Thursday, December 10, 2009

All the secrets on privacy law...

Last week, I completed my first law school class as an undergraduate. Through a program called "Project Excellence" (Could they have picked a more pretentious title?), the Barrett college allows undergrads to take classes in the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law. My class focused on information privacy law, which I thought would be an acceptable tie-in for a journalism major as well as an interesting topic to get some experience in an actual law school class. Right now during finals week, I'm just glad to be done.

I really did enjoy the class, taught by Dr. "Sandy" Askland, who proved extremely helpful for the three of us undergrads struggling up the learning curve. The class' small size (a 20-person seminar) also helped in comprehending the material, typically presented to 2L or 3L (second- or third-year) students. However, with certainty, I can say I've never had so much reading for a class before. It was a struggle to acclimate to law lingo and the work load expected of veteran law students, while not actually a law student myself.

It was also a bit intimidating to be among older, advanced students. The first day, one sitting next to me asked what year I was — "You a 2L or a 3L?" — to which I responded, "Oh, no. I'm an undergrad." The student turned to his friend and said, loudly, "Dude! This kid is an undergrad!" A true statement, though a bit embarrassing to have announced to the entire class. My dad loves that story.

So, all-in-all, it was lot of work. BUT, I did feel pretty spiffy walking around with my giant, leather-bound law book.

Below is my final paper on Internet anonymity. Of course, I'm still not sure of the result from an academic perspective (final grads haven't been posted yet) but I feel pretty good about it — my first ever law school paper.

Privacy of Identity and Association Online

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Protesters, journalists and Sheriff Arpaio

Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio faced questions from a panel of professor/reporters last night at the Cronkite School in a Meet-The-Press-style interview session, but the event was cut short by Queen-inspired protesters, just as Arpaio reached the topic of immigration enforcement.

Full disclosure: I am a Cronkite School student currently working on a thesis project about undocumented students and immigration law. That's the main reason I decided to attend the Arpaio event Monday night. I've heard the sheriff talk many times before while interning as a reporter for the Arizona Republic. I even covered a pro-Arpaio rally starring the man himself. I feel pretty confident in knowing the type of answers he gives and the rationale behind his actions. (see: "I'm just enforcing the law.") However, I needed more footage for my project, and figured the evening would be interesting — Arpaio speaking in my own living room, as it were.

I wasn't disappointed.

In a room filled with approximately 200 people (mostly ASU students), tensions were high as Arpaio spoke. The panel focused most on issues concerning First Amendment rights and public records requests for information, as well as the alleged intimidation of reporters by the Sheriff's Office. Arpaio's answers were anything but forthright. In most cases, he redirected and often just responded by whining about the media. (It brought a sharp in my mind between the allowances journalists give interviews in comparison to, say, a lawyer questioning a witness. Arpaio would make a terrible, non-responsive witness.) I could tell the reporters attempting to question him were getting frustrated. Rick Rodriguez, one of the panel members, spent a good ten minutes trying to get a straight answer regarding threats made to reporters before ultimately moving on.

That's not to say the panel's questions weren't effective. Many times, Arpaio seemed visibly uncomfortable. Further, the audience of skeptical, young students was anything but supportive of the sheriff's coy remarks.

Singing broke out as the questions turned to immigration enforcement, about 15 minutes before the event's end. Standing on the third-level above the forum, I could see the group of protesters. They were obviously students (police officers were only admitting ASU students into the building due to crowd concerns), and I believe they were not journalism students because I didn't recognize any of them. To the tune of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," the protesters continued to sing for upward of five minutes, enduring shouts for quiet from the surrounding crowd. Arpaio left the stage without a word.

I know immigration is a heated topic; I'm doing my undergrad/graduate thesis on undocumented students. There's no doubt that it is a compelling issue, one of high drama and divisive opinion. However, I wish the protesters had found a better way — say, silently hanging signs. Ultimately, what the singers disrupted was not an event supporting the sheriff but a panel of reports asking very critical questions of him — a rare opportunity for accountability. I see nothing wrong with their convictions, but this act was undecided misdirected.

I doubt the protesters understood their actions' consequence: they rescued Sheriff Arpaio from the hot seat. Young people seem to favor rash action and a moment of consideration might have caused them to at least delay their display.

Regardless, I doubt Arpaio will return to the Cronkite School's "Must See Mondays" soon.

Here's a link to Cronkite School writer-in-residence Terry Greene's account of the event. Greene is currently writing a book on immigration and is one of my thesis directors.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Finding a future business model

I just finished a paper on the future business model of journalism. My first reflection? Finding new sources of money is hard work.

It's difficult to distill all the industry's problems into a coherent blog post. So, I'm going to put one of the lessons we learned in class this semester to good use and link to what I'm just too lazy to explain myself.

In the old, proverbial nutshell, journalism is struggling because the Internet has disrupted the old mass-advertising business model. Journalists never sold their content; they sold their readers — to advertisers. In fact, subscribers to the daily newspaper pay a pittance of the costs that go into producing the paper. The actual cost is heavily subsidized by ad revenue. Accordingly, most people believe pay-walls and subscription content simply won't work as a viable business model. Variations on the pay-wall model could provide some options, but this still lies well within the realm of traditionalist thinking. Some politicians have proposed government plans to save journalists, but most journalists despise the idea of being beholden to the government and doubt public support would allow such a plan to proceed.

But, journalists being journalists, there is an abundance of ideas to reshape the industry. Most seem to be evolved content models, focusing on new ways to gathering and producing news that would add inherent value to the product, and thus, attract more readers and hopefully make it worth forking over some money. Others have approached new revenue models such as low- and non-profits ventures. Still others advocate enhanced services for advertisers to reclaim some of the lost ad revenue.

