Author Archive

Construction of the High Level Bridge, Edmonton, Alberta. Taken from "maybe edmonton" blog.

The City

Edmonton boasts many of the amenities of an ideal urban centre like Toronto or Montreal, but the majority of it is poorly designed. An steady flow of newcomers combined with availability of cheap farmland sold for residential development has resulted in major urban sprawl. I would argue that although Edmonton is smaller in size and population than Toronto and Montreal, it lacks accessibility and the essence of connectedness a city of its size should have. The overarching goal of my internet platform is to unite the city by giving it a vessel for the stories that matter most to its people.

Edmonton is often perceived as a “blue-collar” city because of its association with industry; at first glance, it’s not an artful place. While this is simply untrue – for example, Edmonton is home to a thriving theatre community and hosts North America’s oldest and largest Fringe Theatre festival – there is a stigma that brands the city as cold and lacking imagination. In my opinion, Edmonton’s arts community is incredibly vital to its appeal and sustenance as a city not only for its inherent value, but for its energy. Of course there is a place for industry – it creates jobs for a healthy economy and this keeps unemployment rates down – but the problem with it is it’s often a quick fix for newcomers who don’t stay to invest in the city. People move to Edmonton and stay for a few years to make a quick buck and don’t stay, so there is less of a forceful demand for investment in the things that make a city appetizing such as infrastructure and accessible transit. I would like to see a community forum filled with news about efficient and sustainable urban planning for new projects, preserving and recycling historic buildings instead of ripping them down without cause, and a focus on drawing more traffic through the cultural hubs of the city while putting money into a downtown face-lift.

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The State of the Future: Not an Island

Posted: April 1, 2011 by braillebone in Uncategorized

The state of the media is not as autonomous as it once was, but the outlook is positive.

The potential for the most informed and analyzed news communication is being realized, and it seems it’s only the beginning. The use of social media and mega search tools like Google.com and the Google Chrome browser have become the compass that directs news consumers (and just regular consumers who follow the endless advertisements ever-so-aptly geared toward readers’ interests based on what they read online). With their help, the journalistic product is being accessed by a mass audience, larger than past readerships ever were.

Rosensteil and Mitchell support this claim and make projections for a different kind of journalistic success when they write:

“the future will belong to those who understand the public’s changing behavior and can target content and advertising to snugly fit the interests of each user. That knowledge — and the expertise in gathering it — increasingly resides with technology companies outside journalism.”

This is something hopeful and exciting within the article; journalism isn’t dying — it’s shape-shifting into an entirely different being. All we as journalists need to do is simply shape-shift with it.

Another optimistic point here is I don’t think it means journalistic integrity needs to be sacrificed to appeal to a broader audience. The same level of public service journalism remains lively. Consider the example of ProPublica, the non-profit news organization built on the backs of esteemed and seasoned reporters from very reputable sources. Their use of Twitter is exceptional, and particularly because they’re a fairly new network and likely wouldn’t have an abundance of money devoted to paid advertising in their budget.

On the other hand, many news sites generate a large part of their income from online ads. According to the State of the News Media overview, online ad revenue for 2010 is expected to exceed print newspaper ad revenue for the first time. While there are some kinks to iron out like the problem that the biggest part of the revenue generated by online ads goes to non-news sources. This surprised me, but I also know this is an inevitable glitch in changing business models. The hopeful part of this is business models will adapt to encourage sustainable revenue, as we’ve recently seen with the New York Times’ paywall.

The most surprising thing I learned while reading this overview was that last year, new media organizations actually started hiring their own reporters to gather news. Yahoo hired several dozen spanning various topics, and AOL had about 900 before they lost 200 as a result of the merger with The Huffington Post. The overview says it’s estimated that the substitution of online journalism jobs matched the number of jobs that were lost in the field of print.

The more time I spend studying journalism and listening to the advice of those with impressive backgrounds in the field, the more hopeful I am that there will be a place for all of us who wish to be there. The frustrating part is, it’s tough to pin down exactly what our work world will look like and expect of us. But readings reports like The State of the News Media make these concepts a little clearer because they provide evidence that supports the continued success of journalism.

