Jennifer Southee

A Journalism Experiment

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    • onMason Round-Up – 4-30-12 April 30, 2012
      Here’s a selection of interesting posts from across onMason. “Federman Beats Cancer” by Gregory Connolly Gregory Connolly’s article takes a highly sympathetic and insightful look at Jacob Federman, a junior sports management major at George Mason who has twice beaten Hodgkin’s lymphoma. After first beating the cancer in high school, he experienced a relapse as a freshman at Mason, […]
    • onMason Round-Up – 4-23-12 April 23, 2012
      Let’s check out some of the most interesting posts from last week throughout onMason. “An interview with Mason Dining’s Dietitian Lois Durant” by Nicole Merrilees This interview with Lois Durant provides insight to the life and hard work of a Mason employee who likely often goes unrecognized for her role in maintaining the high quality of life students […]
    • onMason Round-Up – 4-10-12 April 10, 2012
      In the new onMason round-up we take a look at some of the most interesting posts throughout onMason. “Tragedy and Twitter” by Karina Schulthesis This is an account of how social network sites like Twitter have changed the way people respond to and deal with school shootings. In order to make her article more effective, Karina begins with an […]

C-Span: Anita McBride

Posted by jsouthee on April 25, 2011

ANITA MCBRIDE knows that the position of First Lady is “probably the most important and most demanding unpaid job in the world.” McBride was the White House Chief of Staff for the first lady from 2005-09 through 3 administrations: Reagan, Bush and Bush. She appeared on C-Span last week to talk to college students, including George Mason University’s.

First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt was the definer of the modern First Lady, says McBride, which means being an activist by using their voice and their platform for the significant social issues of the day.

Traditionally, the First Lady was seen as a homemaker and caretaker; McBride says that “the role of social hostess in our nation is very important; it’s important how we convey the use of the White House, not only to the Americans, but to our international visitors.” Even so, the role of First Lady has become more activist. The First Lady herself decides what social issues she takes on and how much she is involved in them, McBride says. “We expect First Ladies to be deeply engaged in the issues that they care about and issues that the nation cares about.”

The First Lady also humanizes the president in interviews by discussing the hardships her husband goes through and portraying the family side of him.

The job of First Lady is 24/7 but, as mentioned earlier, is not paid. Her staff, however, is paid because they are considered “staff of the office of the president of the United States assigned to the office of the First Lady.”

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Briggs 9: Dealing with data

Posted by jsouthee on March 22, 2011

MORE AND MORE information becomes available online all the time, so more organization of the information is needed as well. The formula to find out what you need to do to organize is this:

“what you need to manage + the right tools to manage it = personal productivity.”

The best place to start getting organized is your e-mail:

-Make folders, like a ‘read this’ and ‘waiting on’ folder

-Take no more than 2 minutes to look at each e-mail.

-Look at an e-mail only once to save time

Journalists and freelance writers also need to organize things like to-do lists, calenders, images, documents, and notes. The best thing you can do for yourself is use fewer tools/websites to organize your things as possible, so that you won’t have too many things to check at once. Using web-based programs are the best option so that you can share your material with anyone and access it from anywhere.Some free programs include Google Docs and Zoho. Some services you do have to pay for, but there are many free programs/services available online.

As for organizing the information itself, databases and spreadsheets can be useful tools for a journalist: Databases and spreadsheets are useful for keeping contacts’ information (name, address, phone number, etc.), as well as keeping stories with a lot of data organized.

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Briggs Review 8: Video journalism

Posted by jsouthee on March 20, 2011

Video journalism is an important way of telling a news story, whether its breaking news or a documentary, but there are a few different approaches. The biggest question one might ask is how much the quality of the video matters, and the answer is not much: “…the audience for video has become extremely forgiving and is now open to all levels of quality…quick and less polished video content on news sites often draws bigger audiences.” Sometimes the less polished videos are the most authentic ones and the audience knows it and is drawn to it.

Here, for example, is a video clip of the Japanese tsunami of 2011:

It is a bit shaky and not the best quality, but it is a professional video clip from CBS. It is the content that the users are most interested in and not the quality, especially when it comes to breaking news.

The difference between producing breaking news stories and documentaries is the time you have to plan your story. With breaking news it is important to simply get to the news scene and get footage of witnesses, first-hand accounts, and the overall environment of the incident- even if it means using a cell phone to record video. If it is a documentary, then you will want to take your time on it and make a storyboard. For both documentaries and interviews you will want to create a script.

Here are some tips for recording video:

  • It is good to shoot a variety of ranges (wide, medium, and tight), but do not overuse zoom (aka don’t record while you are zooming) as it makes a video look more amateur.
  • Shoot video like you are taking a still picture. A tripod is a good idea.
  • Sound is important! Make sure the audio is loud and clear- nobody will watch a video if they can’t hear what’s going on. Also, have a variety of sounds in your video, like ambient (background) noise, natural noise, voiceovers, etc.

One important thing to remember is that you should always be flexible and record what may not seem important now but could become important later on.

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Briggs 10: The Socialization of News

Posted by jsouthee on March 20, 2011

THE DIGITAL AGE has socialized news, which means that the people who read the news are now the people who also take part in it. “[…] information wants to be analyzed, shared, synthesized, curated, aggregated, commented on and distributed. Even journalists feeling overwhelmed by new technology can see that more interaction with the audience carries big benefits.”

There are, however,  problems with having your audience be a part of your writing: News commentators are generally not constructive or respectful and there are either too many or too few of them. Forums are evolving, however, so that newsrooms are accepting more responsibility for the comments, commentators expect more from each other, and technology is improving.

