Author Archive

 Revitalizing Canada’s Oldest Incorporated  City.

Saint John is a city in need of media revolution.

I’m a lifelong west Saint Johner. I ventured up Route Seven three years ago to Fredericton, intent on pursuing a career in journalism. It wasn’t until I lived in a new city that I learned how different my home city is.

Saint John is home to some of the richest people in Canada, and the poorest. The Irving family, who own Irving Oil, J.D. Irving Limited, and all of the daily newspapers in the province, are in the top ten richest families in Canada. Saint John is also home to poverty, crime and urban sprawl. I’ve been fortunate enough to work for one of the Brunswick News papers in Saint John for the past two summers. The Irving family has drawn criticism for what has been referred to as a “media monopoly” on the province’s news. But for me, my summer internships have been an opportunity to get to know the city better and fall in love with Saint John.

The problem is, not everyone loves Saint John. It’s been described as Stinktown, and “the asshole of New Brunswick.” Not exactly complimentary. The people who dislike Saint John, dislike it. But the people who love it, love it A LOT.

I think the key to revitalizing the city is by harnessing these people for a multi-media project and newsletter. Saint John’s young population is dwindling, but the “hip and trendy” young city dwellers really make their presence known. These people have blogs, host parties, fashion shows, fundraisers, festivals and are the driving force behind some of the cities most successful small businesses.

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Oh, Julian …

Posted: April 5, 2011 by Hilary Paige Smith in #8 Wikileaks

There is something undeniably romantic about WikiLeaks. On the surface, it seems like there is this vigilante deliverer of justice, uncovering the wrongs in government. Deeper, it seems it’s all politics.

Julian Assange, founder and essentially Editor-in-Chief of WikiLeaks (if it can be classified as news), has been the subject of a flurry of media attention. It seems not only his activities online, but his personal life have come under scrutiny. I’m not entirely sure how I feel about Assange. He has this rebellious streak, this desire to uncover wrongdoings and this is something all journalists are drawn to. But he also plays this other, darker role, of someone who may be looking for fame, and just looking to push buttons.

WikiLeaks has been a great source of information for the public, but I find even the information shared by WikiLeaks plays second fiddle to the drama of WikiLeaks and Assange on their own. The Collateral Murder video footage itself recieved less media attention than WikiLeaks did releasing it. It seems almost absurd that this is what we as both journalists and consumers are concerned with and place our news value in.

WikiLeaks itself has changed the way we see news and certainly adds an element of suspicion and drama. I think journalists like the idea of exposing the government in this way. It also keeps them free of the consequences associated with exposing a huge story. With huge news, comes huge controversy, as well as both good and bad feedback.

I think the only thing WikiLeaks has really changed is a desire to get more information out in the open. Whether or not journalists take this as their opportunity to start digging up information for themselves remains to be seen.

This is an example of journalism based purely on the drama and mystique surrounding Assange, there are many like this. http://www.time.com/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,2036683_2037118_2037146,00.html

This is an example of media reactions to the Collateral Murder video footage. Even this story doesn’t really focus on any investigation into the incident detailed in the video.
 

State of the Media

Posted: April 4, 2011 by Hilary Paige Smith in Uncategorized

I’m sad, but not surprised to see that newspapers suffered a continued revenue hit. There is just something so real about the tangible feeling of news between your fingers. As much as I love the idea of receiving my news quickly and conveniently online, the romantic in me loves the feeling of newsprint.

Cutbacks in newsrooms slowed this year, which was good news. I noticed this year, the Telegraph-Journal in little Saint John, will be hiring an additional intern at their newsroom, something that bodes well for budding journalists in New Brunswick. The State of the Media, however, outlined how many jobs have been lost since 2000, and the outlook is grim. Somewhere between 1,000 and 1,500 jobs have been lost.

Social programmers and computer scientists are playing an increasingly large role in news delivery and the IT field is booming. Now, suddenly, there are roles for people making smart phone applications, tablet and iPad applications and who knows what else for news delivery. Newspapers could also be in a place to start making more money by putting up paywalls, and charging for their mobile and tablet services. One study found that 47 per cent of Americans get their news in some mobile form, which is huge, considering smart phones have yet to completely invade the population.