Frankly, it's not surprising that journalists would write about and post their ideas for the future of journalism — it's what we do. It really opens up the different thought processes to a level of transparency I doubt many other industries experience. I don't doubt, however, that these blogs contain the seeds of journalism's future.

Regardless, having combed the blogs of countless journalists all searching for an answer, it seems a shame not to add my voice as well. Below, I've posted the paper submitted to my graduate business-of-journalism class. I'll admit, much of the paper is set up and explanation (per the professor's request), but I believe in my conclusion. Through synthesizing what many of the more radical voices are saying, I believe journalism must evolve in order to stay relevant on the Internet, and the best way to do this is to offer a unique information service — not too great a stretch for journalists, but enough to jostle the entrenched, corporate side.

Reimagining Journalism and the ‘Service’ Media Business Model

Monday, October 19, 2009

Skyping with Jeff Jarvis

Earlier today, my Cronkite School business-of-media class had a Skype-enabled Q&A conversation with CUNY professor and author Jeff Jarvis. Talk about practice what you preach.

Jarvis has been a consistent resource for my media professor, Tim McGuire. If Jarvis could get a telepathic 'hit' for ever time the words "Jarvis says..." authoritatively passed my professor's lips, I'm sure he would absolutely love our class by now. Jarvis says that companies in the age of the Internet must open up. Jarvis says proprietary standards are obsolete. Jarvis says media companies must create platforms for communities. That's not to say my professor doesn't have his own opinions about what "Jarvis says," but suffice it to say, he has a substantial impact on class discussion.

Today, however, the class took a step toward making what "Jarvis says" a reality. Using a camera-enabled mac and the free Internet-video-chatting program Skype, a journalism class in Phoenix, Arizona, was effectively taught by a journalism professor in New York City. I can think of no better example of a "flat world," as Thomas Friedman calls it.

Traditionally, universities have flouted the quality of their professors to attract students. Well look out, because our experience today seems to indicate students and professors no longer need universities to bring them together. As seems to be the ruling aphorism of our generation: the Internet make it possible.

Friday, September 25, 2009

the individualist

For my grad communications class I've been reading The World Is Flat by Thomas Friedman, and while I'm reluctant to jump on the number-one-best-selling bandwagon — either from lingering post-pubescent nonconformism or my own, individual brand of neurosis (did you catch the irony?) — I have to admit its insight.

The crux, so far as I can discern about half way through, is that technological changes and standardization have broken down the "practical constraints" that once held people back from engaging in more efficient practices, i.e. collaboration, outsourcing, content production, etc. More importantly from my perspective, it provides a pretty comprehensive explanation of how the world is changing re: empowering individuals.

Friedman breaks it down like this: The human world has gone through stages in which various entities maintain control. So far as modern history is concerned, up until about the 1800s, countries held the reigns. After, industrialization gave corporations the power, which grew quite powerful thanks to burgeoning globalization. According to Friedman, the turn of the century represents the end of the corporate epoch and the beginning of individual empowerment, in which individuals have control and leverage over globalization, production tools, and vast resources. As an individual myself, this sounds pretty good to me.

And it answers the question journalists have been asking since 2000 rolled around: Where did all these citizen journalists come from? Well, they came from the advent of the PC, standardized word processing software, and a series of fiber optic wires promulgated during the dot-com boom. QED.

I'm sure Friedman would appreciate the illustrative elements of my even posting this. It shows how publishing has become decentralized, no longer relying on journalistic institutions or "the media" for its distribution. None of this is particularly tragic for me in light of my communications career choice; it simply means I must approach it from a different angle. Soon, no doubt, no one will need the media. That doesn't mean it will disappear. It does, however, mean the media will lose the substantial power its enjoyed as the only distributor of content. In my future, I see no free lunches on the corporate tab. But then, as a free-minded, decentralized individual, maybe I should never have wanted them anyway.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

a time for impracticality

After almost two years of constant career-priming, it's about time for a semester off.

School started again, and despite my seemingly crazy ambitions, I'm glad to be taking some time off from my journalism studies: I'm taking mostly philosophy and law classes this semester. The first week has been a rough transition. My background in communications doesn't translate well to the more abstract thought of the great philosophers, and I find myself out-paced by all the poli sci and philosophy majors that I usually loath (but that's another issue entirely).

It's a time to rethink my priorities and take a breather from the career-treadmill I've been running. I love studying law and philosophy because, so far as I can see, at no other point in my life will I have time and support required to think about such vast and far-reaching ideas. The depth of thought and discussion I can reach in class is the antithesis to my "more practical" internships and skill-studies. Perhaps this semester will bring me back from the brink, instilling a good balance in my education. I can only hope.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

dying industries

My girlfriend and I are both entering into "dying industries," or so she tells me. (This has the potential to become a great contest, re: my industry will last longer than yours.)

Really, they are the same industry split into specialties, with discrete distinctions that, beyond targeted experience and expertise, could easily be seen as singular. We both love — and study — writing and the print industry: me journalism, her publishing/editing. Often times I feel more pragmatic about the industry's difficulties. I'm trying to make myself flexible, dedicated and as open as possible to change. My girlfriend usually expresses her hatred for publishing's grim-reapers — Google Books, Amazon, and the Kindle — while bemoaning the trend away from ornately designed book covers and to generic omni-devices (though she loves her iPhone). But she's doing things to diversify as well — any novelty turned to advantage once school ends.