Multimedia Coverage of Japan’s Earthquake

Posted: March 21, 2011 by braillebone in #9 Japan

Since we examined the New York Times’ use of simplistic yet information-packed video broadcast and questioned the validity of the high-production 6 o’clock news hour, I have been getting my Japan coverage from the Times online. This page features a wall of short two minute videos ranging from heartbreaking personal stories to the impacts on U.S. policy. As discussed in class, these videos are not of professional quality and are written more in print style than for television from what I’ve observed, but they are loaded with information, also like a print story.

They also use high quality (172 of which are linked here) photos as stand-alones and accompanying stories. The photos are indicating that journalists are becoming more able to shoot closer to the destruction and to the people so adversely affected by it.

In addition to this, they’ve taken to using sophisticated and interactive graphics like this one on the hazards of storing spent fuel from a nuclear reactor. For example, this one is a six-part graphic that explains what spent fuel is, why it can be dangerous, and how it can become dangerous. This kind of analysis is so valuable because of the overwhelming amount of information flooding in that is often conflicting and hard to digest. It allows an extremely complex situation to be simplified just enough to be made sense of efficiently and easily.

For my initial earthquake news intake, I streamed live feed from the BBC website which was helpful at first, but after about an hour I tired of it because it was extended Skype accounts from people who hadn’t even witnessed anything and had only heard about it. I understand of course that sometimes at the start of a crisis it’s tough to locate any really credible sources for lack of communication or transportation. The live feed was still a great way to become immediately updated while seeing the devastation with my own eyes as it was happening. The BBC news site also has videos and graphics like the New York Times.

As far as social media goes, I have been receiving consistent updates in my Facebook and Twitter news feeds from NPR and the Globe and Mail. Today, for example, my Facebook feed linked to an article from NPR about the fears surrounding nuclear radiation and its absorption into cow’s milk, saying the radioactivity was only a danger after 58,000 glasses.

Media Diary (the post that got lost)

Posted: March 21, 2011 by braillebone in Uncategorized

#1 Media Diary
January 18, 2011
This morning I arrived early at the CBC building and checked Gmail and Facebook for messages. While I waited for class to start, I read a few articles in an issue of The Gateway, the University of Alberta’s student publication I picked up while in Montreal last week at the national Canadian University Press conference.

We watched a PowerPoint presentation on reporting, and after class there was music playing in Lauren Bird’s car; she gave me a ride to campus as it was unreasonably cold out, and I didn’t have my iPod to distract me from the cold, which otherwise might have made a difference.

I made my way down to The Brunswickan office, my place of employment, and again checked Gmail and Facebook for messages. I watched a YouTube video of my friend Shawn Bracke dancing in London, where he lives and teaches.

I went for lunch with my boyfriend at The Cellar, where music was playing in the background and rather loudly, but I didn’t mind it. I noticed I was perturbed when someone neglected to put in another CD once the initial one was finished. We were having a great conversation so it wasn’t to fill dead air, but I suppose I felt the music insulated our conversation so I could appreciate there were several other people talking and enjoying lunch, but I didn’t have to hear them and they didn’t have to hear me.

After lunch, I took the bus home without anything to listen to or read. Again, the frigid cold was particularly noticable because I didn’t have any media to distract me from it, and therefore I focused on it.

I got home and looked on Kijiji with my roommate at some apartments that had been recently listed, as we have been talking about moving for our final year in Fredericton.

I took a nap, woke up to my alarm, and ran to Sobey’s to get groceries before my 6 pm meeting as Music Programming Coordinator for CHSR (which I was 15 minutes late for due to the snow, which I had not accounted for because I had not checked the weather). I finally found my iPod last night (I have been a month without it, it was buried at the bottom of my backpack I dragged home to Edmonton), so I put on my big insulating (from sound and cold) headphones and trudged up the hill listening to my music.

When I got home finally, I made dinner and began researching Cesar Chavez for my Environmental Praxis class via Google and Wikipedia to start, and ended up watching viral YouTube videos for a laugh and having a quick glance at the homepage of news site Rabble.ca.

Time for bed – I have a feeling tomorrow’s trek to campus will not be pleasant. I’ll be sure to bring my iPod this time

Wikileaks Without A Sieve

Posted: March 16, 2011 by braillebone in #5 Not for Profit, #8 Wikileaks

.When Wikileaks is examined at the barest level, my opinion is that it has significant value. Simplistically, it serves the exact same purpose as investigative journalism: to publicize wrong and questionable behaviour and information by disabling its secrecy.

