Saturday, July 3, 2010

Journalistic Perks: Kagan Hearings and Russian Spies

This summer, I'm interning with the online news publication Main Justice (www.mainjustice.com), which focuses on the Department of Justice and federal courts. The outfit is small, but I'm learning there are a lot of perks to a small newsroom in the big city. While you don't get some of the more traditional corporate perks — free coffee in the office, for instance — I'm getting unparalleled experience and a chance to see really amazing things in Washington.

Case in point: This week I reported on the confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan. It was amazing to be in the center of such a consequential story. The photo below shows me at the press table in the back of the hearing room, taken by a coworker:

Channing Turner reports on Elena Kagan
Covering the hearings themselves turned out to be brutal; I spent nearly the whole time glued to my computer screen, writing frantically in order to keep our live blogging updated. My coworker and I traded off duties: one listening/note-taking and the other writing quick posts for the website, the vice versa. Ensuring you correctly quote senators while trying to write fast racks the nerves. Luckily, I had recording software in my laptop that made it fairly simple to go back and double check a quote.

I also saw three potential Russian spies this week in a courtroom in Alexandria. Not much happened — it was a quick detention hearing to set bail and even that didn't happen because the attorneys were granted a continuance from the judge based on "new information from the government" — but it was just cool to see.

I'm racking up serious social cred over Facebook and through small talk. Not many people can answer with Russian spies and Supreme Court justices to the question of what you did today. Washington is definitely the best place to be a journalist.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Undocumented Students and the DREAM Act: signatures included

Just for good measure, I uploaded my honors thesis on undocumented students to Scribd. Most of it will be the same text found on www.undocstudents.com, sans cool Flash navigation. However, there are portions that I left out of the website, including a section on recommended changes to the Act (that's for you to look at in particular, Dad) as well as my spiffy, signed signature page!

Undocumented Students and the DREAM Act



I feel like the real theme of my thesis experience is: eat your heart out academic journals; I can self-publish on the Internet.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Undocumented Students and the DREAM Act

My thesis is finally up! http://undocstudents.com/index.html


It's been a long time coming, and I'm proud of the result. Unfortunately, my project went online approximately 7 hours after Gov. Jan Brewer signed SB 1070 into law, the toughest enforcement law against undocumented immigrants ever seen.

It's hard to accept—that the Legislature of our state could stoop so low. In the face of rampant opposition, clear analysis labeling the bill unconstitutional, and a rebuke from the president, the bill will become law.

There are so many facets to the wrongness of today's situation—a Legislature unconcerned with constitutionality, the very apogee of their duty; ignorance of the role undocumented immigrants play in Arizona; unprincipled political pandering; the unabashed hypocrisy of expanding and diverting resources while standing on a platform of conservatism.

The list could go on.

I'm frightened. The law will make the students I've worked with, and become close to, criminals. Their faces display prominently in the project, the cause of its impact but a liability all the same. I'm not sure I have their courage, the courage to continue fighting in the open against such irrational hate.

I can only hope this openness signifies a watershed for the immigration debate. Against such extremist policies, perhaps others will finally be stirred to action. Let's all hope. Let's all dream. Let's all wake up to a sane world, not the world I witnessed today—a world gone mad.

Monday, April 19, 2010

My thesis on undocumented students


I finished my honors thesis today, a "new media documentary" (pretentious way of saying documentary website) on undocumented students in Arizona. In an infelicitous turn of events, the Arizona Legislature choose today to pass the toughest enforcement law on undocumented immigrants in the country: SB 1070. Dramatic? Yes, but I just hope things don't go from bad to worse as I unveil my project.

I have a big problem with what the Legislature is doing, but I have a bigger problem with the ignorance they've displayed by pushing this bill through. Living in Arizona, you slowly become desensitized to the perfidy of our politics, but without a doubt this one goes too far.