It’s not just on a News websites page that this occurs either, it is also social media websites such as Facebook and Twitter which provide feedback from readers. Lending socialization to other sites has created more sources for News.

Social media is the next big thing and any organization or journalist that ignores this fact will be left behind; you always need to be where your audience is and social media is where they are today.

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C-Span Interview: Dan Rather and Tucker Carlson

Posted by jsouthee on March 8, 2011

Dan Rather, former CBS anchor and current managing editor and anchor for HDNet, joined George Mason students Feburary 24th in a C-Span interview. Tucker Carlson, a correspondent for Fox News who is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Daily Caller, was also a guest on the show.

Dan Rather

Dan Rather

Rather and Carlson spoke mainly of the state of journalism today and what it takes to be a good reporter. “American journalism today needs a spine transplant,” was the way that Rather described the current state of American journalism. “The best journalism is tough and doesn’t suck up to power,” he said. Politicans and other public figures in power have learned how to manipulate the media to their advantage, just like in the past when they were able to manipulate T.V. and radio, he says. According to him, news is something important that people want to know that people in power don’t want to be known. In Rather’s words the journalism motto should be this: “Let’s get the facts, as many facts as we can. Let’s get the truth, as close to the truth as possible.”

In Carlson’s opinion the problem with online journalism today is that “it’s young and it’s costly. It’s very expensive to send entourages to places all over the world and the money hasn’t yet shifted online. This is a transition period for the online medium.”

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Briggs Review 7: The Power of Audio

Posted by jsouthee on March 3, 2011

Audio is a very powerful tool when used right. What makes audio effective is that it is a more personal experience than video or text generally is: Usually listeners are alone (in a car or in their room), so that makes it more personable. Audio is not only for the car, though;  it can be used for a podcast or slideshow, for example. Today NPR leads the industry of audio journalism.

Here’s what makes good audio journalism:

  • Script: Even though it may seem like it’s okay to just ‘wing it,’ having a script is a good idea so that the audio sounds more professional.
  • Practice: Find out which questions yield the best results by asking your questions before recording so that you know which questions were the best to ask, then ask the best questions again when you record.
  • Finding the right spots: There should be minimal background noise, such as traffic or crowds, wherever you record.
  • Natural noise: Use natural sounds that make the story more authentic, such as puppies barking at a pet adoption event.
  • Be a performer: You have to keeps things interesting to hook your audience, so be enthusiastic and get their attention.

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Briggs Review 6: Photojournalism

Posted by jsouthee on February 25, 2011

Just the same way that anyone can be a journalist, anyone can be a photojournalist (just take a look at Flickr). You just need to be at the right place at the right time with either a camera or a cameraphone. But news is different things to different people, so any picture could potentially be photojournalism.

Here are a few pointers to make photos more professional:

  • Lighting is important! Make sure it is not too bright or dark wherever you are. Natural light is preferable to flash light.
  • Get close to the subject! Move around if you need to get a good angle
  • Do what you can to keep still. Put your elbows on something or lean on a wall.
  • Focus on the subject and cut out all of the clutter that could distract a viewer.

Photo editing is important too. Most times your picture will be a little too dark or blurry, etc. and you need to make the image as clear as possible. Here’s an example of a photo I took at the Chinese lantern festival at GMU:

Original Photo

Edited Photo

See the difference? It might not be perfect, but most times a little editing will make the photo much more clear and easier to focus on what’s important in the photo.

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Briggs Review 5: Mobile Journalism

Posted by jsouthee on February 24, 2011

Most cellphones have become a self-sufficient device that come in handy in many situations for journalists. With a cell phone you can shoot video, take pictures, write and publish/broadcast it all online without needing other equipment; this can also be referred as “backpack reporting.”Another perk to mobile journalism is that if you are on the scene of a breaking news event then you report on the event and put it online instantly. It also allows for liveblogging, which is instant blogging.

Here are a few examples of mobile journalism:

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Briggs Review 4: Microblogging (Twitter)

Posted by jsouthee on February 19, 2011

Don’t know what microblogging is? How about Twitter? Twitter is the best example of microblogging as its most popular platform. Microblogging is really quite simple: You are your own publisher of anything piece of writing in 140 words or less (called a “tweet” on Twitter). It is a more effective way to report and follow news than anything else because of it’s real time feed function. Microblogging also allows for more interaction among users: You can “retweet” what someone else says, use a “hashtag,” which allows users to see all tweets related to a specified subject, or direct a tweet to someone using @example.

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Guest Speaker: Mandy Jenkins

Posted by jsouthee on February 10, 2011

MANDY JENKINS, SOCIAL MEDIA PRODUCER FOR TBD (a local news site), visited my Communications 361 class (Online Journalism) today to share her experiences in her field. I appreciate what she had to share with us and attained some useful advice. In College Jenkins said that “reaching out and connecting with people individually” helped her land jobs early and I plan to emulate her actions. She showed her interest in other peoples’ careers by asking questions, sharing her own work with them, and therefore making connections. Jenkins has worked for TBD for 6 months now, where her duties include keeping track of news tips on Twitter and writing some news pieces. Starting a Twitter account in 2007 (although without much of a grasp of it yet) before it was popular, Jenkins had a hunch that social media was going somewhere for her as a journalist- in fact she created her own position as “Social Media Producer” at TBD. What I found impressive about TBD was that there are 200 + bloggers affiliated with TBD but there are only 15 professional journalists working there; it really says a lot about the changing landscape of journalism. Blogs are making their mark in journalism history, and what would traditionally be considered competition is now a resource. Jenkins herself said that today “social media can really, really help you as students,” and I can’t help but agree; what better way to profile your journalistic skills than to demonstrate your abilities and knowledge of social media in a blog?

Thanks for sharing, Mandy!

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