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Weather, the Journalist’s enemy!

Two days before Valentine’s Day, the High Country received one of the old fashioned snow storms that people love to talk about. It started lightly enough with only two inches or so staying on the ground. Then it got worse, and worse and worse. Now Appalachian State is not known to cancel classes just because of snow as so many other universities in North Carolina are, but this was one exception. Calling off classes on February 13 students were overjoyed, but Journalism students were left with a conflict-how will we get our stories done with no school? I had already begun working on my story, and with the storm could not get to campus to interview my sources.  Now I know that in the real world of Journalism, the chance of story deadlines being pushed back would be slim to none. Thankfully though, the snow was just deep enough to actually make this a reality. Instead of rushing around trying to track down my sources at the very last minute, I was given another week to talk to people, to get the facts right and to add more details. I am one of those writers that can write under pressure, but the end result will not be as good as it would have been if I had been given ample time. Now that the story has been written, I am proud to say I feel as if I was able to put all the story pieces together for the story, despite the weather. But the bigger question is, do the readers think the story is good enough?


A journalist’s perspective of a journalist’s perspective of the breaking news out of Boston

It is currently 2:51am as I type this and I have been following the breaking news that started out as a police officer being shot at MIT near Boston, since it happened around midnight.

What began as a single shooting has now broken into a search involving both state police and the FBI due to the perpetrators supposedly being the two men being accused of the Boston Marathon bombings on Monday.

As a student journalist, I have NEVER seen anything like this play out on social media. I was alerted to this situation via Twitter, and was soon led to subscribe to this list. Because my roommate is sound asleep, I chose not to turn on the tv, but I really do not need to because this list is probably better than any tv report I could get. That is because it is not made up of just anyone, but over 20 journalists that are on the scene right now, and live updating it.

Somehow, many of them are actually writing their articles  on their phone and immediately sending it to their editors, such as this one, while also live tweeting the play-by-plays. Never have I seen such a dedicated group of journalists act on the job, and have it all available for us.

I don’t know how much sleep I am going to get tonight because as a journalist, I can’t shut my eyes until this is entirely played out. Even if I am a walking zombie tomorrow (or today depending on how you look at this), I will now that it was because of dedicated journalists that I was entirely informed.

For a journalist, when does it stop being about the story?

It has been over 24 hours since the tragedy in Boston occurred. As much as I did not want to, I found myself glued to my computer most of the day reading most of the articles that had been released. Now we know some of the names of the people, like Martin Richard, the 8-year-old who was watching his father run the marathon. Or we have seen videos of those racing into the barricades to help those that were injured.

These videos also show what the media did, and even as a journalist, I was frustrated. In this one, which was clearly taken right after the blasts, you can hear people crying for help. While others rush to their aide, you see the media taking picture after picture of the gruesome site. In class, we say all the time that the job of the news and the media is to report the news to the people. With situations like this, however, I also feel like it is the job of the journalist to get the story but then help as much as possible if they can.

I have never been in a situation similar to that of the Boston bombings, and hope that I never am. Should I be, however, I feel as if I would be compelled to drop what I was doing and help anyone I possibly could. The most common photo or story coming out of yesterday’s incident is that of Jeff Bauman, the runner that is in many publications today seated in a wheelchair and being rushed to receive medical attention by a man wearing a cowboy hat. His story is also that of Carlos Arredondo,the man in the hat. Arredondo was not running the race but handing out flags in memory of the son he lost in Iraq. When the blasts went off, he immediately jumped over the barricades to get to Jeff, and it is because of him that he is alive today.

To a new journalist, getting the story and writing it well is possibly the most important task you have. In incidents like Boston, however, the story should take second precedence over helping someone who is right in front of you. I look at the videos of the photographers snapping pictures of the wounded and think, “How many more people could have received attention if they were not so focused on getting the picture?”

We journalists have a responsibility to people to tell the story of the day, but then we also have a responsibility to help our fellow man should they need us. This is when our jobs become more than just getting the story, it is about being a part of the story and doing whatever we can to help.

What can journalists learn from the Boston tragedy?

If you have tuned into the news or been on any form of social media this afternoon, then you most likely know about the tragedy that is unfolding in Boston. I had just come back from class when I saw the news. Yes, I mean saw, as in from someone’s Facebook post saw.

In a matter of minutes of the blasts, there was already a hashtag, #BostonMarathon. TV stations that were recording the race live caught the blasts, instantly making the videos viral. And the press pictures taken at the blast site are now all over the web.

We sadly have had to go through so many tragic events this year.  With each one though, I see a new way in how the media handles it.

