that they demonstrate how to go about verifying things for yourself.

FOXNews reports on a common email that claims you can still read paragraphs consisting mainly of words with the letters scrambled, as long as the first and last letters remain unchanged. As is the case with most good urban legends, there is some truth to it. Much of what is claimed, however, is false, and many of the specific facts (such as its claim of basis in a Cambridge study) are flat-out fictitious.

The article does a very good job of explaining and documenting its counterclaims, which in itself is a good model for students.

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Separating evidence and interpretation

This is for both speech and journalism students. People sometimes have trouble separating evidence from the conclusions drawn from that evidence. Here’s a great example. Recently a study in Wisconsin, which has had a school voucher program in place for a while, found “parity” between representative samples of both public school and voucher-funded private school students. (That means they performed about the same grade-wise.) I don’t know how long the link will remain live, but right now you can read a newspaper story at the Journal-Sentinel.

Even though the researchers have repeatedly warned of the dangers of basing too much on the results of one study, media and politicians seem to have jumped on the results, with all claiming it supports whatever their position is.

Opponents of school vouchers are saying, in essence, “See! See! Private schools aren’t doing it any better. So we can finally just drop all this voucher nonsense and keep doing things the way we were.”

Proponents of school vouchers are saying, in essence, “Let me get this straight. The private schools are achieving the same results as public schools while costing a third less, a savings of several thousand dollars per student. How is it again that this proves vouchers are a bad idea? I don’t get it.”

This alone should help students understand why persuasion must go well beyond simply piling up facts.

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Moving from print to Web

Journalism education is supposed to be one of the hot areas for the Information Age–not because traditional journalism jobs are a growth area, but because the skills are supposed to be useful in any number of professions. Still, the skills are not directly transferable without adaptation. WebWorkerDaily offers a couple of quick tips for writers seeking to make the transition from print to Web writing.

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Just about ready to ride again

This blog has been relatively quiet this summer. For one thing, we’ve been on “summer break.” That doesn’t mean much, except that I wasn’t physically on campus as much. Other things had more of an effect.

  • I had two (really, three or four) major PHP projects for which I was committed.
  • I taught an online speech course.
  • My youngest daughter wound up in the hospital again, her 18th hospitalization.

We’re not back in regular session yet, and Hannah isn’t home from the hospital yet. But I’ve turned in summer grades, and I have a connection from the hospital, so this is as good a time as any to crank it up.

I need to do something. I have bookmarked 33 pages that I had intended to tell you about, and that I haven’t had time to get to yet. I hope some of them still mean something by the time I get it all taken care of.

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First Amendment once again under fire

I have not heard of this case before, a fact which helps to illustrate why we must keep a watch for abuses of freedom of expression. Josh Wolf is apparently being prosecuted for the crime of committing journalism. It’s hard to believe that a country founded on the ideals of freedom continues to slide inexorably down the chute into totalitarianism, and it’s happening the way you boil a frog, i.e., but degrees so gradual that we don’t notice. I don’t care what his politics are; the fact that he was jailed for so long for this is a travesty.

My realization comes in the wake of a story about France’s attempt to make it illegal for anyone other than a “professional” journalist (which, I suspect, will mean a licensed one, which means the government decides who is a journalist) to video record a violent crime. Obviously, that’s not First Amendment—after all, France isn’t the U.S. It is, nevertheless, chilling to recognize that another supposedly free nation is moving in this direction.

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Interviewing effectiveness

Here’s a post on 43 Folders that, in turn, leads to some significant details on how to interview people effectively, the way a good journalist one, i.e., one that manages to draw people out. It’s called “Interviewing with ‘The Sawatsky Method'”

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