This is also the first time news readers have admitted they read more free, online news than purchase newspapers, another fact that doesn’t surprise me. I don’t blame readers, it would be rare for me to pick up a paper copy of a newspaper. Maybe on the weekends, when I’m feeling nostalgic, or in the summertime when I’m at home and my parents still get the daily paper.

The following is a statement that both disheartens me and disagrees with me,

“The result is a news ecology full of experimentation and excitement, but also one that is uneven, has uncertain financial underpinning and some clear holes in coverage. Even in Seattle, one of the most vibrant places for new media, “some vitally important stories are less likely to be covered,” said Diane Douglas who runs a local civic group and considers the decentralization of media voices a healthy change. “It’s very frightening to think of those gaps and all the more insidious because you don’t know what you don’t know.” Some also worry that with lower pay, more demands for speed, less training, and more volunteer work, there is a general devaluing and even what scholar Robert Picard has called a “de-skilling” of the profession.”

I do not agree with that statement. I think hard times falling on the journalism field has only made us more creative. It’s given us an outlet for new and exciting media projects. Now, more than ever, we’re incorporating social media, video, audio and print, as well as interactive graphics into our work. The best new example of this is the work in Nunavut recently done by the Globe and Mail, found here. I think it’s amazing what has been done with new media and journalism, and I see this being a profitable thing in the future. I think, as long as people are seeing great developments like this, it will increase their willingness to pay for products.

It has to.

Flooding, and the flood of updates.

Posted: March 22, 2011 by Hilary Paige Smith in #9 Japan

The tragic earthquake and subsequent tsunami that ravaged Japan last week sparked yet another social media revolution, not unlike the onslaught of updates during the uprising in Egypt.

This time, however, I felt like there was more harm than good being done online. Highly sensationalized Facebook and Twitter posts crowded my social networking feeds, leading me to believe Japan was split into four pieces, completely immersed in water and exploding entirely from nuclear meltdown. I found most people were posting in all capital letters, hoping their tweets were the ones to get retweeted. I felt like they were trying to capitalize on the misfortune of people living in Japan.

Every other photo or video post was labelled “THE SHOCKING PHOTOS YOU HAVEN’T SEEN OF JAPAN” or “SCARIEST FLOODING VIDEO EVER.” Every link I followed seem to take me to the same places. It was all very CNN.

The reaction online to the tragedy in Japan wasn’t all bad. I’m not going to bash every Japan-related tweeter and Facebook poster. Not everyone was in it for their hits counter. I think the tsunami opened up a lot of eyes across the world, and did allow people to get as close a look at true tragedy without actually hopping a plane to Japan. Even if people were being dramatic and hoping for hits, their message was effective and word spread rapidly, meaning the most amount of people possible knew what was happening.

I found the words of one PR Newswire reporter interesting, when he or she outlined the three things social media did well throughout the crisis. (http://www.prnewswire.com/news-releases/japan-and-the-critical-three-ways-social-media-plays-during-a-crisis-118445354.html)

Social networks proved to be an effective way of connecting victims and helping them find their loved ones, as well as letting them know support was out there (notable is the #prayforJapan hashtag that trended on Twitter for four days), as well as getting information from Japan itself and letting people know where to send relief aid.

Even YouTube and Google got in on the Japanese assistance effort. Google revamped their “Person Finder,” useful during the Haiti earthquake, to help connect people with their loved ones online and find out if they were okay. YouTube gave people in Japan and around the world a chance to post video logs, calling out for lost family members, trying to locate them, and offering words of support. They linked their channel with Google, making it even more accessible to people across the world.

(http://mashable.com/2011/03/18/youtube-people-finder-japan/)

I think this is a very effective use of social media. It is a great example of what an amazing tool the internet is, not just for connecting people, but for connecting people when they need it the most.

 

Faster fingers mean fewer fact-checkers.