Yet, I don't feel like I'm entering a dying industry. The same doom-preaching chorus relaying the trials of the industry today (my j-school professors at ASU) now sits in a completely new university building, filled with the latest technology and creative minds. If there was ever a place to innovate and save the bottom line, it would be there. And while I've seen countless "goodbye-and-good-luck" e-mails at work, their authors usually seem poised to carry on elsewhere. So many mind-blowing projects are emerging from web designers, journalists and innovators, why has so much fear promulgated? The fear comes from economic uncertainty. Corporations and organizations have lost their Earth-turning profits, and thus, the industry is dying.

But what is an "industry," and why am I entering it in the first place? I'm not discounting the need for profits, but pushing past monetary motivations to the real spirit of why we do what we do — love for what we do — breeds a lot of optimism in me. If "industry" requires profits, perhaps I don't need it. I've no stock holders to appease, no board to satisfy. Halfway through college and embroiled in your-future discussions, concepts like "the industry" seem an unnecessary middleman to my main concern: me and doing what I love. Instead of singing odes to a dying industry, we should be consciously carving out our own space in, not an industry, but a living, however and with whomever we can.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

summer could have been more restful

What can you expect from a summer internship? After working for the past nine weeks, I'd say a either lot or a little, depending on how you look at it.

For me, it's been a tedious tenure at Washington Post Digital — editing photos, writing photo captions, and attempting construct massive databases that, frankly, I doubt will be implemented. In short, the work wasn't too rewarding. And all for no pay; my validation is a inconspicuous byline that even I overlook most of the time. Such is the life of an intern, and after a particularly trying day, after a particularly trying week, it's easy to feel taken advantage of.

On the other hand, maybe things aren't that bad. After all, internships are always temporary, and when I think back on how I could have spent my summer, to live and work in Washington D.C. definitely trumps the alternatives. I can't say I've learned much from a technical or journalistic outlook; the things I've picked up fall more under the "real-world-experience" category, re: full-time job, managing bosses, taking care of myself (i.e. not partying until 3 a.m. the night before work ... again ... ). The program I took here, The Washington Center, provided a lot of cool events and experiences, so I don't regret my time here. Things have just been too hectic.

What I find most frustrating in every internship has nothing to do with the internship itself, but rather the pairing of a work and school schedule. The two never overlap cohesively, and neither boss nor professor seems to understand (or care) I have more going on with my life. Especially while I'm sitting at work, I'm always thinking of school work that needs doing, and vice versa. Its a classic scenario of work during the day, school at night and sleep in between — though never enough.

If this is supposed to build character and ambition, I expect to be supernaturally motivated and interesting when I graduate. Right now, I'm just tired.

Friday, July 24, 2009

damn, forgot the bribes

Five things you need to know about lobbying a senator:

1) Get the aides' names: The person scheduling your meeting — assuming it's not you — probably won't get the names. Best to just wing it and hope the phone-line-strangled receptionist knows what's going on.

2) Dress like a professional: Things may not always be "fashionable" on Capitol Hill, but that doesn't mean people don't appreciate some class. Pull out the three-piece suit for the Atticus-Finch look.

3) Bring a partner (preferably one who knows way more than you do): Lobbying is like making a presentation to a group of people who already know the speech. If those spitfire info classes didn't prepare you for the arena, shut up and let your partner fill in the gaps.

4) Bring business cards: What the heck are those things for, since you keep forgetting them at home!

5) Know your politics: Depending on what you're advocating, people may not be receptive. Usually, however, they will be cordial ... to constituents.


After three sessions of background education and training, I went with a partner to lobby Sen. Jon Kyl, R-Ariz, on Monday.

Some background: For my "civic engagement project" here in Washington, I joined a group called Americans for Israel and Palestine, which while not affiliated with The Washington Center, recruit heavily from its ranks. I thought it would be a cool and easy way to take care of the project. In the process, I learned a ton about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and ate free Middle-Eastern food at meetings.

The Capitol Hill meeting was definitely a cool experience — getting to see the Hart Senate Office Building, the senator's offices, the hardwood-filled, cabinet-lined offices with leather-upholstered seats. And I feel like I understand the workings of Washington much better.

On my part, it wasn't a stellar performance, but I had a very well-informed partner, whom I give credit for anything of depth during our presentation. I focused on the big — and, of course, less complicated — issues. Still, it feels good to have done something of substance, pressing the flesh and taking the names.

Friday, July 17, 2009

"and that's the way it is." — Walter Cronkite

Rest in peace Walter Cronkite, pioneer of television journalism, most trusted man in America, namesake of my j-school. Not many will argue you did more for American journalism than any figure in history, but don't worry; we'll pick up the torch you lit.

Friday, July 3, 2009

longest day off ever

Washington continuously amazes me with it's never ending list of things to do:

  • The Pentagon
  • Pentagon City
  • National Gallery of Art
  • Union Station
  • Dopunt Cirlce
  • Adams Morgan
It was a long day...

I took off because my academic programing scheduled a tour of The Pentagon. While the ceremonial guard that escorted us through the building were quite impressive looking, the tour didn't actually reveal much of the building. We mainly saw hallways and corridors. We did get to see the inner courtyard, which they claim could fit the entire Capitol Building without touching on either end. Many of these comparisons to other buildings were made: more floor space than the Empire State, longer than the Empire State, more impressive design (apparently it was built without using any steel).

Then, not to waste my extra day off, I decided to tackle the National Gallery of Art, which while being right on the National Mall by the Capitol, is not part of the Smithsonian.

