AAJA Convention, Day 2

Okay, I’m back!

I wish that I had been able to continue this sooner, but when school and work have piles of deadlines, personal deadlines have a tendency to get pushed back.

On to day two of the convention…

The Present and Future of Print Journalism

Opportunities in Digital Journalism

A Hyphenated World

The Future of Mobile


The Present and Future of Print Journalism

I started off by attending “The Present and Future of Print Journalism,” which was sponsored by the Seattle Times.

The talk was focused on whether print even has a future. The answer I came away with was “yes,” but not a resounding one.

Although there was plenty of of discussion about the apparent problems with print—mostly the corporate ownership and lack of community focus—there were few proposed solutions.

For print to survive, it was proposed that news organizations need to figure out what it is “uniquely suited for,” or what it does better than any other medium. What that unique purpose might be was never elaborated on.

Don’t get me wrong, I love print. I think people will always prefer to read paper over a screen, but I also think that people will adapt to reading screens if it is cheaper and more convenient.

Much of this panel was focused on print’s transition to the Web. The concept of pay walls was debated well on both sides, and it is an issue that I think will need to be resolved for publications on an individual basis.

On the one hand, people are very much used to getting everything online for free, and consumers can feel betrayed when that suddenly changes. However, a company can’t continue to provide the news if it can’t pay the staff.

The pay wall has been proven to work for some companies, like Spot.Us. The trick is to keep the readers in control of the news. They can choose what news they are interested in and help fund those stories so they are able to be reported on.

Spot.Us has also played with the advertising model to make it work for them. Readers can participate in surveys to earn credits usable for funding stories.

It’s a clever way of doing business because the company only pays for stories that will get read, and they don’t have to guess as to which stories are “newsworthy.” The public tells them what is.

Opportunities in Digital Journalism

This panel, sponsored by NBC, focused too much on defining digital journalism, rather than exploring new opportunities it provides for journalists. The audience was told over and over again that digital journalism means a journalist who does it all, from the writing to the photography and video.

The “one man band” label was thrown about several times.

But what does this mean for journalists and journalism as a whole? Audience members were concerned that being the only one covering a story will compromise quality. After all, one person is never going to be as good at everything as a band of dedicated specialists.

The panel pointed out that although reporting single-handedly isn’t always the best approach, it has its benefits. Obviously, for a news corporation the money-saving is a huge benefit. The immediacy digital journalism allows for is rewarding for the audience.

But in terms of story-telling and producing quality journalism, having the ability to cover a story comprehensively by yourself allows greater freedom at times. Following the BP oil spill, one digital journalist was able to uncover the impact on the Vietnamese fishing community. This was in part due to his ability to speak Vietnamese, but it was also due to the fact that he didn’t have to wait for others to start reporting.

Consolidation in the newsroom and cost-cutting may not be the ideal situation to work in, but the resulting digital journalism trend will be here to stay.

A Hyphenated World

This was by far my favorite panel to  attend, and I almost didn’t go. Being a minority in the workplace, hearing about diversity can often time be boring. Obviously there needs to be more diversity; tell me something I don’t know!

The discussion here transcended that surface-level critique and delved into issues that are more relevant, but rarely mentioned in traditional workplace analyses. And all the while the discussion was funny and entertaining.

Being Asian-American means that you’re automatically part of this community, even if you aren’t actively involved in it. Just by being a member of a minority group, it can seem like you have to be an advocate for “your people.”

But advocacy isn’t journalism.

When reporting on stories involving people of your own race, the coverage still has to be fair. Sometimes, this can be difficult.

As a minority, it’s not uncommon to be stereotyped and wrongly associated with a certain ideal or behavior. When one member of the race is looked down upon, it can easily translate to the group as a whole. Just look at the way terrorism in America has given a bad reputation to the Middle Eastern community.

It can be tempting to give a member of your own race the benefit of the doubt in order to save your own skin. Similarly, a source might expect that you present him or her in only a favorable light due to shared race.

However, the fact of the matter is that if you engage in this behavior, it’s biased reporting.

The panel also brought up the idea that seeing negative coverage about a member of your race might actually be a good thing.

It used to be that Asians had such limited exposure that negative examples would seem too prominent a badge for us as a group. Now, increased exposure has allowed us to be more comfortable with a few bad seeds because it means we are being seen as equals in the media. There are a variety of personalities within the group, and we are not viewed as homogenous.

Bloggers from Disgrasian spoke at the panel and strongly held this view. Opening criticism toward our own race shows that there are people within our group that we like and don’t like, just as with anyone else.

The Future of Mobile

This panel focused on the latest technology in mobile and how it can be used to our advantage.

Part of using mobile effectively is understanding how people use it in their daily lives. If a person is reading a news story on their phone, they want the news to be quick and concise, because they’re probably looking at it in between other activities. A person’s attention span on a mobile device is much shorter than with any other medium.

A significant part of the discussion examined the latest iPad apps. Tablets are a relatively new part of the mobile market, and can be used differently from phones. The innovations in these apps may yield significant results, but at this point it’s just exciting to know that there are new possibilities.

Unfortunately, I don’t think I gained as much from this workshop as the others, but it was interesting to see what apps are being developed. More than anything, I left that discussion with a desire to own an iPad.


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A pause

Apologies to anyone who may be awaiting my next AAJA posts.

School and work has suddenly barraged me with a lot all at once, thus causing the delay.

I have begun drafts of the posts, and I hope to have them up shortly—or at least before the information becomes irrelevant.

Thank you for caring to read and bearing with me through this pause.

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AAJA Convention, Day 1

I went into the convention with the intention of being open to whatever experiences it led to, but my only goal was to have the experience and to learn something from it. Many people touted the networking opportunities the convention would provide, and I was open to that idea. I failed at being a networking machine, but I think I achieved my goal.

