Monday, December 21, 2009

Internship with My Eugene

This winter I will be starting an internship with the community news site My Eugene. Jaculynn Peterson, who runs the site out of her home, interviewed me over the phone yesterday and told me a bit about it.

She started the site when she was new to the city, and used it to record her discoveries about her new home. She now has between six and 10 thousand unique visitors per month, and receives far more story suggestions than she can keep up with on her own.

She has decided to take on a number of interns and to redesign and expand the site. She says we will work on group projects as well as individual assignments. She plans to schedule a team meeting soon so that we can all meet each other and to discuss the plans in more detail.

I think this is going to be a great opportunity for me to get experience with local, non-commercial, multimedia journalism, and work with some like-minded people.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

The New York Times Continues to Embrace New Tools

Yesterday I was reading a fascinating article about Nancy Meyers, one of the very few successful female Hollywood directors, on the New York Times Magazine website. I came across a word that I didn't know and highlighted it, with the intention of pasting into a search engine, when a little speech bubble with a question mark in it popped up, as if the word itself was beckoning me to ask it about itself. I had never seen this before, and was intrigued. I clicked the bubble and a reference page opened up in a new window!

After playing around with it a bit, I've found that your results will vary. Sometimes you'll get entries from multiple dictionaries and a thesaurus, sometimes just one basic dictionary definition. Results for proper names are mixed: selecting the Beatles yields entries from Columbia Encyclopedia, the Fine Arts Dictionary, and WordNet, but nothing comes up for film score composerHans Zimmer or the recent film "The Dark Knight." Nothing comes up for "Skyping" and "cougar" has only one definition (which does not apply to the word's use in the article).

It's an imperfect tool, but I imagine it will improve with time. Innovations like this are what make the New York Times website one of the best news sources. The New York Times is one of the few big papers that has truly embraced the move to digital and is using new technology to make news more accessible. Rather than dumbing down the writing to reach a broader audience, the paper (news entity? news organization?) continues to produce thought-provoking, original stories, and has simply made it easier for readers to look up the words they don't know!

The New York Times, like all legacy media, has faced and will continue to face many challenges as technology and the demands of consumers change, but has demonstrated that it is pragmatic and adaptable, and I believe that it will continue to be one of the most respected and widely-read national news sources.

The New York Times' website is more appealing than the print paper, not just because it is free and easy to access, but because it encourages and rewards its readers' curiosity in ways a print edition never could. If anything, this is evidence that the future of journalism is not the bleak, watered-down drivel that many fear it will be. If those who truly care about good journalism work towards using new tools to make news better, rather than seeing them as a threat, the journalism of the future could be far better than any we have known.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Multi-Media Non-Profit News Group Update

Last night myself and 11 other We Make the Media attendees interested in forming a multi-media non-profit in Portland met to discuss further plans for the organization.

After much discussion, the group decided as a next step to break into two subgroups, which will work on the organization's values, and on researching existing non-profit news organizations, respectively. Both subgroups plan to meet again in the next couple of weeks to get started, and the whole group will get back together at the end of January to report back on what has been accomplished, and to select a name for the organization. One member also volunteered to meet with a lawyer to discuss filing for 501C3 status.

There was also discussion of merging the group with another breakout group from WMTM. This group, headed by Think Out Loud host Emily Harris, is focused on local investigative journalism, and seemingly has a lot of overlapping goals with our group.

Other things we discussed that will begin to take shape over the next few months are constructing a business model and putting together a board of directors.

We elected Colin Lovett, who put together a Google site for the group, chair, and I volunteered to be secretary. My meeting minutes should make future blog posts about our meetings easy.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Finals Week Begins

I spent most of the weekend working on my J331 group dramatic short. We are nearly done shooting it, and I started editing yesterday. The rough cut of the first scene I edited is up on Vimeo.

We are meeting with our actors at noon tomorrow to get the last few shots we need, and then we can focus on editing (and our other finals). I have a paper for my Media Aesthetics class due on Tuesday, and then I can devote all my time to the short films.

I'm really happy with how both of them are looking and am pleasantly surprised at how well the members of my group work together. We're hoping to get the last of our editing done on Wednesday, so that we can relax and start celebrating before our class screening on Thursday evening.

I'm usually nervous before showing final projects, but so far I'm feeling pretty good about these, even with quite a bit of work still ahead of my group. I suppose because it's a group project, I don't feel like there's quite so much attention on me, but I think a big part of it is that I am finally starting to feel like I know what I'm doing. Even earlier this term I felt overwhelmed even with relatively small projects, but this time, once I got focused, I really felt like I knew exactly what needed to be done.