I wandered a few galleries by myself and eventually joined a tour.Particularly in gigantic art galleries (and this one was huge!) I really appreciate the tour guide. Having never taken art history, I wrestle with chronology and terms in art museums all the time. The tour was fantastic, taking the group through Pre-Renaissance, Renaissance, Humanist, Baroque, Impressionist, to Post-Impressionist and the beginning of the 20th century. Most impressive was the only Da Vinci on permanent display in America.
It's important to note, however, that in three hours, I didn't even get through the first floor. I have yet to reach the second floor and an entire second building devoted to 20th-century art and beyond to modern. But all musuems in the area close a 5pm — the reason I never go after work. So I wandered the city a bit, eventually ending up at Union Station.

Later that night, I followed a group of interns to Dupont Circle and into the Adams Morgan district, which holds all the nightlife a college fraternity could ever dream of.

Monday, June 22, 2009

a museum for everything, including me

World-class museums are certainly one reason to live in D.C. I have a lot to still visit, but between the Smithsonian and the Newseum, which I spent five hours in on Saturday, I'm beginning to think I could spend every day wondering exhibits and never get tired.
The Newseum was the first not-free museum I've seen. (I still got in for free though because our program adviser bought tickets.) It was amazing. Taking into account that I work as a journalist— and the Newseum is basically a giant, love-memorial to journalism — I still believe it's an amazing collection. For history buffs, the museum feels like a playground. One giant hall features original newspapers dating back from the 1400s, chronicling all of the most significant events — think of the cliche newspaper-spinning transition used in old movies (dodidodidodido "WAR DECLARED"-type scenario).

There was also an extremely poignant 9/11 exhibit, telling the tail of how reporters covered the event and the physical/emotional challenges they overcame. It was heart-ripping.
Both live at the museum and on their website, the Newseum also collects the front page from newspapers worldwide, providing a great comparison tool on how news is covered in different areas and cultures.
Of course, everything also held an air of the nostalgic, hinting at the looming demise of newspapers. It's so frustrating to hear people debate the pros and cons of newspapers folding, always lamenting the lack of "pure, investigative journalism," yet continuing to promote fluffy, entertainment news. The industry has developed an unsettling double standard: seek truth and justice, but only so long as readers tune in, call in or click on it. When that fails, things get ugly.

I don't care if newspapers fail so long as the idea of good journalism survives — the attention to quality and depth not yet seen in any other medium. That's what makes working in a newsroom so exhilarating — watching coworkers debate issues and rewrite articles late into the night to ensure correctness and completeness. There's a sense of civil service, a sense that we're providing people with something important: the COMPLETE truth. And while no legitimate news organization lies, the sift in focus from objective importance to rating-controlled content — particularly when the audience seems to place little value on objective news — casts a lot of doubt on that mission.

I hate to cast generalities; some news operations — my favorite of which is NPR — do a great job. But when you sift through the information, you realize that even NPR gets most of it's deepest stories from the paper. Listen to any of their news shows for a few minutes and you're sure to hear "according to the New York Times..." or "The Washington Post reports..." No other medium to date has the staff or resources to do the job right, and if we loose that, I want no part of where journalism is headed.
Some say journalism is the only noble profession, where truth and quality are valued above all else. I doubt that has ever been true — from yellow journalism to the muckrakers, corporate interest has always held the reigns. But, at least for the individual writers and editors making bottom-level salary, it's the illusion of that noble cause that keeps late and sane.

I think that's why my Newseum trip was so great: the overpowering, sometimes cheesy, feeling of journalistic duty.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

faces of the fallen

I spent a lot of my day working on The Washington Post's Faces of the Fallen project, which tries to gather photos and a short bio for every American soldier killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

It makes for morbid work, but at the same time, it feels very significant.

As I edited the head shots, I couldn't stop imagining how the soldier's family and friends would react. Would they be proud or angered by the project? Would they pull up the site alone or with others — share grief or experience it solely for themselves? It's a mind-boggling thing to contemplate.

It also put pressure on me as I searched for and edited photos. Each face — the enduring image of a loved one, of a father/mother, of a friend — wouldn't be a botched job on my part. I probably added 20 to 25 people to the list today (I lost count). It certainly puts a human face to the war.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

an intern is an intern

I just finished my second day with The Washington Post. It's a lot of getting accustomed to new systems, content management and coworkers. But, I got my first pseudo-byline today! (click on the credits button in the lower-left side; yeah text editor!)

Working at The Post has already been a lot different from The Arizona Republic, my last internship. The general newsroom attitude remains the same — relaxed, friendly but fast-paced and demanding — but The Post feels much bigger and a bit less personal. I can tell it's going to be a battle to stand out and get the opportunities I want from this internship, but I'm willing to sacrifice (I'm already sacrificing my summer at a no-pay internship). What it comes down to is the recognition that, while the name looks impressive on a resume, The Post will prove a more challenging place to find work. And as an intern, I WANT to work — work enough to get noticed, work enough to accomplish something, work enough to further my skills.