Its heart seems to be in the right place, although this is disputed for good reason. Critics speculate Wikileaks leader Julian Assange operated with a specific agenda, one that catered to more left-leaning people and politicians, attacking those with right of centre biases. The article I cited from The Independent, an online blog publication for independent journalists, says Assange undoubtedly operated with an end in mind, but also never claimed he didn’t, so it shouldn’t be such a shock.

This is precisely the reason Wikileaks cannot be called journalism; there is no sieve with which to sort through the overwhelming information, and thus it is much more difficult to draw any informed conclusions. What hasn’t changed is that it would never be proper practice to print or broadcast raw material without first putting it in context for news ingestion. Journalism’s raison d’etre is to sift through that raw material, balance it with other supplemental information explaining it, and in theory does not, by principle, have any sway or bias.

The change has come from the mass amounts of extremely sensitive information dumped on both journalists AND the public, like the 90,000 military documents on Afghanistan. This Reporter’s Roundtable video looks at the issues journalists faced with only having three weeks to sift through the information, making tough decisions under the watchful eye of the public; at this point, everyone was especially aware of Wikileaks.

Perhaps the role of the journalist has become increasingly demanding and significant because of what is now expected of them. Leaks of information are meaningful and necessary as sings the famous William Randolph Hearst quote: “News is something somebody doesn’t want printed; all else is advertising.” So, it is unarguably news. Assange seems to be the secret-sharing vigilante in the realm of journalism, but accredited journalists must now add taming sources like him in order to remain conscious of the possible consequences of failing to put his leaked information in context, and also included masking the identity of those named in the documents such as Afghani people who have been killed as a result of Wikileaks.

There are negative consequences to this sort of Pandora’s Box. It may not be fair to place the burden of decoding mass leaks courtesy of Julian Assange and his people on journalists, especially with tight deadlines, but there really seems to be no other viable option for churning out accurate and comprehensive news.

As It Happens: Live Tweets

Posted: March 2, 2011 by braillebone in #7 Ethics

The same as beauty is in the eye of the beholder, breaking news is in the eye of the live-tweeting reporter – and his or her followers.

Twitter has changed the traditional process of journalism significantly, which is exemplified by The Globe and Mail’s use of the quick and convenient social media tool during the G20 Summit in Toronto last summer.

Lisan Jutras, a reporter covering the summit, was following a peaceful protest on Queen Street West and watched as people were detained one by one during a downpour without cover. Updating the Globe and Mail’s website live via her cell phone allowed for press coverage that would have otherwise been prohibited, but did it allow for fair coverage?

I recall following the live tweet updates to the site and feeling appalled at the behaviour of the police and their detaining and arresting of peaceful protesters, but I also recall trying my best to think critically of the situation. I knew Toronto had hiked up their security forces by importing several thousand police officers from other provinces, and I wondered how they would possibly organize them and maintain efficient communication.

Once that occurred to me, I began to look at the situation less subjectively.

I agreed with Jutras; it seemed excessive to hold and charge bystanders and passersby with conspiracy to commit public mischief. But naturally, a live, un-analyzed, raw situation can often only appear one way. There is no context to work with to make sense of the issue. Granted, there isn’t always a sound reason for an unfavourable situation. However, this is one case where Twitter provided a platform for ridicule, fueled by its 140 character allowance.

After speaking with a friend from the Grand Falls, N.B. RCMP who worked at the summit, I gathered I was on the right track. He said Toronto police were trying their best to be proactive to prevent chaos in the streets, and like many critics, suggested the summit should not have been held in such a large centre.

A live feed like the one I’m referring to is wonderful in my opinion, because it informs immediately. Ethically, however, this kind of journalism has potential for influencing public opinion in an abbreviated manner that leaves the issue out of context.

In regards to how I would have handled the reigns of the Globe and Mail – to be honest, I probably wouldn’t have done much differently because of the demands of 24 hour news. If a reporter is in the field with an opportunity to communicate an experience that would not likely be communicated otherwise, he or she should do so; they have an obligation to the community. But they also have an obligation to provide complete and comprehensive information, which isn’t likely in a situation like the detainment of citizens on Queen Street West.