The first day offered special workshop sessions that required advance reservations to attend. I skipped those and opted to spend most of the day touring Hollywood and the surrounding areas. I wasn’t the only one playing hooky—I met two other convention-goers on the sightseeing tour. Tip for anyone interested in a double-decker bus trip: Wear sunscreen! I returned just in time for the student and new attendee mixers, where I hoped to make a friend or two to wander the convention with me in the coming days.

I met several people, but made no actual friends, just one “single serving” friend; it was a friendship of convenience that lasted for only the duration of the convention.

Many students came from more “prestigious” universities, which was slightly intimidating, but I was glad to be there to represent my school. I was surprised to find that there were non-journalism majors attending the convention. I wonder if it is better to be a major at a small school with a great journalism program (ahem, like mine!), or to attend a well-known university an be an English major who works on the student newspaper.

I’m not a neutral player in this game, but I think that the former is the better option. Though many people I talk to outside of school think that journalism and English courses must overlap, they don’t. My classes are tailored specifically to reporting, news writing and editing, and mass media law, whereas my English major friends are learning about things like modern British literature and poetry. I usually explain that my major is almost like attending a trade school. I cannot see how students can learn all this specialized information as well through a few weeks training before they begin writing for their school’s publication. But that’s just me.

Speaking with other students was interesting, but at times I felt a tension. Though we were supposed to be united by our common career ambitions, there was also a distance. Many people I talked to acknowledged the tough job market that we will be entering soon, and it was like meeting the competition. I also noticed a line between broadcast and print people. I was one of the few on the print side, which led to dead air on occasion.

Perhaps my inclination toward print, specifically editing, says something about my personality. I tend to be more of an observer, I don’t like to schmooze. If I meet people, I want genuine interactions, not just a quick exchange of business cards.

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Ask the experts

It’s been a while since I’ve updated this blog, but this past week I attended a journalism conference that has given me a reason to dust of the keyboard, so to speak.

The 21st annual Asian American Journalists Association convention was held in Los Angeles this year and I had the privilege to attend.

You can read about the convention at the official website, but over the next week or so I will post about my experience with the panels and workshops I attended. Topics included the future of print, mobile technology and diversity in the newsroom.

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Ro Sham Bo: Paper Beats All

Books can be burned, documents can be shredded, but paper is still eternal.

It sounds contradictory, but even in today’s digital environment where technology is constantly changing, print media isn’t going to disappear.

In recent years, traditional media of all sorts—from newspapers to vinyl records—have proven that people continue to hold value in them.

Compared to the fleeting nature of all things digital, the physical version is comfortably stable.

This stability, however, isn’t always a good thing.

The eternal nature of paper refers not only to the notion that paper products will continue to be valued by society, but also to the fact that what is committed to paper is permanent.

Content is fleeting on the Web, and mistakes can be corrected at any time. The same cannot be said of print. There is no “undo” button for paper, though some may wish for one.

I would bet that after an unforgiving interview with Rachel Maddow, author Richard Cohen is one of those left wishing.

The Ugandan government is using Cohen’s book “Coming Out Straight” as justification for anti-gay legislation that could allow the government to give homosexuals the death penalty.

In Maddow’s interview, she quoted the book to Cohen, who admitted that some information is incorrect and will be removed from the next edition.

Unfortunately the damage is already done.

I’m not saying that print is the cause of all this mess, but what is committed to paper is taken more seriously than what is on the Web, whether we like it or not.

The constancy of paper is what makes me both eager and cautious of my future as a journalist. I hope that what I contribute will have a lasting impression, but I must take care to make it the right one.

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Existential Crisis of the Web

“If it isn’t on the Web, it doesn’t exist.” – Tim Berners-Lee

I wonder if Tim Berners-Lee actually believes in that statement, or if he just likes the way it sounds.

If anything, I’d say that the reverse of that statement is closer to the truth. The Web is able to elaborate, update, and put a new spin on things we already know, but at its core our favorite Web sites are simply online versions of what exists in our physical realm.

Social networking sites like Facebook are a replacement for contact books and phone calls. YouTube is TV and home movies on the Web. Amazon is basically just a shopping mall. I hate to break it to you, Tim, but those all existed before the Web.

Also, just because it’s on the Web doesn’t mean it actually exists. Taking a trip out to Argleton will prove that.

To give more credit to Berners-Lee, I admit that the statement can be interpreted many ways. First, it seems like he’s saying the Web can do anything. This part I do not agree with. To me, the Web can substitute, show, and simulate just about anything, but all the pictures, video, and blogs about Paris won’t be the same as going there.

A second, more forgiving way to read this is that everything that exists has a Web counterpart. This interpretation seems more logical, since a Google search pulls up millions of results for obscure topics. But what about the things that Google can’t find? According to Berners-Lee, I guess they might as well not exist.

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Compulsory Education: Web 101 Needs a Place

When I was in high school, the district made a computer skills class a requirement for graduation. At the time, we all hated it.

“I already know how to use a computer!” I thought.

In reality, I knew how to play games and write up my homework on a computer. And I couldn’t even do that well. Until that class, I typed with my index fingers only.

I learned to make a laughable Web 1.0 page, and those meager skills are still rattling around in my brain somewhere. I only wish that I could have learned more.

It is becoming increasingly apparent that—as an aspiring journalist and member of modern society—I will need to know not only how to use the Web, but also know how it works.

These days it’s just common knowledge that computer literacy is a necessary skill in the workplace. However, I think that many people are afraid of new technology. It seems that people are simply becoming more apologetic for their lack of computer skills than taking initiative to learn.

But the Web isn’t going away, and it can no longer be avoided. It’s time to overcome the fear of computers* and the Web.

*And is it just me, or is that Web site ironic or what?

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