I'm optimistic, and with 10 weeks to prove myself, I feel like I have time. It's just going to be a whole lot of paper-pushing.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

life in the capitol

After being in New York City, living in DC is a bit like moving your bed from the closet to the backyard — everything is wider and luxuriously spread out. I love my apartment and the city, while not quite the same charm as New York, still feels immensely impressive.
I've been incredibly busy getting oriented, learning the overwhelming amount of projects I must complete this summer — at The Washington Center — and getting ready to start at The Post tomorrow. All the remaining time has been sight seeing. I've already seen most of the national monuments at night and toured two Smithsonian museums — the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian.
I just did the Native American Museum today, and it was incredible. Not only was the history and story telling fascinating, but in particular, an art exhibit by the controversial Indian artist Fritz Scholder blew me away. It was great to learn about his work, mostly done in my home state, Arizona. I had no knowledge of his art or the steps he took to advance Native American culture.
Another definite highlight was the all-authentic, Native American food hall. It was delicious. My girlfriend practically demanded we eat there, and while not culinarily complex, the food was very flavorful. It is segregated according to its region of origin, and many of the ingredients are grown on-site using traditional native farming techniques.

Like I mentioned, tomorrow I start interning with The Washington Post. I expect it will be a lot of training and getting oriented — again — but most first days are.

Friday, June 5, 2009

last night in the city

I'm headed for DC tomorrow.

It's been an awesome three-week vacation in New York City. My girlfriend and I hit the Guggenheim, Metropolitan, and Whitney museums; I spent SO much money on SO much ridiculously good food; and I got to feel like a city native for a while.

A definite highlight: eating the most phenomenal pizza at Keste in the West Village. Their Pizza Del Re — mozzarella, mushroom, prosciutto, and sweet, glistening truffle oil — was amazing.

I'm pretty psyched to start my internship at The Washington Post on the 10th. It will take some getting back into the saddle. It's going to be a busy — hopefully rewarding — summer.

Monday, May 18, 2009

every day, sun

On the way to New York City to see my girlfriend before working for the summer in Washington, DC. But right now I can't even think about work; I'm just excited to have three weeks off.

I'm actually at the airport now, way to early in the morning, watching the sun rise over Phoenix. It would be a beautiful—albeit hot—day, but they say you need some cloudy days to appreciated the sunny ones. In a very literal sense, I hope I get some cloudy days this summer.

Friday, May 15, 2009

court reporting, unfettered perspective

Just got back from covering a case at the Maricopa County Superior Court.

It's great to hang out in the courthouse as a reporter. The whole building has a sense of importance about it -- everything pomp and circumstance. I also find the proceedings fascinating. All the ritual, grandeur, and importance associated with law and justice in our society entices my longing for a meaningful career and even a well-earned sense of self-importance.

However, as a court reporter, you get your own sense of importance. A ghost in the midst of those affected, I can observe everything while withholding my own judgments -- there is enough judgment already. I feel a voyeuristic euphoria, jotting notes as the lives of those around me alter or come crashing down. This is the battlefield where academic pursuits of justice and ethics meet the concrete reality of human lives -- and myself, the ethereal observer floating above it all.

Or is that too poetic? It would be great to cover courts as a beat reporter. Yet, the environment also appears too formal, too planned, too...disingenuous. The high drama of the court contrasts with its lack of potential for description or inspiration. And in the courtroom, everyone has an agenda. It's hard to distinguish remorseful tears from calculated appeals for lenience -- one action, two very opposite interpretations.

Awash in interpretation, journalistic values become the confident armor of the reporter. The safety of facts lifts me above doubt, and the disaffection of my mission removes me from the emotional game. No matter the verdict, story in hand, I win.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Obama's commencement speech, -11 hours

So, I got assigned to do some reporting around Arizona State University's Sun Devil Stadium for The Arizona Republic. Too bad it was almost eleven hours before President Obama spoke.

I'm pretty pleased with my job, though. I spent about three hours wondering the stadium and campus, talking to anyone who looked remotely interesting, which turned into quite a few people. I would then call in to the newsroom with the gathered material and quotes. Not to be too self-congratulatory, but I feel it was a bit of an accomplishment to milk as much story out of the pre-Obama set up as I did. AND my name held on to the byline spot for most of the day. Of course, I was eventually bumped off by the full-time, staff reporters, but it was still good to contribute. My name is still at the end.

I've gotten pretty good at interviewing -- particularly impromptu, unanticipated interviews. The confidence and ability to walk up to someone on the street and politely interrogate them until I get the material I need has really boosted my reporting. Even my editor commented, "There was nothing going on, but Channing turned it into something."

I'm pretty satisfied with that one.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

finals week -> fabrication week

As predicted, finals have been relatively easy. Yet, I still find myself completely busy—how does this happen?

Websites. That's how this happens. I've been spending great amounts of time designing my two websites from scratch for my Online Media class, which apparently takes TONS of time. It would also help if my design ideas were more straightforward and easy, but these are the tribulations of aesthetic perfectionists.

I'm rather impressed by how our group site is developing—which is good, considering it's due Tuesday. I'll link to it as soon as it's complete and online.I also updated my personal site. I only tweaked it a bit, but it's a bit better looking and more functional now. I think the next step is buying a more SEO friendly domain name, but who wants to fork over 4 bucks a year plus hosting, right?

Saturday, May 9, 2009

last of the opinions!

I need to quickly link to my last column of the semester!

This one is based of a real news story I covered for The Arizona Republic. Since about 80% of the time I talk about journalism with my friends the conversation turns to how bias the media is, I thought it would be interesting to address the issue from a candid, experience-style narrative.

Being a columnist and journalist provides a great opportunity for public—and published—reflection on stories that most news organizations try zealously to stomp out. I even thought it might be risky to voice my opinions after covering the story, so I took care to make the column as balanced too. The point really isn't my opinion anyway (confusing, right?), it's the lets-talk-about-it approach to our beliefs, and how we confront adversity. Ultimately, it's just about setting it all aside and getting the job done.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

live on the Web

My personal website went online yesterday!