Twitter

Posted: February 23, 2011 by braillebone in #6 Twitter, Uncategorized

When I signed up for my Twitter account this week, I questioned why I had purposely avoided the social media tool for so long.

I suppose much of it had to do with what we discussed in class last Wednesday – a large portion of the material on Twitter is useless. And frankly, had I signed up for it five years ago, I might have been turned off right away by the influx, because I might not have been as news oriented and therefore might have missed the more substantial, harder hitting tweets.

The first tweet I made was about something interesting I read right away from the Globe and Mail. The article it linked to was important to me because it was about green innovation in my hometown of Edmonton, a place not famous for its environmental investments. It talks about a controversial yet innovative space proposal for the much deliberated fate of the city centre airport, which would include residences for 30,000 people, park space, and the use of several renewable resources. A huge step for Edmonton, and something we could surely be proud of.

I’m a plugged-in music buff, so NPR music is an exciting account to follow. This Friday, a day earlier than scheduled, Radiohead released their anxiously anticipated album King of Limbs, and NPR streamed it free of charge all the way through. Admittedly, it was a Friday and I was scattered in the Brunswickan office not listening as avidly as I should have been, but it was still one of those treasured moments. It felt special and exclusive in an odd way to be part of a pool of listeners hearing the album for the first time, together. Maybe that’s sappy, but it was buzz-worthy in my opinion.

I also read a tweet from CBC Health News linking an article about B.C. nurses training in gang awareness, and it seems the proactive step isn’t sitting well with the nurses’ union, which surprised me at first. They feel it’s too much to expect nurses to have to take on yet another responsibility, when their focus should remain strictly on patient care.

Another one I read was about was the European Union imposing stricter regulations on its fuel providers that would disallow products from Canada’s oilsands. Canada has denied threatening to cap trade, but there is suspicion and worry over how the fuel products would be used if regulated. This could have major implications for the trade relationship between Canada and the EU, and on the Canadian economy and industry.

Lastly, I read a tweet on Feb. 17 from Harry Forestell saying “Man with gun surrenders to Fredericton police after lockdown at Kingsclear Elementary school and warnings in Silverwood.” I had heard about the scare during the day and that the school had been evacuated, so it was important to read the man had surrendered, and eventually to know no one had been injured. These kinds of scares don’t often happen in Fredericton, so it was quite alarming.

Non-Profit Media: NPR & MinnPost

Posted: February 16, 2011 by braillebone in #5 Not for Profit

NPR doesn’t have much substantial competition; they’re a multi-skilled media outlet capable of covering various news with a powerful reputation. To top it all off, they’re membership-driven, and are widely circulated through social media like Facebook and Twitter.

On Facebook, almost 1.5 million fans “like” NPR. This past Friday, they used their status update function to seek interview subjects who had experienced smoking “fake pot”. Over 1,100 people commented.

The dialogue wasn’t overly helpful in the sense that most comments weren’t volunteer efforts, but perhaps they generated a discussion about the validity of the story, suggesting the reporter was heading in the wrong direction. How interesting, that a reporter might (unsuccessfully) use a social media resource to find a subject, and be overwhelmed with potentially helpful responses on the content of the story…

The high number of responses to an NPR status update isn’t unusual. Members are consistently linked in to the efficiently updated online news. The site and its social media connections are well-kept and promoted, which is especially key in maintaining a happy group of members who pay the bills.

NPR is supported by foundation grants, personal member donations, and corporate sponsors. Public Service Announcements are injected in radio podcasts such as This American Life, urging listeners to donate what they can to ensure the quality of NPR broadcasting continues.

“MinnPost”, a non-profit online publication based in Minnesota. Their aim, like all other non-profit media organizations, is to “create a sustainable business model for this kind of journalism, supported by corporate sponsors, advertisers, and members who make annual donations. High-quality journalism is a community asset that sustains democracy and quality of life, and we need people who believe in it to support our work.”

Like NPR, MinnPost is member-supported and relies heavily on donations. Upwards of 2,300 members made donations to the three-year-old publication between $10 and $20,000 per year.