Let's step back. I've come to realize — and I hope my project will portray — that undocumented immigrants are not a homogeneous group. They are as varied as ordinary, documented citizens in their circumstances, values and appearance. My experiences tell me the Arizona Legislature is wrong. Not only are they ignorant of these simple human truths (the reality of human pluralism), but they seem too wrapped up in their hubris and self-righteousness to consider the implications of their actions.

Just whom are we deporting? Are we correct in refusing to let these people stay in this country or are we removing the very people who can help us strengthen this state? What makes you a citizen beyond your seemingly arbitrary birth on a particular plot of land?

Those are just three questions I hope my thesis cause people to ask themselves. I don't aim to change minds. I just want to get people to question the stereotypes they've constructed for undocumented immigrants. I'll link to the project as soon as it's online, which should be in the next couple days.

Here goes nothing...

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Teleconference Johannesburg & Ushahidi

Being in my Digital Media Entrepreneurship class brings a lot of perks.

For one, we just got free Google G1 phones to help us explore (fool around with) the emerging possibilities of mobile devices.

Gotta turn this phone into a business.

But not all perks are gadgets. For instance, today Professor Dan Gillmor set up a Skype-powered teleconference with Ory Okolloh, a leading political activist and digital media innovator in Johannesburg, South Africa. Okolloh is responsible for Ushahidi, a web site that works with submitted text messages to display, aggregate, and map information. If you don't think that sounds cool, you haven't seen all the ways humanitarians and aid workers have utilized Ushahidi, especially in Haiti. (Also see this cool TED talk with Okolloh.)

As part of today's teleconference, I asked Okolloh to talk about Ushahidi and its future applications. I'm currently working on a digital media service that aims to do similar things with mobile phones, and it was nice to hear her talk about the same ideas my project group has also discussed.
video
Even better, Prof. Gillmor recorded the call so I can share it here. I sit down with my questions about 20 minutes into the video. (Who is that handsome man?!)

It pays to have professors plugged into the latest digital media.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Navajo reservation by proxy

Haven't updated in a while. Blame school and my "other woman" blog.

This semester has been a flat-out rat race of online design and multimedia. In particular, my online media class has been pounding the creative pulp out of me. We're currently working on a news-y website on the Navajo Reservation.


I find design incorrigibly challenging. Maybe it's just a lack of creativity on my part. Or maybe I'm just not a very "visual person." Trying to learn design basics and acclimate to unfamiliar design software sometimes feels like the intellectual equivalent of ramming a square peg through a round hole: with enough force, it will go though, but it may not be pretty in the end. Luckily my class is heavily feedback- and revision-oriented — a much-needed chance for redemption.

But while design is challenging — and often frustrating when the grades come back — stumbling on something that just "works" can be a real rush. I'm pretty proud of this Flash timeline we made for our Navajo projects, which I'm not able to post because I can't figure out how to post Flash objects in Blogger. Here's the teaser graphic anyway.

I'll link to the actual product when we're completed.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

First Friday: by day, by night

A bit belated, I figured I should post a small project I finished last week for my Digital Media Entrepreneurship class — a geotagged map of the monthly First Fridays art walk in downtown Phoenix.


View First Fridays: by day, by night in a larger map

The rationale behind this assignment was to have us experiment with the new potentials of tagging, the act of labeling or categorizing content online. Dan Gillmor, one of the two professors for my course, believes online tagging could revolutionize the Internet. It has disrupted the traditional taxonomy of content organization — he calls the new system a "folksonomy" in reference to its origin through crowds of people from the bottom-up — opening up new possibilities for arranging and finding content. Geotagging represents just one unconventional form of tagging information.

First Friday has become a main-stay of journalism projects for Cronkite School students — it's a really easy subject to cover and provides fairly engaging content — so I had to come up with a slightly different angle. While going through my photo library, I found a bunch of daytime images from the downtown area that I shot when I first bought my newest camera (a Canon Rebel XSi). So, using Google Maps, I paired shots from the day with shots of the art walk to illustrate how spaces change every first Friday of the month.