In the case of the Newtown shooting, the focus was on the fact that the victims were predominantly children. In the Aurora movie theater incident, the killer’s mental state was highly covered. With this most recent tragedy, it is unclear what story will take predominance.

I have been on Twitter/Facebook since soon after the explosions occurred, and there are already dozens of stories coming out. There are accounts of heroism pouring out amidst the confusion, as well as the bleak outlook of eye witnesses  from the scene. Then you see heartbreaking stories such as how the 26 and final mile of the race, where the explosions occurred, was dedicated to the 26 victims of Newtown and members of the Newtown community were actually running the race at the time.

As an up-and-coming journalist, the fact that so much media on this event has been created in a matter of hours amazes me. What is even more incredible is the fact that so much of the incident was caught live, while the world was watching. The bombings are a horrific tragedy, and is an incident, in my opinion, that has happened too many times to keep happening.

What I am taking away from this right now, however, is not the bloodshed but the fact that because of the press people around the world were notified within minutes of the tragedy. Not only do people around the world now know EXACTLY what happened, but people know that their loved ones are safe because of the race/person finding site set up by Google. Or that because the Red Cross tweeted the need for blood, there is now enough  to cover all the injuries.

Many times people badmouth the press for being too nosy or too one-sided. Today and in similar incidents, all protocol and controversy goes out the window. What is important is getting the information to the people and fast. In this frame of mind,  the way the media has handled the bombings should be applauded for speed, efficiency, and information. And if we keep using this model of live and social media updates, I doubt that there will ever be a situation again where anyone is uninformed.

Social media, the new news outlet

How many times a day do you log onto Facebook and Twitter? 3,6 or 9 times a day sound about right? 48% 18-34 year olds check Facebook as soon as they wake up, so those numbers wouldn’t be too unrealistic for most people. When the website started, it was just for socialization with friends on the internet. Now eight years later, it is so much more than that.

I can remember being in high school, and first getting a Facebook profile. The layout then looks absolutely amateurish compared to timeline, but back then, it was revolutionary. It wasn’t before long that the rest of the world caught on to what us teenagers were going crazy over, and now here we are. Instead of going to a publications website for stories, most of the time I just check their Twitter feed or Facebook page. They update both just as fast as the website, sometimes even faster. Also, I have always found it interesting what others are saying about a publication which both of these social media outlets show.

And to be honest, most people our age are more likely to put information on either their Facebook or Twitter page before actually telling anyone. I cannot count the number of times I have been asked by my parents how I heard a story before they did, and my reply was simply, “Facebook or Twitter.”

The big question now is, why do we put so much of our lives on social media pages? Now, because it is so popular, do we feel obligated to share EVERYTHING with the world? Personally, I think it is more an issue of convenience. If you put something either on Facebook or Twitter, you are absolutely guaranteed that someone will see it. This is how stories get spread, and why the news is now moving faster than ever before.

There is a downside to all of this, but I’m not too sure we even know what that is yet. I know people are saying that Facebook and Twitter will phase out in a few years, but I think the mindset we have will stick around for awhile. I just hope that if that should happen, we have not become too reliant on social media to the point where we do not know how to report the news without it.

In diar situations, when should the media back off?

If you are like me and my family, then you have been watching the NCAA basketball final four tonight. Everything was going fine in the first half (if you do not like Duke), until Kevin Ware jumped for the ball. If you’ve seen the footage already, then you know what happened. If you haven’t I won’t go into graphic detail, but just know that he won’t be playing basketball for the next year.

In our ever changing world, news happens in just a matter of seconds. And when something out of the ordinary happens on live television, there is absolutely nothing that will stop the cameras from catching it. In the case of Kevin Ware’s injury, however, how far is going to far for the media?

You hear stories all the time about paparazzi annoying celebrities who are just walking around town. But then, you have these breaking news stories that are happening as the world is watching and the media just happens to be there. It is all too easy for the media to run over to a celebrity or an athlete and start snapping away or asking questions. But then this gets in the way of either people living their lives, or in Kevin’s case, the paramedics.

I completely understand that people need to be informed of what is going on around them. It is just when the news crews get too close for comfort in some situations, and interfere with what is going on. That is where a boundary for the media needs to be set, and possibly even who they can talk to.

As soon-to-be journalists, we need to seriously consider how to approach these types of situations. In this field, there is no way you can sit and wait for the sources to come to you, but you also need to know how to handle these situations. Even as normal citizens, breaking news stories are not easily dealt with. Knowing just how far you can go with a story, however, will save you quite a bit of time, and your sources will thank you too.