Their site features multimedia stories from the Minnesota region, as well as international, arts, political, and “community voices” , a section about community issues ranging from regional to international.

Both NPR and MinnPost demand member support so they may continue to produce high-quality, honest journalism while avoiding catering to advertisers’ agendas. The recent uprising of such publications is both surprising and refreshing in the age of recession and cynicism; people still want quality news, and are willing to pay the price.

The Revolution in Egypt

Posted: February 8, 2011 by braillebone in Uncategorized

The revolution in Egypt highlights the power of the revolution of communication.

The freedom of expression fostered by social media is extremely powerful because of the high volume of people plugged in; this is news accessible to everyone, because not everyone is as connected to media outlets as a Journalism student, perhaps.

Social media like Twitter, which allows virtually everyone a voice, played a major role in breaking the story of the start of the revolution in Cairo. It is also very telling how powerful it was, since the government in Egypt blocked Twitter and Facebook to attempt to silence its revolutionaries. I’ve read they’ve found ways around this, however, which supports the fact that even in times of severe instability surrounding a dictatorship, the word still gets out.

This is also because of the diligent work of local journalists and foreign correspondents who have dedicated themselves so relaying the goings-on in Cairo to the rest of the world. I’m sure many would agree there isn’t much that compares to watching a revolution unfold. It’s exciting and historical all at once, and those reporting on it do so in a way that makes us care about these people in peril.

As far as the revolution of communications and media, most journalists seem to be embracing all resources available to them. Most, if not all, news sites employ social media tools to promote the sharing of articles and information over the widest spectrum possible. Through this mode of sharing, news is sure to reach practically every demographic connected to the internet.

“Citizen journalists”, those lacking any credentials but with a keen interest in reporting on what they see through amateur photography, video, and blogging, are both a help and a hindrance to professionals. The revolution of social media which has propelled the outbreak of citizen journalism provides a starting point for a potential in-depth story for true journalists, but is also problematic for its likeliness to be overly opinionated or inaccurate.

I’ve been getting my news from The Globe and Mail and CBC, for the most part.

ProPublica

Posted: February 2, 2011 by braillebone in #3 Propublica

It’s undoubtedly uncomfortable to read articles like Inept Nurses Free to Work in New Locales, but it’s investigative pieces like this that bellow ProPublica’s purpose: what we don’t know does hurt us.

It may be fair to assert that pieces uncovering horrible truths concealed for any length of time make readers cynical, but more importantly, they make readers aware.

It’s terrifying to think one might have to be cautious about their caregiver at a hospital or weary of leaving children with a licensed nurse; what reason might anyone have to doubt Orphia Wilson, a home health nurse,  could be responsible for at least two child deaths? Perhaps no reason, if the matter was never to be investigated by an organization such as ProPublica. But she was, and has lost her registered nursing license although she has been issued new ones in different states because of poor regulation.

This investigation was extensive, recovering data from various reports and records spanning several states. Under the continually decreasing budgets of general newsrooms, deep-digging pieces such as this Los Angeles Times collaboration simply don’t get done. And if they do, they’re not of the same caliber because the resources aren’t available.

ProPublica is a non-profit, fully funded organization not driven by any commercial agendas that might impede journalistic integrity or freedom to do controversial and hard-hitting stories. As a result, stories like Inept Nurses Free to Work in New Locales uncover alarming information about situations and people most of us would have otherwise assumed honest and safe. The public’s level of awareness is increased, and they are better equipped to know and understand a suspect situation when it presents itself.

The free and easily accessible investigative reports are available online on the ProPublica website, and its contributors specialize in detailed, investigative research and storytelling. This is public service if I ever saw it.

ProPublica’s raison d’etre is to shed light on the tough stories everyone else fears to touch or don’t have the time or resources to do justice for. This is what makes it a fascinating and increasingly necessary publication. If lowered budgets compromise journalists’ ability to do long-form, well-researched investigative pieces, vital stories don’t get told.

While a publication such as the Los Angeles Times do collaborate with ProPublica, which benefits ProPublica’s circulation and readership, the relationship also benefits the larger publications because of added potent researchers and other resources like reporters and overall skills from the field.

The more sound and solid the journalism, the wider circulation of the articles, which in turn does an even greater justice to society in providing them with the highest standard of in-depth news available.