Posted: March 1, 2011 by Hilary Paige Smith in #7 Ethics

How’s that for alliteration?

It sounded great. It was quick and it was quirky, sort’ve like a lot of headlines you see on the web.

Nowadays, journalists are so concerned with being the first to publish information, they neglect to make sure the information is factual. We’ve been seeing this more and more in the social media realm. The best, and most commonly used example is the plight of Gordon Lightfoot who was viciously murdered via social media last February. As a joke, someone falsely tweeted that Lightfoot was dead, and the tweet was quickly retweeted and spread across the internet like wildfire. The false news quickly made it’s way into high-circulation papers like the National Post and Ottawa Citizen and, later that day when it was determined the Twitterverse was retweeting a hoax, all papers had to write embarassing retractions.

All this because someone got too excited on Twitter and just had to be first. It would have been as simple as the Citizen calling Lightfoot’s management/record company/agent and getting their facts straight. But no, they had to jump into this headline race.

This presents major problems for reliability, accountability and truthfulness. Two of the Principles of Journalism are “Journalism’s first obligation is to the truth,” and “Its essence is a discipline of verification.” Nowhere in the Principles of Journalism, looked to by many journalists the world over, does it say “Journalism’s main objective is to be first.”

I think being up on the latest news is incredibly important, especially for media organizations, but I would rather read a story written well, rather than one hastily thrown together and pushed into the social media sphere for hits alone.

In my search for the 10 Principles, just to verify I was getting them correct, I stumbled across this. One of the first principles of “online journalism” I’ve ever seen. Now I can’t speak for how accurate this information is now (hey, I warned you), as it was compiled in 2007, but here it is. The Post’s 10 Online Principles.

http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/blogs/citydesk/2007/07/05/the-posts-10-web-principles/

I find their list to be a bit contradictory. They strive for accuracy, yet they also push for scoops and to ensure their readership doesn’t stray elsewhere.

Does anyone else have any thoughts?

Tweet, Tweet, Tweedly, Deedly, Deet

Posted: February 23, 2011 by Hilary Paige Smith in Uncategorized

I have been a Twitter user for close to two years, I believe.

When I first got my account, (@hilarypage) I was a bit of an inexperienced Tweeter, sharing only song lyrics and my plans for the day, very Facebook status-esque. As I grew more as a journalist and, after attending two different Canadian University Press conferences where Twitter practically governs the weekend, I decided to smarten up.

My Twitter feed isn’t as hard-hitting as most. I try my best to post funny links when they actually wow me. If I hear a good joke, or anti-joke, I’ll tweet it. I usually retweet someone at least once a day if I find the material in their tweet is sufficiently funny/informative/necessary to repeat. And I always appreciate when someone retweets me, especially if I’m trying to get news out about something.

I use my Twitter a lot for work now. If UNB news breaks, I’ll tweet it. I also use it as an advertising tool for my section of the Brunswickan (Hey #UNB, come to @Brunswickan story meeting, today at 12:30 in the SUB, Rm 35!).

My Twitter followers have grown steadily by about 150 in the past year. I’m now up to 205. My followers jumped enormously after I posted a link to a blog post I wrote about Saint John, my hometown. Saint John tweeters are fiercely proud of their city and my blog got 500 hits that day from Twitter users alone.

Twitter has been a really helpful resource for me. Just the other say I sent out a #help, looking for recommendations for a new internet browser and I got three responses, cementing my new browsing destination.

Here are the five things I learned…

I asked the STUSU reporter for the Aquinian what the STUSU exec. salaries are, and within the hour, both he and the STUSU president replied with the answer.

I decided to use Firefox as my internet browser after a number of people recommended it.

I entered a contest to win a painting from a gallery in Saint John, which hopefully, I will win.

I learned about the earthquake in NZ.

I found this great article, which everyone in this class should read, about media companies cashing in on unpaid contributors. http://www.nytimes.com/2011/02/14/business/media/14carr.html?_r=1

 

 

 

NPR and Wikipedia

Posted: February 15, 2011 by Hilary Paige Smith in Uncategorized

I think NPR is one of the best examples of membership-driven media on the internet and airwaves today.

