Let Us Reach

My semester in JOMC 240 has been about opening my eyes to reality and learning to get excited about that reality.

The conclusions I ended up making — through the help of Professor Robinson and all my classmates — about where we, as journalists and communicators, are and where we are headed have surprised and inspired me.

I’ll say it like this: I love The Newsroom. Big time. I started watching the show the summer after I graduated high school. My dad and I spent that summer and three more (too short) seasons completely captured by Sorkin’s quick dialogue and smart characters. As did others.

The show was highly criticized and compared negatively to Sorkin’s other masterpieces. People said it was idealistic, smug, self-serving, and probably worse. But I didn’t care (and don’t still, really).

I fell in love with the show as I simultaneously fell in love with journalism. I’d say it did a great deal in molding what I thought of all that journalists could be — fearless, unapologetic, on a mission. I started taking some journalism classes at UNC, interned with my local newspaper — The Hickory Daily Record — and started writing for The Daily Tar Heel my sophomore year. I loved that the journalists I met and learned from believed strongly in what they were doing.

However, with that belief, sometimes came an ego. Just as Will McAvoy and the whole ACN team resisted digital news that seemed to come up shallow compared to what they felt they could bring to the table, I felt the same sense of pride and nostalgia in my real-life journalistic experience/courses. We are journalists. This is how we do things.

This semester was about losing the ego. That started with realizing: everything is going digital. So deal with it. 

Even if print is saved in some way — maybe for those who want to pay big bucks for it, or as a monthly edition — it will never be what it was. I believe the same, to some extent, for broadcast journalism. Although not in such bad shape as newspapers, it still rests on packaging news and telling the consumer what it is he or she should care about and know. That model will not work, at least not for long. People know what they want and will get it, whether you think it is worthy or not.

My second lesson: digital is not evil.

I already knew this, but for some reason was not applying it to the news industry. I already live online in many ways. I share what I care about, I talk to my friends, I find a sense of community in different networks, I find most of my own news — online. When people say that journalism is all going digital, it feels like some death sentence. That doesn’t have to be the case. Sure, we still have a lot to figure out as far as how to make that change and make money in the online world. But there will always be a need for reliable information, for thinking individuals that uncover truths and create discussion around important issues.

Let’s be open to change.

We are in a new, challenging and exciting time. Our flexibility and adaptability will probably be our most important characteristics as future communicators. Never shut down a new idea just because you’d never thought about it, or because it feels threatening to “how things should be.”

Let’s keep our foundations — like shining light in dark places, holding powerful people accountable, giving voice to the voiceless and providing people with information that helps them make informed decisions.

But, even more so, let us reach.

Standing on those foundations, let us stretch our arms and our minds in all that journalism can do for people.

Let’s think of new ways that we can fulfill those goals. Create engaging and interactive content that people cannot get anywhere else if they tried. Give people what they want and then some. Step up to the plate and realize our competitors are not each other but those that already digitally track, store and share our information on a larger scale. View ourselves as service-providers rather than just content creators. Prove that we are valuable instead of expecting anyone and everyone to care.

JOMC 240 was a class that made sure I was learning for myself. The blogs and the class discussions kept me on my toes. They kept me paying attention — more than ever — to where news is going and how I can be a part of figuring out the future. I hope I can play some role, even if small, in reaching for more.

I still look up to the characters on The Newsroom and to some of those “egotistical journalists” because they have something that we have to carry on in whatever form journalism takes next: heart.

We must passionately carry on, searching for what is next and never giving up on the beauty and necessity of an important story.


We were wrong, my fellow JOMC 240ers

Apple does it again. They show us what we need before we recognized something was missing.

A few weeks ago, one of the individual presentations that started out class (sorry I forget whose it was) touched on the Apple Watch.

Our discussion varied some, but most people said they would hold off on diving into the smart-watch game until initial kinks are figured out. Some even said they just didn’t see the point — that phones already met all their needs.

However, within 6 hours, all Apple Watch models in the U.S. have been placed on at least a 4-6 week shipping hold.

It’s unclear whether or not this is because of a huge demand or such small production. But it’s clear people are interested. And not just some small tech-savvy wealthy Silicon Valley demographic.

I bet in the next 2 years, watches like Apple’s, with the ability to sync to your phone, answer text messages, read news, etc. will be intensely popular in the U.S. I bet in 5 years, other items we wear will be able to do the same. I bet in 10 years, the mirrors above our sinks will give us breaking news and our refrigerators will order more milk to be delivered a week before we run out.

