Tuesday, December 9, 2008

I finished finals yesterday. My Grammar exam was about what I expected, and I think I did pretty well. My German Cinema exam was a little more challenging than I anticipated, but I think I did okay, if not as well as I would have liked. Now that Fall term is over I can focus my full attention on freaking out about what I should be doing for the next 6 terms.

I'm still debating a double major/minor. I registered for a third year German class, thinking that I wanted to do a minor in German. This would require 6 more courses including the one I am registered for, and would not postpone my graduation date as long as I don't take off a term from my Journalism major to study abroad. However, the language immersion program in Tuebingen is awfully tempting. It's something that I would really like to do and think would be a valuable experience, but I think it would be wiser to finish my bachelor's degree as quickly as possible and go on with foreign language some time in the future. I also fear 3rd year German grammar would have a detrimental effect on my GPA.

I think I am going to declare an Art minor because I already have a ton of art credits, and I think I would only need to take three more studio classes, which I think I could do pretty easily over the summer. I plan to look into how much more I would need for a major. If it won't interfere with my graduation plan I will probably do it.

I am also looking into the Film Certificate offered by the English department. I think that my Electronic Media and Art courses would fulfill most of the requirements, and I would only need two additional courses, but I need to check with an adviser.

I'm feeling a little overwhelmed by all the possibilities. I have so many options and am not sure how to predict what will be most beneficial to me in the future. What I am feeling is well-expressed in a recent episode of WNYC's Radiolab entitled Choice.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Walter Benjamin, Marshall McLuhan, and Technology

I am at the library (open 24 hours, much to my liking) finishing up a paper on montage in German Expressionist film and Walter Benjamin's essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction for my German Cinema class.

In the piece Benjamin argues that technology redefined art:

"The nineteenth-century dispute as to the artistic value of painting versus photography today seems devious and confused. This does not diminish its importance, however; if anything, it underlines it. The dispute was in fact the symptom of a historical transformation the universal impact of which was not realized by either of the rivals. When the age of mechanical reproduction separated art from its basis in cult, the semblance of its autonomy disappeared forever. The resulting change in the function of art transcended the perspective of the century; for a long time it even escaped that of the twentieth century, which experienced the development of the film.

Earlier much futile thought had been devoted to the question of whether photography is an art. The primary question—whether the very invention of photography had not transformed the entire nature of art—was not raised. Soon the film theoreticians asked the same ill-considered question with regard to the film. But the difficulties which photography caused traditional aesthetics were mere child’s play as compared to those raised by the film."

Discussing this section in my paper, I couldn't help thinking of a Marshall McLuhan quote that Rick Seifert, one of my Journalism teachers at PCC, often repeated: "the medium is the message."

Monday, November 17, 2008

Changing Media and Political Organizing

From a New York Times piece on Howard Dean

...[I]t was Dean, back when Obama was still serving in the Illinois State Senate, who first introduced his party to the idea that, in the Internet age, a campaign could be built from the ground up, that door-to-door organizing could matter more than TV ads.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

High Demand for Post-Election Newspapers

It comes as no surprise that Tuesday's election sent newspaper sales skyrocketing. "Apparently looking for something old to go with something new (Barack Obama) and something blue (a more Democratic Congress), the American people bought newspapers in huge numbers Wednesday, a day after the historic election of the nation's first black president," wrote James Rainey in today's LA Times. My sentiments exactly.

I usually read the New York Times online (unless I want to do the crossword puzzle), but yesterday morning I made a point of snagging one of the remaining free copies UO provides to students. Somehow holding the paper in my hands and seeing the word "Obama" across the top made the election results real for me. Up until that point I think I half believed that it could be undone (maybe that's just because I'm from Ohio).

Maybe I should have grabbed a few copies. They seem to be a hot commodity.

My copy is not for sale, however. I'd like to show it to my future children one day and let them try to imagine a time when people doubted that we could have a black president and you could read about it in something called a "newspaper."

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

2008 Election Coverage

Election coverage this year seems to be all about user participation.

This will be my first election sans-TV. In '04 my roommates and I actually went to the thrift store and bought one just to watch the debates and election returns. This year I thought about it, but decided not to bother. Like many people in my age group I will get most of my news tonight from internet sources (although I will be listening to public radio coverage at work this evening).