I subscribe to This American Life’s podcast, a flagship NPR show, for free. All of the shows broadcast on NPR are available for free podcasting and I think this has been integral to their success. People don’t always have time to sit around and wait for their favourite radio show to come on the air. That’s why podcasting has become so popular. It’s portable and convenient.

NPR is known for their creative, high-quality content. They take the day’s news and take it from repetitive facts and headlines, to indepth analysis and commentary with shows like All Things Considered. NPR wouldn’t be this successful if it didn’t present news and features in exciting, creative ways. They’ve also mastered social networking by using tools like Twitter and Facebook to draw people to their site. Their site has archived shows for listening, as well as print stories. I know I’m gushing here, but I like NPR.

I don’t know if this counts, and I really hope I’m not way off-base, but I think Wikipedia is steadily becoming an excellent example of membership driven media. There are only members in the sense that there is a citizen editing staff, and a world full of contributors. People don’t pay for advanced services, but I can see that happening in the future if Wikipedia comes out with newscasts and daily highlights, etc… Wikipedia survives on donations from users, and people do donate because they see what value there is in the service.

I know to some people Wikipedia may just seem like some research tool or place to get movie summaries, but I actually use it for news. Lately, on Google News, I’ve been noticing links to Wikipedia articles alongside links to Globe and Mail articles. I think this is indicative of it’s growing success as a news provider. Yes, I followed headlines on CBC, the Globe and Mail and Twitter throughout the Egyptian uprising. But, just yesterday, I went to Wikipedia to read a detailed timeline to make sure there was nothing I missed. Here, all of the information from those stories was condensed into one convenient place, with sources to back it up.

I know some of you are probably rolling your eyes right now, I know the site has it’s flaws. But, it hasn’t failed me yet.

Egyptian Revolution and the Revolution Online

Posted: February 9, 2011 by Hilary Paige Smith in Uncategorized

I can’t log in to Twitter or Facebook without seeing some sort of headline about Egypt. The revolution in Africa has taken these social media circles by storm. “Jan 25,” “Egypt” and “Maburak” have been trending near constantly on Twitter since January 25th.

Though in recent days, the flood of headlines regarding Egypt on Google News has seemed to slow, the information on Twitter seems constant, with much of it coming from citizen journalists and reporters on the ground in Egypt.

The emotions behind Egypt-related posts seem polarized. Some posts are emotional, SCREAMING HEADLINES OUT IN CAPITAL LETTERS, while others are more subdued and seem to provide the exact same information.

One of the most touching posts I saw about the Egypt coverage was from an Egyptian citizen. On her Twitter, she doesn’t try to tout herself as a citizen journalist or photographer, merely providing her take on the revolution through Egyptian eyes. She posted a picture of Christian Egyptians protecting Muslims during prayer time. The photo has been viewed over 350,000 times and he followers on Twitter have climbed to over 4,500.

@NevineZaki updates frequently, and not all of her posts are revolution-related, but the interest in the revolution has still drawn people to her perspective.

I am particularly impressed with the work of Patrick Martin of the Globe and Mail on-site in Cairo. He, along with a fellow Globe reporter, were both detained when reporters were rounded up, providing an interesting experience for readers.

Sonia Verma, the other Globe reporter, shared her first person account of what happened. And though the situation was obviously dramatic, I didn’t feel Verma overdramatized her account of the situation.

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/world/crisis-in-egypt/transcript-sonia-vermas-close-encounter-with-egypts-roundup-of-foreign-media/article1893219/

I like seeing what people “on the ground” have to say about the revolution, not what people have to say at home. I haven’t been reading accounts of what Egyptians living in Canada have to say. I don’t feel it’s relevant. Maybe I just enjoy the drama and adventure of on-the-ground accounts.

It has been interesting watching history come alive online, especially because this is the first time in history something like this has been documented in this way. It makes me wonder if Twitter posts like the ones I mentioned above will someday make it into the history books.