Let’s make BIG guesses that look nothing like what we see today. Because that’s how quickly our world, the technology we use daily, and the way we communicate is changing. Big, different ideas are the ones worth accepting and chasing. And as soon-to-be professional communicators, there is not a more important thing to do than to think big and different.

How can we help each other out?

It’s a tough time for news. Especially for newspapers. Even more so for community newspapers.

As Penny Abernathy said a few classes ago, we can’t give up on community newspapers. She brought up a point that I, I guess, already knew but had never thought of: We should care deeply about newspapers in small towns — especially when there are high rates of unemployment, poverty and a lack of education.

The people in these small towns are the ones who need the functions of journalism the most. These are people who may not have another place to go to for local news, for a sense of community and truth, for accountability of their local leaders in difficult times, for a light of hope in some ways.

Since some of the most vital newspapers are also the ones who are struggling the most, this leaves a sad situation. One that needs help. Thank the journalism gods for people like Penny Abernathy who care enough to try to do something about it.

Now I know about the competitive nature of journalism. We want it first. We want the best story with the best angle and the best sources for the best quotes and the best of the best of the best of the best.

But as news shifts to, I’d argue, a place where readers and listeners don’t care about first (they can get that on their Twitter feeds), but right, why can’t our competitive egos get in check?

The Washington Post has built a network of partnerships with local papers across the country. The (free) deal is this: local papers can give their subscribers free access to the Post’s content. It gives the Post more eyeballs in places nowhere near D.C., and gives the local papers an incentive for readers to subscribe.

Plus: it takes both entities recognizing their own places. A small community paper in Kentucky does not have the resources or the mission to cover national and international news in the way that the Post does. And the Post’s job isn’t to cover who won the high school football championship last weekend. Most important to remember is: there is a need for both of these.

People care about their local communities and about their nation and world. Newspapers should recognize their strengths and focus on them wholeheartedly. And, while they’re at it, realize how banding together might not be the worst thing in the world.

So a source of help for community papers comes from a place I never would have guessed. Newspapers banding together — in smart ways that benefit all parties — makes my heart smile.

Reactions to Rolling Stone as a Female Journalist

The Rolling Stone article’s failures hurt in two ways for me.

1. As a journalist.

As someone who believes telling complete, accurate and engaging stories can change the world, I am the first to understand wanting a big story. Sometimes, I find myself having an idea of the perfect quote I could get from a particular source. That one detail that could tie the story together neatly and powerfully. That dramatic phrase from some crazy person that could be plastered across the front page. One can dream.

Big stories are out there, but most of the time they don’t fit into our convenient, tidy narratives that we often prefer or see at first glance. The reality of the world is grey. There is, usually, no black and white, no good and bad.

I am overwhelmingly disappointed by the reporter’s lack of respect for the greyness of the world. It is a journalist’s job and obligation to navigate the messiness of a situation and make sense of it to the reader in a way that is as true to reality as possible. Always, always, always the truth is what we seek. No matter what that truth is.

I skimmed through Columbia Journalism Review’s investigation into the reporting process of the Rolling Stone story, originally titled “A Rape on Campus: A Brutal Assault and Struggle for Justice at UVA,” that was published on November 19, 2014 and has since been completely revoked.

What surprised me the most from the analysis was just how avoidable what happened was. Very simple and foundational journalistic practices were disregarded; like reaching out to those implicated in Jackie’s account, confirming the existence of the lifeguard from that night and reaching out to him, and finding and interviewing the three friends that were present the night she said she was attacked. These are all basic necessary steps early in the reporting process of the story.

The falsities that were printed would have been easily discovered long before the story had even fully developed had the reporter at least reached out to the other side(s) and asked for their accounts of what happened.

1. As a woman.

I can’t stress how important I think it is that this one story’s failure to do basic fact-checking not be a tool that is used to scare or silence survivors of sexual assault.

In the already harsh and painful reality victims of sexual violence face, speaking out can seem like the least appealing option — especially when survivors feel as if they won’t be believed.

However, research that has looked at reports to law enforcement has shown the overwhelming majority of victims that speak out are telling the truth.

The “Making a Difference” Project reviewed 2,059 cases from law enforcement in eight different U.S. communities in an 18-24 month period and found that only 7 percent (140 of the cases) were classified as false.

