Signing off, for J2150, Shannon Robb

I was really nervous for this class at the beginning of the semester. Just like I had for J2000 and J2100, I left the first day of lecture wide-eyed and worried. Yet, I sat through my last lecture on Monday and my final two lab classes on Tuesday and Thursday. I published our final project website online and we presented it to the class. Now I’m writing my final blog post. Somehow, I have made it through J2150.

Our final project went surprisingly smoothly. There are some things I wish had gone differently, such as I wish we could have taken some footage at an outdoor practice, but that likely would have taken some deal-making with Mother Nature or Father Time to make this project take place some time other than December. I also wish the lights in the warehouse where Mizzou Slackline Club held their weekly indoor practices weren’t so harsh and overbearing because it made getting the lighting right for the photographs hard.

I took over the photography for the project, and it certainly was the most difficult part for me. Though I had gotten the hang of the Nikon cameras during the beginning of the semester with our Seeing Red and Three-Photos assignments, I had to reacquaint myself with the different features and settings of the camera after weeks of using other equipment. Similar to the issues I had with the photography for the CoMo Derby Dames, I was having trouble finding the right combination of settings to capture the quick movements of the slackliners without blurring them and also get enough light exposure. I was able to find the correct combination for some of the shots, but there were also a lot of failed attempts. Faces in dark shadows, orange-tinted skin, blurry hands and feet.

I also worked on the audio portion of our project, as well as put together the website. We used Wix for our website, which made the process easy for a first-time website builder. However, I almost would have preferred something less simplified. I enjoyed the options of templates that Wix offered and the simplification was quite convenient at first, but by the end of the project, I would have preferred some different options for design.

Overall, despite some hang-ups and a few moments of worry toward the beginning about being able to complete the project in time, I’m quite happy with our final result: Walking a fine line. Our team worked together quite well, and we were able to finish our project in plenty of time without having to make any stressful, mad-dashes at the last minute to fill in major holes.

With the publication of our website and the publication of this final post, I will have completed my J2150 career, and it certainly has taught me the basics of photography, audio and video editing and using social media which will likely be convenient later on.

Signing off from the Missouri School of Journalism J2150, Shannon Robb.

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Analysing web analytics

As I’ve discussed previously, technology and I aren’t exactly in a friendly relationship all the time. By and large, I don’t understand nearly as much as I probably should about computers and websites and other applications. So some of the more technical aspects of Brad Best’s web analytics lecture, such as what exactly Google Analytics measures on different websites and how it measures them, went over my head. However, I was able to glean from it the broader importance of web analytics for websites.

It seemed to me that web analytics would certainly be helpful from the strategic communications and public relations side of journalism, when creating websites to represent clients and help sell a product. I though it would perhaps be more helpful in that regard than when creating a website that provides information on a subject such as those we are creating for our final projects, but I also picked up on certain things that can be understood from web analytics that can help create a better informational, reporting-type website as well.

The reports that web analytics create, such as those that monitor page views and how long a site visitor remains on that particular page for instance, could certainly be an indication of a hidden gem within the journalistic website. If people seem to visit a page that houses a smaller sidebar of the overall story more often than the page that features the intended main focus of the story , this could be an indication to pursue a couple of different actions.

1) Redesign the website to ensure an even larger number of people see the popular page.

2) If the sub-story seems to be garnering a lot of popularity, pursue it further. Turn it into an even larger story that can add to what has already been reported. People have already expressed an interest in it, so even though it was originally only a smaller aspect of the overall story, it is obviously something that would please the audience if they received more.

Web analytics, in this way, are another way in which journalists can communicate with the audience, though this is not a direct communication in the same way that Tweets or Facebook comments are. Journalists can get a further understanding, though, of what types of stories, which aspects of certain stories, what sort of story presentation, etc. audiences enjoy. This information can then be used in the future to pursue other similar things and address the audience’s wants and needs when it comes to news.