We’ll see.

Zen and the Art of Reporting

Posted: January 26, 2011 by Hilary Paige Smith in Uncategorized

To me, it seems Robert Pirsig values simplicity. The stripped down, barebones feeling of traveling with family and friends, maintaining his mode of transportation with his own hands and entertaining philosophical ideals.

2011 is already fast-paced, guaranteed to be flash by even quicker than 2010 did. I heard somewhere that the majority of all phones are expected to be smart phones by the end of this year. Somewhere, companies are churning out these chunks of plastic, metal and data and calculating exactly how much money they’ll generate. And they will generate money.

I know this because I broke out of a phone contract, caused many a ruckus at Bell customer service and paid extra money to get a smart phone. Now, I can’t keep my hands off of it.

I got the newest Blackberry Bold model, because I had to have it. This new model came out mere months after the former did and I shelled out an extra $50 to have Blackberry 6, rather than Blackberry 5.5. I have no idea why. I just knew I wanted my phone to be faster, smarter and last longer. Now, when I see people buying Blackberries, they are buying this new model. Saving money isn’t important, getting the best product is. But are these products really the best?

Pirsig would argue they aren’t. Based on the information in his piece, I doubt I would argue they are either.

I bought my new smartphone with the full knowledge that another model would replace it and be better/faster/stronger in just six months, barely scraping the surface of my expensive three-year contract. I bought this even knowing the world is in for a smartphone revolution and companies would be working their hardest to churn out better models, leaving my Blackberry Bold 9780 in the dust.

This isn’t quality, it’s quantity. It’s getting products on shelves while they’re relevant and selling them as quality.

This same idea of quality vs. quantity and getting a product out, maybe before it’s at it’s best quality, is also a problem the news world is facing. I can update “news” from my smartphone in an instant, even before fact-checking or making  sure my work is of a high-quality. And many people do this.

Rumours are started every day online and news stories are blown far out of proportion by fast fingers producing low-quality journalism. This is a world where being first is better than being the best.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. I like the immediacy of tools like Twitter to give me my headlines quickly, and I appreciate the high-quality work on sites like the Globe and Mail to give me accurate information.

The quality vs. quantity (and speed) of reporting is changing, and this changes the way we receive and transmit news.

 

Hilary’s Media Blog Post

Posted: January 19, 2011 by Hilary Paige Smith in Uncategorized

I’m not proud to admit it, but media rules my life.

I am constantly checking my email, the Internet news feeds and my Blackberry for information that is either related to the world or my life directly. My overuse of online resources has also made me an adept multi-tasker.

I wake up in the morning and, after showering and getting semi-ready, I turn on my computer. Before I even hit the shower, my Blackberry is on and ready to go. I get email, Twitter and Facebook notifications sent directly to my phone and when I wake up, I know exactly what is going on in my online “social life.”

When I’m finally functioning enough in the morning to get on the Internet, I will go to both my email, Facebook and Twitter to make sure there is nothing I missed in my brief skim of these social networks first thing in the morning.

After my lengthy, half-hour walk to school, I will check my phone before going into class, usually checking only my email and Facebook notifications. It’s rare that I have anything in that time period, but for some reason, I feel drawn to checking it anyway.

Because my phone is silent, I can usually manage to stay away from it in a class environment.

When I am either at home, or sitting in my office at work, I usually have atleast one social networking feed on the go. My Facebook is usually open, but relatively untouched while I do homework, or surf the Internet. I don’t know how much of a distraction it really is for me, because I’ve been using them so long and so consistently.

I also regularly check newsfeeds, primarily through Twitter lists, Google News and the Globe and Mail. I have the Globe and Mail newsfeed application on my Blackberry, which I check maybe 10 times or so throughout the day. If I was to estimate my daily usage of the Internet, social networks and newsfeeds, it would probably total anywhere from six to eight hours of my day.

As a news editor, I could not live without the Internet. Whenever I hear buzz about news or new headlines, I feel compelled to check them almost immediately, something that couldn’t be done without accessible and mobile Internet.