The National Center for the Prosecution of Violence Against Women says of other research into false sexual assault reports:

To date, the MAD study is the only research conducted in the U.S. to evaluate the percentage of false reports made to law enforcement. The remaining evidence is therefore based on research conducted outside the U.S., but it all converges within the same range of 2-8 percent.

I want to be an ally to survivors in any way I can. Through supporting them telling their own stories and through providing a platform when I can for their stories to be heard.

I believe speaking out about our experiences, whatever they may be, can be freeing. But the environment in which we share our stories is a key part of whether that experience helps or hurts our healing. We must push for an open and accepting environment for stories to be received and lifted up.

These two roles that I try to play can feel conflicting. I have a feeling that’s some of what Sabrina Erdely felt while trying to support Jackie.

However, when journalists responsibly tell survivors’ stories, these two desires can coexist. When journalists fail to do so, on the other hand, neither of these are upheld. A false story only fuels a culture that shames survivors and hinders an important conversation.

Picking and Choosing Your News

A few weeks ago, a question Professor Robinson asked stuck out to me. Or maybe it was my answer.

We were talking about algorithms, and more broadly about the personalization of news — whether readers should be able to weed out what they want and don’t when it comes to news.

For some reason, I answered with a pretty harsh no. Something in me likes the rawness of “seeing it all.” As I’ve written before, that’s a huge part of the reason I love Twitter. No filtering, hardly any personalization.

I’ve been thinking about that a lot since, and have come to realize more and more how wrong I am in many ways. First of all, I do live in a bubble. As much as I like to think that my Twitter timeline is a good representation of what’s going on in the world, it’s just not. My online viewpoint of the world’s happenings is infinitely narrow, even with my attempts to seek out opposing opinions or see what issues are affecting someone on the other side of the world. (which I still think is important to do.)

Anyways. The future of news will be very personalized. I guess I’m just getting used to that idea and realizing its importance. Not everyone wants to read/see everything.

That brings me to The Winnipeg Free Press, a Canadian newspaper which is the first North American newspaper trying something that people apparently call “iTunes for news.”

(They are awesome simply because of this.)

Each online article on their website will be 27 cents to view starting later this month. They also provide a refund if the reader isn’t satisfied with the purchase in any way.

This allows the customer, just like in iTunes, to pick and choose what they want to read and what they just don’t care about. The Winnipeg Free Press is hoping this will work better than a traditional paywall like The New York Times’s that allows 10 free articles a month before requiring a subscription.

According to an internal analysis, the paper says there are many casual readers who read about 15 of their stories each month — these casual guys are the one’s the paper is hoping to appeal to.

Plus, it’d offer way more revenue than digital advertising (a thousand reads would be $270, while having a $270 CPM is unheard of for newspapers).

I’m not only warming up to the idea of personalization, I’m realizing the sheer power it might have. After all, millennials don’t want full albums and they definitely don’t want a whole newspaper’s worth of content each month. But only 27 cents for an article? Maybe. Just maybe.

My afternoon with TIDAL: discovering a revolution in a few hours

The artists have gone wild.

Earlier this afternoon, I noticed many of the musicians I follow on Instagram had changed their avitars to blank turquoise circles. I kept seeing the same hashtag in Insta captions and tweets: #TIDALforALL. I watched a video Beyoncé put up advertising something I had never heard of before today: TIDAL.

The video showed several music superstars at some sort of mysterious event — Kanye West, Beyoncé, Madonna and Nicki Minaj caught my eye. I had to figure out what this was all about.

I went over to Tidal’s website. A countdown in large white numbers was in the center, dwindling down to 5 PM today, for an unknown reason. I watched another video on the site that described the service. It’s music-streaming at a new level — high definition videos, high quality music, “behind the music” editorial content, the ability to make playlists, listen to radio, and more. “Okay, pretty cool,” I thought.

I did a little more research. The Jay-Z owned company was scheduled for a relaunch under “new ownership” today. I read that the company promised to pay artists a whole heck of a lot more (sometimes double the amount) than other streaming services. Apparently enough for Taylor Swift to even hop on board.

I wanted to sign up and realized the two options were “TIDAL Premium” at $10 a month, and “TIDAL HiFi” at $20 a month. Then I saw the 30-day free trial buttons. I got half way through the registration process and had something else I needed to do. I immediately received an email from TIDAL, just warning me to stay tuned. Something about the enigmatic nature of all of this kept TIDAL in the back of my mind.