For months now I've been frequenting the Election 2008 sections of various online news sources and have been pretty impressed with how sophisticated they have become.

The New York Times' Politics section has a couple of unique features. One called Your State of Mind is a box in which adjectives scroll across the screen from left to right. These are the words entered by visitors to the site describing their current feelings about the election (you are allowed to update your entry every 30 minutes). The words that are largest and nearest the top are the most popular entries. You can also choose to view only the words entered by people supporting Obama or McCain. It is pretty interesting to compare the two.

The other, which becomes active at 6pm, is their pop-up dashboard. It's a small window that opens up and will provide live election updates, allowing you to stay updated while visiting other websites.

They have a multimedia What to Watch for on Election Night feature with an hour-by-hour breakdown of what they expect to be significant.

The site also includes an interactive map that shows which way each state is leaning in different races and how many electoral votes it gives to the candidate. It also allows viewers to change the colors (red for republican, blue for democrat or yellow for undecided) to look at different hypothetical scenarios.

CNN's Election Center 2008 page has a Your Races column that you can personalize to include up to 35 races that you want to keep an eye on (for example the Ohio presidential race, California's proposition 8, and the Oregon senate race). They also have a map, but theirs only shows poll results. They do have other interactive features including a debate forum and a whole website called iReport where voters can share their experiences at the polls.

PBS's Vote 2008 page encourages voters to video their voting experiences and share them via YouTube. They have an interactive map similar to the New York Times', which they share with NPR's Election 2008 website. They also provide links to election-related quizzes.

MSNBC's Decision '08 website offers yet another interactive map as well as a Presidential Results widget that updates every 10 minutes and can be shared on Facebook and other such sites (available in 3 sizes!).

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Moving Away from Print Media

Here's a segment from PBS News Hour about some significant new developments in the move away from print media. The panel of guests includes Mark Glaser who wrote an optimistic entry on the future of journalism in his blog, Mediashift.

For a darker perspective on what's to come check out Epic 2014, a short film about the hypothetical future of the industry.

Beginning an Education in Journalism

I am nearing the end of my fourth week at U of O. Halfway through my first term I am struggling to process all of the information I have gleaned, and each tidbit seems to lead to a plethora of new questions.

I am currently taking two pre-journalism courses: Grammar for Journalists and Journalism Transfer Seminar.

Perhaps the most notable thing I have discovered in my grammar class is that there is a great deal that I don't know about grammar. A lot of my fellow students seem to dislike the class, and it certainly has its problems (there are 160 students in the class, which meets for 50 minutes three times a week, which does not leave enough time for discussion or answering questions). I, however, find it fascinating. I've always been interested in language, and am excited to gain a better understanding of it.

The seminar consists largely of visits from staff members who speak about the industry and the school's program. One of the recurring themes is "the future of journalism." The program is in the process of changing in order to try to prepare students for the new and different jobs in the field. There's certainly a lot to keep up with, and it must be a daunting task for the faculty and staff.

Last weekend I attended the Society of Professional Journalists' conference Building a Better Journalist. I went to panels on political reporting (this panel included former senatorial candidate Steve Novick, of whom I am a fan), freelancing,the future of the news business, deadline writing, and blogging. Again the major focus seemed to be the tremendous changes that are occurring in the industry. Something else that came up a number of times was the debate over the significance or usefulness of having a journalism degree. Many of the speakers who are arguably successful in the industry did not have journalism degrees, and a number did not have degrees at all. Hank Stern, the news editor of Portland's Willamette Week, who moderated some of the panels at the conference said that whether or not someone has a journalism degree does not make much difference to him when he's making hiring decisions. When I went to the social hour after the conference I spoke with some working journalists from Portland and was repeatedly given two pieces of advice: "double major" and "get an internship ASAP," the points being that specialization and on-the-job experience are of great significance in the industry. Probably more-so than having a degree in journalism.

That said, I do not think that this program is a waste of my time. Even in the pre-journalism classes that I've taken so far I have learned a great deal, and feel much more prepared for a future in journalism. The degree alone may not make much difference when I am job-hunting, but I suspect that the skills I learn, the advice I get, and the connections I make will be of great value. I hope I am right.