I've been working on it for a while and think it turned out pretty nicely, considering it's the first time I've ever worked on web-page design. The learning curve wasn't that bad; it just took a lot of time to assemble all the pieces. It also helped that my roommate is a computer wizard, able to swiftly conjure answers to all my problems.

Now I'm just working on my project website, which is a collaboration between myself and three other journalists from the Cronkite School. It's coming together nicely, but I just couldn't muster the will to work on it today—too much web design lately. Luckily, it's not due until next week, so we have plenty of time. It's pretty incredibly what you can create with the right software and an eye for creativity. Our site may be entered into some journalism contests, so we're giving it our all.

Friday, May 1, 2009

when you give a journalist design tools...

As part of my Online Media class for school, I've been designing websites from scratch and learning about web design. The whole thing is way more interesting than I thought -- and I thought it would be interesting.

I'm still not done, of course. But soon I should have a website promoting me as a professional journalist and a site I collaborated on with three other classmates to present a journalistic story/issue. It's the way of the future: cyber-self-publication, and I couldn't be more excited about it. I have uncompromising control over my content, from story to presentation. Yes, it's labor intensive, but the end product is completely mine -- exactly what I want it to be.

It's almost detrimental to my mental focus. I've spent hours tweaking simple aesthetics. Just when I think I've come to a breaking point, I notice something that should be fixed or improved upon. It's incredibly addictive, and I'm probably spending too much time on it. Luckily, I'm only marginally concerned about finals this semester or this could have been a problem.

It's been a lot of fun designing the website. It's thrilling in an unexpected way. Using Photoshop and Dreamweaver simplifies all the details and makes it way too easy to create a professional looking website. It has been a real eye-opener to the potential the web provides journalists, and a convincing reason not to lose hope in the face of crumbling media giants.

I will definitely be posting/linking to my site once it's complete.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

quit school and start a band, I should

quick column catch up: this week's and last week's.

Finals are here, which means less time to post. BUT I did make time to see two really awesome concerts last weekend: The Flaming Lips and Okkervil River. Both were a blast, and I'm extremely please at how my photos turned out—considering I was using my small, digital camera that usually can't handle dark concert situations. Luckily, both concerts were fairly well lit, particularly The Flaming Lips, which was so bright I should have worn sunscreen.

Monday, April 13, 2009

...and take a nap

The park next to ASU's downtown campus is almost done—set to open on Thursday. The city is calling it the "Downtown Civic Space Park"— a very utilitarian name for a really nice looking space. I can't wait to chill out between classes in the grass under the new trees, or even beneath this thing:
Janet Echelman’s "Her Secret is Patience" There's also a live web cam to chronicle the construction.

I'm also interested to see what will be in the new art gallery (you can see the side of it on the photo's left) they refurbished in the middle of the park. We'll see.

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Piestewa to some; Squaw to others

A bunch of us went hiking Saturday at Piestewa—formerly known as Squaw—Peak. This means, after living in the Valley for 20+ years, I have finally hiked the two "quintessential" mountains. I can finally be a true Phoenician!

We decided to hike on a stormy day and got caught in a downpour on the way down the mountain. It was a bit chilly, but refreshing during the hike—definitely not something you experience every day in Phoenix.

Friday, April 10, 2009

clouds and clouds of time-wasting

Have you heard of Wordle?

Wordle, a free "word-cloud" mapping service, is the essential equivalent, and more aesthetically pleasing, answer to coding literature. Simply copy, paste any text into the software and it will visually map words into a cloud, determining the size of each word based on the frequency it appears in an article.

Here's a map of my latest opinion article to appear in "The State Press":

Wordle: "De Novo" represents the American ideal

It's a great way to see where biases lie or perhaps which words a writer relies on as a crutch. I've also noticed that words closely related to, yet not quite the topic of a paper, seem to appear frequently as the biggest, at least in what I've seen. I sense this will become an epic time-waster.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

pesto is the new black

Today, I had lunch for the first time at Café Biblioteca, a small but higher-fare-food cafe tucked in the corner of ASU's Hayden Library in Tempe. My experience left me wondering, why haven't I eaten here for every lunch of my entire life?

It's one of the closest places I've found that serves illy coffee, and there are tons of vegetarian options, from which I chose the veggie-pesto pizza. It was amazing—to the point of blogging about it. The other reason for blogging? Café Biblioteca isn't on Yelp. That's right; this is uncharted territory baby. (Maybe that's because lame pseudo-restaurant bloggers like me can't afford to go anywhere that doesn't accept college meal plans... ah well)

among the internet-savvy + column

Tuesday is column day.

This one only turned out so-so from my perspective. I was rushing because I had a lot more work over the weekend (including a 25-page research paper) plus a lack of inspiration. It's not bad, just not the caliber I could/should shoot for.

Also, I finally learned some basic html in my Online Media class today. Beware Internet world; I am html-literate!

For an "internet-savvy" generation, it seems surprising how few young people understand the Internet — myself included until recently. I'm happy to be among the savvy now, though.

No doubt, cyber-publishing will soon dominate our culture as newspapers, books, and physical print atrophy. It's ridiculous to say that print will disappear completely. Books, periodicals and newspapers will continue to exist, but perhaps to a lesser extent. So many people, my young friends among them, continue to tell me "there's just something about having the physical copy," and I couldn't agree more.

That said, don't become too elitist to embrace the digital tide! Online publishing holds incredible potential. It's just too bad for me, and thousands of other young journalists, it doesn't hold financial potential.

"Ah," the starving artists of the world sigh...