An hour or so later, as I was working on other homework, I got yet another email saying I had left the registration process without completing it, urging me to head back over to the site. I didn’t, but it kept me thinking: “What the heck is about to happen? Something is about to happen.”

Once I was done with my other homework, I figured I’d write a blog post on this thing. As soon as I opened up and wrote maybe two sentences, my phone dinged again. 5:10 PM: another email from TIDAL. I was actually excited. The subject: “The wait is over.” The email directed me back over to the main website, saying “Today marks the beginning of a new era. Visit TIDAL.com and experience the next step in the evolution of streaming.”

Off I went. I found a live stream(the same video is still available on the website) to a stage with a single woman introducing “the future of music.” Introducing TIDAL, she said the new company — born in October 2014 — is working to reestablish the value of music through the first ever global music platform owned by artists.

The stage was soon filled by an incredibly jaw-dropping line of musicians: the now owners of TIDAL. I just had to screenshot the fame that was on my computer screen at that moment:

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 6.24.55 PM

Alicia Keys then took the podium, talking about creating a new and better experience for both artists and listeners, inspired by the universal language that has gone without impacting no single man or woman on the planet.

After watching each artist come to center stage with applause to sign a declaration to take back music, I couldn’t get over the genius of what had just happened before my eyes.

Immediately after the live stream was over, another video started playing — showing the full version of what I had seen earlier on my Instagram feed: a series of meetings, interviews and conversations with the 16 owners/stars.

Much of these conversations revolved around what we discussed in class on Thursday. They spoke of a revolution to take back the music. The fact that, somehow, the artist has become the product instead of the creator. That technology companies have become a creator instead of a medium.

They talked about how much more they could offer — a service that is art in itself and provides content as valuable as the artists behind it — and how much the listener is missing without even knowing it.

There was a notion of excitement and of “Why hasn’t this happened sooner?” threaded throughout the conversations.

So will we pay for it?

Right now the options are still the same as before: either a $10 or $20 subscription. But what TIDAL is offering is on an entirely different level than any streaming service (or website in general) we’ve seen before. A new creature: a collaboration of some of the top artists in the industry creating the content and controlling the way it’s presented and distributed. I think they’ve got me hooked, at least.

Heck, Spotify already has 15 million paying subscribers, and they’re simply streaming the music ad-free.

Plus, the artists that provide their content just walked out the door and wrote their own damn rules.

If the launch of TIDAL alone is any indicator of what is to come on the service, things are about to get interesting.

Fans become Friends

The tools we have online create ways for all of us to share. And that gives crazy cool and creative people outlets to share crazy cool and creative things. And that, my friends, is awesome!

Over the last 5-10 short years, it has become the norm to see a musician rise to fame through the online world. So many mainstream artists that are immensely successful today got their start sharing their art online. And people loved it or them for whatever reason and rallied behind them, propelling them to opportunities that wouldn’t have been possible.

Example A:


I still remember watching the swag-centric “kidrauhl” as a 13 year old in eighth grade and falling in love with his adorable moves and replaying the video — especially the *breathtaking* moment at 2:03 — over and over again.

The connection I made to Justin watching him on YouTube, as a normal kid my age, made the moment when I heard “One Time” on the radio for the first time special. I had a similar feeling when I heard Karmin on mainstream radio, or now, when I see Us The Duo making their way up the ladder to what I am sure will be eventual crazy success.
You also just have to watch this, which is a prime example of how the husband and wife duo have shared both their music and their lives in such a magical way:

When we see people as normal people first, we feel as if we share their success in some way. We are their fans but feel like their friends, cheering them on in the crowd but connecting with them on Twitter after the show.

If you look to Us The Duo’s Vine, for example (which is the main medium they’ve mastered with ADORABLE six second covers and tunes — go watch and obsess you will not regret it), you see invitations to come hang out at their hotel room during a trip to the Philippines and selfies with fans at an event in the first few Vines. You see them being silly and dancing in the rain. You see them making that powerful connection SO. WELL. I invite you to watch and to connect to their journey.

These connections help us to experience musicians we love in ways like never before. I hope it humanizes them — and eventually transforms the way the artist and the followers interact into less of an “us” and “them” thing, the two separated by all that is fame, and more of just an “us” thing.