Brainstorms


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This is why I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE Facebook. Seriously. It makes me cry all the time.

I was searching for people from my high school and the name of this guy popped up. He was a great person, very friendly and decent and fun to be around. So I Friended him. I didn’t even know if he would remember me!! But I loved high school and he had a warm smile and I remember him so well that I gave it a shot.

Below is the note I got back. I mean, I know Facebook serves lots of daily, mundane, plan-making, time-wasting, insipid purposes for those 20 and under. But for those of us in our 40s, at least for THIS old broad in her 40s, Facebook is like a human time capsule reconnecting me with my favorite parts of my life and the wonderful people from those times.

I just got Friended by a girl who was my bestest friend when I was in 2nd grade. My daughter can’t believe I was ever her actual age AND that I had friends! Old neighbors, colleagues; these are not mere social networky associations. Many of these peoples’ faces and names alone make me burst into tears.

I am so moved and happy to reconnect with them and our connection — new media freaky-deaky as it is — is genuine and important. Why wouldn’t I have called them or searched for them? That’s another post. But for now, read the note below from my Facebook wall, and know that I’m still crying about the sweetness of an old friend from high school teaching his daughter life’s big lessons.

My wife and I were sitting at dinner when my Blackberry went off with the notification from Facebook with your friend request. When I told my wife you had sent me a friend request, she said, “How do I know that name?” And I reminded her of how I told my daughter (and her) about you when she was in first grade, about 10 years ago or so.

As she started school we were telling her to be nice and kind to people and I used you as an example of one of the nicest, kindest, smartest and prettiest girls in high school and I hoped she grew up to be just like you. And she has. The funny thing is that she also is considering journalism!

I see you are in Oregon…were you with the Tribune at some point? I think I remember seeing your byline sometime when we were in Chicago.

Your daughter is adorable. Hope you are well.

David

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Dan Reimold wrote a spot-on post on College Media Matters today, focusing on the potential perils and pitfalls of some of the new models for new media. I want it all to be great. I want these new ways of publishing to be fair and free and push democracy to new heights. But, (enter the nattering nabobs of negativity) but Reimold and others raise just the questions we all should be asking as we push ahead.

New Student Site: One-Stop Shop or Pretend Journalism?

I’m ambivalent.  Here’s the deal: The Philadelphia Inquirer has announced it is launching a new Web site aimed at providing a platform for the journalistic and creative work of college students throughout the Philly area, according to a new report in The Hawk at Saint Joseph’s University.  News reports, op-eds, blogs, photos, even fiction pieces are all fair game for the soon-to-be-active site, which apparently will feature dedicated areas for each school involved.

If the idea actually works, I envision an interesting mishmash of a site that might draw students in occasionally to see what their peers are passionately espousing or creatively vetting.  If the idea flounders, it will join the ranks of the growing number of what I’ve started calling pretend journalism sites, pseudo-professional outlets that seem more just for their creators to have a place to publish and not for the audience to actually have something worth reading or watching.

The question I am left with that makes me cynical about this particular venture: What does it *really* offer average students that their campus newspapers, the blogosphere, Facebook, and other area outlets do not already provide?  Sure, a one-stop shop for all types of content can be convenient, or it can come across like an overwhelming, inexplicable campus graffiti wall.

Welcome.

I’m a former newspaper reporter now teaching New Media Communications at Oregon State University. My students require an entirely new set of skills and talents than my Gen X peers did when we came up, when “media” was called “journalism” and things made more sense.

Now there’s a whole generation of editors and profs working under a whole new set of rules, trying desperately to hold onto as many of the old values of content, substance, accuracy, fairness, justice and professionalism while learning to Fark and Twitter and Vod and Pod.

This blog is me writing from that tightrope, balancing like we all are, on what feels like a crossroads made of dental floss. The extra trick for me is that this journey of technologizing and socially mediating my media is not one I’m making alone. I actually have to teach students what I know, while I’m learning it. So there it is.

  Like New Media itself, those of us who came up in Old School, big-city newspaper journalism are flailing in transformation. We have a trove of essential journalistic skills. We are diligent and enterprising reporters, skilled and empathic interviewers. We have a hound’s nose for news. We see stories leaping out of the woodwork and we know how to report the hell out of them and make them sing. We can pount out a 1500-word story in 24 minutes that does the readers and sources justice. We demand fairness, balance and accuracy of ourselves and our work.

We still believe deeply in the old saw about afflicting the comfortable and comforting the afflicted.

We learned on typewriters, moved up to Trash 80s and portabubbles; we transmitted stories through pay phone lines and the raw nerve of deadline dictation. We did not fight technology. No siree. We embraced the newfangled. We boogied and House Partied onto the Internet and got our first e-mail accounts in the 90s. We rode the Information Superhighway, pal. I mean, all our aerobics classes played Techno music!

But the story was still king. We worked on our own time writing those long Sunday Page One features about how the system failed the most vulnerable of us. We gave voice to the voiceless.

We wrote tight and bright when our bosses went to management conferences and learned we all had to write like USA Today.

We embraced the long and winding narrative lead where the nut graph didn’t make it before the jump.

We wrote touchy-feely trend thumbsuckers on parenting when our Boomer bosses started having kids.

When our bosses made us rip a comb through our hair and run an iron over our clothes we chugged down our Joe, spiffed up and dragged our perk-o-lated selves onto televsion spots, learning how…to…speak….using…a….telepromp….ter….um…without….um…cursing…much.

After two decades of the frantic, hectic, adrenalinized daily news life, you expect us to do WHAT now? Podcast and vodcast and slideshows? Yahoo who? Facebook my what? Film it? Blog it? Twitter it? Digg it? FARK it? 

Alrighty then, we say. Bring it.