The World Wide Web

The Internet overwhelms me. It overwhelmed me when I was looking at different colleges to which to apply. It overwhelmed me when I was trying to do some extra research on the candidates for the 2012 presidential election to better inform my decision. I simply don’t do well with the inundation of information.

Not being particularly technologically savvy probably doesn’t help, and so with these two weaknesses, the task of creating a website for our final project seemed quite daunting. So far, though, I haven’t found it to be impossible or too overwhelming.

I have taken on the task of being the main web designer (despite my less-than-genius when it comes to technology). I employed the use of wix.com to begin building our site for our project on the Mizzou Slackline Club.

For someone who is too easily overwhelmed by the sheer size and technicality of the Internet and websites, wix.com has so far eased me through the process. I’ve only made minimal changes to the template I chose, creating pages for each of the elements of our project and tweaking layout a bit, but I am looking forward to working with it more over break and getting some of our work on the site. The site will walk visitors through the different elements of our story (beginning with our text story and ending with the video), each one revealing something new about slacklining and Mizzou’s club.

I want to do some research on other websites (yes, this unfortunately involves venturing into the seas of Internet information once more to find what I am looking for) in order to find inspiration and tips about how to best set up our information and each of the elements of the story. As a starting point, I will probably refer back to the five multimedia sites I mentioned in my first post ( “Multimedia journalism done well”) to examine how they each present their stories to audiences.

Journalistic writing as a creative endeavor

While enrolled in J2100 news writing last semester, it was sometimes difficult to remember the more creative aspects of being a journalist. We were so focused on learning the technicalities of news writing (e.g., following AP and Missourian style) and producing so much work that it sometimes was forgotten that, though committed to the facts, journalism is still highly creative and embodies all the exciting elements of creativity.

I enjoyed that Rick Agran addressed it as such when he spoke at lecture about the 600-700 word stories we will be writing for our final projects in this class. I was a bit surprised when I read Agran’s bio on the Missouri School of Journalism website.

For most of his lecture, I was unaware that he was a fine arts and culture reporter until he mentioned it toward the end. As I will be entering the Arts and Culture sequence next semester, I found this particularly interesting. I also was intrigued by the fact that he has written a children’s book, produced a radio show about poetry, and is, himself, a poet. Agran seemed to me a mix of my two worlds at Mizzou, as I am majoring in both Journalism and English.

While it is highly important to get the facts straight and write consistently in line with the style guide of the publication for which you work, journalism stories can–and should–still have those elements of creativity and art. Like the picture of the mosaic Agran showed us, each element (facts, style, and creativity) is a piece that is cemented together to create a larger, more beautiful whole. I very much enjoyed the fact that, instead of focusing so much on the technical aspects which I thought is what the lecture would be about, Agran talked about writing our stories for our final project as a creative endeavor in ways such as using free writes to brainstorm ideas, while tying it to the journalistic goals of reflecting the audience’s needs, investigating the questions of what we don’t yet know and answering the larger question, ‘Why should we care?’

Agran’s lecture was a nice reminder of the fun and creativity that pursuing journalistic stories can yield, which I sometimes forget amidst the stress of fulfilling the technicalities.

State Historical Society examines political symbolism

COLUMBIA–On Election Day 2012, The State Historical Society of Missouri’s exhibit, “Elephants and Donkeys: Animal Symbolism in Political Cartoons,” seems particularly relevant.

“She [Dr. Stack, curator] really does try to connect…with what’s going on in the larger world,” Chief Museum Preparator Greig Thompson said.

The exhibit, located in the corridor gallery of the SHS office in Ellis Library, features political cartoons over the decades that use animal symbols to convey their messages.

“It’s a very easy to understand record of the history of the two political parties,” Thompson said.

Candace Korasick, professor of global ethics and a sociology class titled “Animals and their Humans” at Stephens College, was previewing the exhibit before bringing her class on Thursday, November 8.

“I want to show them how representations of animals affect opinions,” Korasick said. 

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Candace Korasick walks the SHS gallery of political cartoons at the University of Missouri on Tuesday, November 6, 2012. She plans to bring a sociology class to view the exhibit to understand how animal representations, such as those of the elephant and donkey in politics, can affect opinion.

