Reflections on Readings — Week 14

This week in my Social Media Theory & Practice class, the readings were light — only 2 articles. The first article was “10 Questions for Journalists: Matt Thompson on the Problem of Journalism Overload.” In this article, the author Thompson puts forward 10 questions that journalists should be asking themselves. The questions included: Are we making our community feel better informed or merely distracted? How important is this for our community to know and why? Are we chasing the larger story, or just the latest story? Are we synthesizing information, or merely aggregating it? How are we serving those who know [nothing or a lot] about the topic? Have we provided a clear trail through our coverage? Are we using 1,000 words where a picture should be? How good are our filters? Will our coverage find our audience where and when they are ready for it? How are we managing our own info overload?

Thinking about these questions, below are some more detailed thoughts to the ones I felt most relevant to me.

Are we making our community feel better informed or merely distracted? I think this is a very important question because it makes you question the value of the topic you are covering and how it impacts the larger public. It was also noted here that a clear hierarchy of info is needed to help structure the presentation of the story (kind of like print journalism’s classic inverted pyramid). I think a good example of this online is how CNN structures their articles — you can click on a story and over to the left is a small callout of 3-4 bullet points called Story Highlights. This reader can get a basic idea of the story before investing the time to read the entire article. I think this could be good for doing with my universities own press releases as well.

Are we chasing the larger story, or just the latest story? This question is critically important to the future of journalism — yes, we all know that you have on top of what is happening now, but do we have to sacrifice context for expediency? For me, this question relates back to the thesis that I am about to undertake starting next fall. I am looking at the broadcast morning news coverage of the War in Afghanistan. My hypothesis going in is that there was a larger lack of context on the U.S.-Afghan history and relationship prior to 9/11, and that the lack of context ultimately impacted public opinion and policy decisions.

How good are our filters? The author Thompson quotes Clay Shirky here: “There is no such thing as information overload, there is only filter failure.” I agree that there is nothing more frustrating than trying to search for a topic on a news site and then to have the search results not provide anything relevant. At Tennessee Tech, we are trying to make it more convenient for the local, state and national media to have access to our faculty who are experts in their fields. We have just created an Experts Guide (now in beta testing and one day hope to have it searchable). Faculty can enter their contact information and areas of expertise and then the next step is for a journalist to be able to use a search to easily find an aviation security expert for example.

The second article this week was “The Tigger Talk: On Life, the Process and Everything” by Brad King. This article was very reflective in that the author is emphasizing that for students grades don’t always matter — it’s the process. That’s where true learning takes place. It made me think a lot about this class and my previous class with Dr. Brown in Entrepreneurial Journalism. It’s all about real world application. That’s what I love about her classes. It’s not all reading and research, but using tools and social media that professionals use and finding new ways to make them work for us.

This article also encouraged the reader that much of life is about the small, everyday decisions. I will agree 100% of that. Some people are Eeyores. I’ve worked with them and probably even facilitated them in being a listening ear. Sometimes things are out of your control, but you do control your attitude, and the little decisions you make everyday do add up over time to either help or hurt you. One of my favorite quotes is by Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” I am also fond of a meme I found on Pinterest that says: “Don’t hate on my success like we don’t have the same 24 hours in a day.” Your time is what you make of it and attitude does affect that, and as I have grown as a working professional and mother, keeping a positive attitude really does make a difference. 

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