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

catching up on columns

The columns continue: I had another column in "The State Press" today and forgot to link to last week's column.

I'm pleased with how this week's turned out. It's based on true events, unfortunately. The moment I got back into bed after the fire alarm, ideas for comparisons started whizzing through me. So, as soon as I knew what I was going to draw the comparison to, the rest was easy.

My editor and schoolmates have also been giving me a lot of praise lately. Since the job is unpaid, that helps make it worthwhile. The sweet thing about having placated my editor is now he thinks I'm an awesome writer and gives me much more freedom. This week, he basically told me to go ahead with my idea even though the subject had been claimed by someone else. I think his exact words were, "I trust you completely." Dangerous territory...

Saturday, March 21, 2009

singing with an old friend

I picked up my saxophone for the first time in months today.

Wary of how awful I would sound, I dusted off the case and headed over to the music building to secured a practice room. I had forgotten how heavy a tenor is; no wonder I abandoned all fear of embarrassment and started simply practicing in my dorm room last year.

But the moment I opened the case, everything returned. My fingers felt light and dexterous; my mouth formed around the reed. It required no though; my muscle memory whipped through all 12 major scales, as if I had practiced them yesterday. I was shocked years of training those responses would remain so readily available. Minor scales proved only slightly more difficult, followed by dominate 5ths, 7ths, arpeggios, etc., musical jargon ad-nauseam.

Of course, I only remained impressed with myself as long as I stayed within the realm of the disgustingly easy. As soon as I attempted a song from my former level, my sharp decline showed itself. Also counted among the missing was my stamina. After 40 minutes, my mouth ached with discomfort and became like rubber.

But I remained happy with the aesthetic of the experience. The play-along track coming from my crappy computer speakers evoked an old gramophone, howling in concert with my sax the grit of the blues. It's true; I suck. But, as I ran through the changing scales of nostalgia, I didn't care. Playing for yourself, for simple self-gratification, holds a purer sort of reward. In this respect, that's enough for me.

Friday, March 20, 2009

it's always about 'life,' even when it's not

At this time in my life, I'm interacting constantly with stories and language.

My studies, my job, my leisure -- all reading, writing, and communication. I spend so much of my time communicating that I've taken to shutting everything off while communting via light rail, simply emptying my mind and entering a zen-like state devoid of all communication, even thought -- the act of communicating with myself.

So, I find it interesting when, introspectively, I notice a peculiarity in my habits. One transition has been my interest in stories. Reporting and journalism drives so hard at finding interesting stories -- scoops that attract readers and clicks -- that I think some part of me rebels.

In my free time, I've become attracted to books and articles about more mundane, yet perceptively charming subjects. While my writing focuses on action, my reading trends toward the idiosyncrasies of unremarkable feeling and the slightly absurdist views -- authors like Jonathan Safran Foer, Milan Kundera, Tao Lin, or Dave Eggers. Mostly young and awash in waves of uncertainty, like me, they speak to uncommon, yet more genuine viewpoints on life. They provide for me a welcome counterpoint to the ridgidly factual, distinctly real focus of journalism.

Life always seems to align in dichotomies with the conscious and subconscious trying to balance the two. Like reporting, it's important to get both sides.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

travel: a retrospective OR "Traveled Time-Traveler"

Typical, right?

Just as I'm doing something that coincides with the title of my blog, I drop the ball. All can be fixed, however, with the use of retroactive posting! To share my experience in New York, I've decided to catalog the trip in posts dated to the day they occurred. Cheating? Maybe. Dishonest? No; I'm giving you, the reader, a heads up. Ingenious? Haha, oh—you give me too much credit.

The dates covered should be Mar. 9 through Mar. 17, so check back soon for posts on those dates. I see this as a handy way of outlining my trip for friends/family without having to repeat myself continually. (Though, in light of how great the trip was, I'm sure some discussion will be appropriate.)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

weary and still working

I'm back from spring-break bliss in New York City. I already miss it.

The trip was AMAZING -- the feel of the city, the wonderful food, the perfect host, the complete lack of responsibility, including posting to my blog (I feel bad, but I was having too much fun to sit down and write about it.) And I had to hit the deck running the moment I got back -- heading to class right after traveling for 8+ hours is a great way to feel like crap.

Even now, I haven't had much time to reflect. I'm too busy trying to get normal life rolling again. I'd still like to write it down, so I'll probably share when I find time.

Monday, March 16, 2009

NYC: Day 7

This was it — the last day in New York. What do you do on you last day in the City? Mandi and I didn't know either, so we just stuck to what we hadn't done yet.

Thinking we would be staying up late that night, we slept in and started the day late. Once up, our goal was Grand Central Station and The United Nations. It's said that to go through Grand Central is to enter Manhattan like a king. I was on my way out but still thought the king part should apply well.

However, on the way there we got distracted. I wanted to walk by Bryant Park and Mandi saw that the New York Library was on the way too, so we got of the subway early and walked east through Midtown. Bryant park was pretty but cold, so our stay remained brief. The library, however, was spectacular. The architecture belongs more to a cathedral than public library, with murals, marble, and mosaics. It was beautiful. It would make a great arena in which to be locked in epic battle with a paper.

Just down the street, we got to Grand Central Station. The building was gigantic, but instead of exploring first, we went downstairs to the food court in search of breakfast/lunch. The food court was crowded but good, particularly the chili Mandi discovered. Then, we took turns photo-oping in the main hall, then left for the United Nations (also just down the street—42nd is an important street).