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The SHS exhibit at the University of Missouri also features a station where visitors can try their own hand at creating political cartoons.

Photo Editing

I have long had an interest in photography since taking a class during my freshman year of high school. I was unable to continue taking photography classes as high school continued though, so I was looking forward to having the chance to get back behind the lens for some time in this class (even though the situation of photographing as a journalist is a bit different than what I did in my freshman year).

It was harder than I was expecting to remember how to adjust the settings and get the shots I wanted, and partially as a result of the less-than-pretty pictures I’ve turned out over the course of this semester, I decided being a professional photographer for a news publication and likewise, a photo editor would each be difficult jobs.

I thought it was interesting that, as mentioned in lecture, being a photo editor entails a lot more than just choosing the photos to use in layouts. Filling the photo editor position also means working with designers, reporters and other editors; choosing photographs that not only look good but are compelling to the reader and help tell a full story on their own in addition to whatever text or audio they are accompanying; and act as a line of defense for their reporters.

In researching more about what  a photo editor does, I ran across this blog: A Photo Editor. Rob Haggart writes the blog and was the former Director of Photography for Men’s Journal and Outside Magazine. In his blog post “Becoming a Photo Editor,” Haggart discusses the preliminary steps that should be taken in order to fill the above criteria of the photo editing job well.

With a sense of humor conveyed through his snarky aside comments, Haggart has many posts in addition to “Becoming a Photo Editor” that provide a look into the world of a photo editor. He includes short posts, such as “Why digital magazines are thriving” via MediaTel:Newsline, as well as longer posts: a review of Jonathan Hollingsworth’s new photography book written by contributing writer (and fine art photographer) Jonathan Blaustein.

And so it begins

Though this semester is only half over, I have enrolled in a selection of courses for Spring 2013 and know that the rest of this semester will go quickly. Once you write in a week’s worth of “No School” for Thanksgiving break on the calendar and then return to campus from the festival of eating and sleeping that is said week, there are precious few weeks of Fall 2012 left. Then the studying begins, final projects come together and it truly is time to start in on the next round of courses. And so, as silly as it seems to already be looking at next semester because it seems so far away, it must begin. Likewise for, at least considering, what I really want the basic framework of the rest of college (and perhaps a bit beyond that) to look like in my life.

My plan at this point: the Magazine Arts and Culture Journalism interest area. I’ve been accepted; I’ve enrolled in the first class; I’ve already begun worrying. I am very excited to begin my sequence next semester, but I can’t help but worry a little bit. Firstly, because I’m a worrier; it’s simply in my nature. Secondly, because I feel as though this is the beginning of the rest of my life; it directly affects what I would like to do with my career and so, as a combination worrier/blow-things-out-of-proportion expert, I feel like my whole life could unravel in front of me if I mess this up. Thirdly, because the J4450 News Reporting class that I will be taking to kickstart this interest area seems a bit daunting.

Then again, so did J2100 last year and so did this Multimedia class. I did the same worrying thing before both of these courses. Yet here I stand, having successfully made it through J2100, and I am still surviving this course (hopefully a good sign for the weeks to come). I have to keep this in mind when the blowing things out of proportion setting kicks into high gear.

News Reporting may seem daunting now, and it likely will be stressful and hard to manage in the moment. But somehow, I will find my way through it, and I will learn a lot about being a good journalist in the process. As daunting as it seems, reporting for the Missourian is also something exciting to which I am looking forward.

I couldn’t help but begin to feel a little overwhelmed during the lecture on Monday as I thought about all the things to come in my time as a journalism student at the University of Missouri, but I need to remember to breathe. It’s going to be hard, but I’m becoming a journalist in the process and moving a step closer to what I’d like to do with my life.

In the meantime, I’ll just look at some art magazines for inspiration to get me through:

Juxtapoz Magazine

Aesthetica

Plus: Five Arts & Culture Magazines that Rock Social Media