Getting in took a while because in front of security, a giant line for the metal detectors had formed and everyone had tons of coats and scarves to remove. Once we were in, we walked around and toured through a Holocaust exhibit. We could have signed up for a tour of the inner halls, but the next available group was too late that afternoon, so we decided to head back.

Mandi had mock that night, but after mentioning it was my last night in the city, she was able to escape early. We went to Think Coffee again and talked for a long time. That night, we decided to take it easy and order pizza again (again from Patsy's, and again SO tasty—I love basil leaves).

That morning, about 4:30 a.m., we woke up and said our goodbyes. I was worried about finding a taxi that early in the morning, but not two steps out the dorm door, one immediately drove by—the magic of New York, I guess. The ride out seemed considerably less wild, perhaps a product of my acclimating to city life or just because the cabbie was less enthusiastic.

I can't wait to go back. The City is a singularly exciting place—intimidating at first, but in part because of my great guide, also very intimate and manageable. For me the smells and feelings of the City brought back memories of Moscow. But, New York is unique, more optimistic, more uplifting and flashy. Leaving was bitter-sweet because, although I faced returning to school, work and ordinary life, I knew I would visit again. Cliché as it might seem, in-love is undeniably the best way to see the city.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

NYC: Day 6

Sunday, in comparison with Saturday, was much slower and relaxed.

Mandi and I headed out late in the morning for the Staten Island Ferry. She packed some lychee nuts to snack on, we stopped at Tea Spot for some breakfast tea, and hopped on the subway. The conductor didn't stop at the station directly under the ferry dock, so we got off one stop away and walked through downtown back to the dock.

A skilled performer provided unexpected harp music while we waited for the boat—very soothing. On the ride over to Staten Island, we sat out on the side deck, which, while freezing, provided a great view of the Statue of Liberty.

The ferry docked, we walked out onto Staten Island, and, unable to find any reason to stay, almost immediately headed back for Manhattan—so much for that. To stay a bit warmer, we rode inside this time and then headed back to Washington Square for food.

Mandi guided me to the small sushi place, Miyabi. From our seats, I could see the kitchen area where sushi chefs sliced and rolled our food. The sushi was great and we ate three rolls each. A ton of the places we ate were right next to the NYU Law School—definitely incentive to check that out.

Still pretty tired from way too much walking on Saturday, we took the night easy, picking up some food from Cafe Habana a few blocks away (I'm glad we took it to go; the place was really cramped.) and spent the night in.

I got a veggie, mushroom sandwich and Mandi chose catfish, which we, as with almost every meal on the trip, generously swapped with each other, while watching Amélie.

Saturday, March 14, 2009

NYC: Day 5

Saturday—the day we had planned all along to head to Brooklyn. While Mandi pretended to work, I would check out her job and DUMBO, the area around the Brooklyn and Manhattan bridges.

Mandi had it all planned out. We hopped on the subway to York Street, walked past Mandi's work, and to a sweet coffee/pastry shop called Almondine. I'm a breakfast person—even though, in reality, it was pushing noon—which automatically predisposes me to coffee shops. But this was the real deal—tons of baked pastries and excellent coffee. Mandi suggested we try the spinach soup as something a bit more filling and, because she mentioned she had never had a macaroon, I insisted we get the biggest, chocolate-iest one.

After breakfast, we wondered around a bit, taking a few photos at the river-side park with the Brooklyn Bridge in the background, before heading to Mandi's work at Melville House Publishing. I met one of her co-workers, whom we relieved from watching the small bookstore in front so she could grab food. Melville House, a smaller publishing house, consisted of a front, bookstore area, and a back workroom, revealed by turning one of two revolving bookshelves. While Mandi watched the store, I thumbed through a few books and generally took in the space.

Once again out in Brooklyn, we headed for the weekly Brooklyn Flee Market a few blocks away. The market split between two indoor areas. Mandi and I wandered around, trying eclectic clothing, snacking on free samples, and talking to people. As we passed by a jeweler, Mandi mentioned she really wanted to find a rough/tumbled, turquoise necklace, which, to her utter and almost childish delight, we found not 20 minutes later.

On the way back to Melville House, we stopped by Mandi's favorite place for soup—she's kind of food-crazed actually—Foragers Market. She picked up a bottle of kombucha tea, a slightly fermented tea drink originally from China. We hung around work for another hour or so, then walked back into Manhattan via the Brooklyn Bridge. The walk was a bit crowded—lots of tourists who, without fail, blocked progressively more irate bicyclists trying to cross. The bridge led straight into downtown, and we stopped by the site of the World Trade Center—not much to see, just construction—before grabing a subway train back uptown.

Instead of getting off near Washington Square, however, we stopped by Union Square for the Saturday farmers' market. (There are TONS of markets on Saturday.) Mandi picked up some apple cider for later, and we also stopped by Lush so I could be inundated by perfume-y fragrances while she picked up some soaps and shampoo.

Mandi had mock trial again that night, but instead of going, I ran downtown to Chinatown. My mom had highly recommended picking up lychee nuts, a sweet and ubiquitous snack found in nearly every market there. I ended up walking all over downtown that night, heading from Chinatown to Wall Street to the Stock Exchange—which was, of course, closed—and back to Chinatown in a huge loop. It wasn't terribly cold, but I had been walking all night and was pretty tired by the time I found my way back to the subway.

By this time Mandi was out of mock trial, and, both of us starving, we went straight for food. We ate at Quantum Leap, a vegetarian restaurant (by the way, New York is amazingly vegetarian friendly—no surprise there). The nerdy name didn't distract me from the amazing food. I had a veggie burger, which held no pretensions for being healthy, only tasty.