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One Trillion and One… One Trillion and Two… One Trillion and Three… Keep Counting!

October 2, 2010

Do you ever wonder how many websites are on the internet? I do. Five Billion? Five Trillion?  I find through this class that there are so many outlets and areas that I haven’t been exposed to – probably because I choose not to be. That’s what makes the internet so powerful. We can choose what we want to see, hear, think about etc. We are not forced to watch one of three news stations, read one newspaper, or listen to a handful of radio stations. There is no one telling us “Hey, you have to click here and you must believe what the site says.” We are able to be individuals on the internet, not part of a mold. The readings this week had a lot to do with many aspects of new media, but one theory I noticed as more prevalent this week is agenda-setting, which I will touch on in the following blog post –  amongst other things!

The Agenda-Setting Theory says the media (mainly the news media) aren’t always successful at telling us what to think, but they are quite successful at telling us what to think about. (Mccombs,1972).
 

An article by Salinas (2008) discusses agenda-setting and YouTube. The article talks about access that leads directly to a personalized agenda. According to the study, “44 percent of Americans age 12-64 use online video sites weekly.”

She also goes on to give an example of YouTube, Islam and agenda-setting. On YouTube, users post the videos, users comment, users provide all the tools necessary for this site to be sustainable. Her article explains how YouTube is laid out on the screen for users to pick through various videos they may want to watch. She gives an example of how a search with the word “Islam” returns results that reflect a negative tone toward the religion. It seems that if this is the case and since it is user driven, does this perhaps reflect the true ideology of the people? To test out her example, I went to YouTube and searched Islam. Typically I rely on how many people have watched a video to indicate whether or not something is worth watching. I clicked on this video about the Islamic religion. It has over 12 million hits. It doesn’t portray Islam in a positive light. So, what I’m wondering is if since YouTube has videos on it that are posted by you and me, do these videos reflect the ideals of the American people? And what do the amount of “hits” say about the audience. Are they watching it so they can agree or disagree?  If so, then there are more Americans that dislike Islam than what the television media portrays. This does go to show that with new-media, the general media is having less and less of a say on what we should think about.

            In chapter 4 of Grant and Wilkinsons “Understanding Media Convergence, we learn about the lifespan of a website. The five stages of web-site brand development are: genesis – where the creator gets the idea, develops the skills, and begins preparing for the creation and launch of content, birth – the stressful part, where the website is launched and content is offered, adolescence (whew! good thing humans at least get a “childhood stage”)-  a stage a website may never leave because it may not attract enough visitors or capture enough media attention, Coming-of-Age – where the site changes in some profound way to embrace its success, and Adulthood- when a site becomes a full-fledged commercial business. It took the popular photo site Flickr from about 2002 to 2005 to reach “adulthood.” Many sites are obviously not so lucky.

Lastly, the article by Brubaker (2008) also shows us about how agenda-setting is changing. “Although each medium’s users possessed a common agenda of important public affairs issues, the agenda they possessed significantly differed from the agenda that medium was showing them. These findings imply that the media are not powerful in setting the agenda of important public affairs or political issues. People have particular issues they feel are important, regardless of what the media present” (2008). With all the access we have now, I don’t foresee these findings changing anytime soon.

Brubaker, J. (2008). The freedom to choose a personal agenda: Removing our reliance on the media agenda. [Article]. American Communication Journal, 10(3), 1-1.

Grant, A.E., & Wilkinson, J.S. (2009). Understanding media convergence: the  state of the field. New York: Oxford University Press. 

 McCombs, M., & Shaw, D.L. (1972). The agenda-setting function of the mass media. Public Opinion Quarterly, 36, 176-185.

 Salinas, C. (2008). WhoTube? Identification and Agenda-Setting in New Media. Paper presented at the Conference Papers — National Communication Association.

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Mass Media Mezmerizes Me

September 25, 2010

When (some of us) pull the newspaper out of its plastic sleeve in the mornings, we want to be able to unroll our paper and find the news in it to be credible. We want to believe what the media is accurate, truthful and so forth. According to a 2005 Pew research study, 45 percent of the population believes little or almost nothing of what they read in the daily paper (Thorson et al.) – whoa!  So does this mean since they don’t believe it that they don’t buy it? This statistic was astonishing and makes one wonder that if that is the case, then how in the world are newspaper companies still in business? Thorson’s study was designed to help us understand how readers evaluate what is credible by comparison to other adjacent commentaries or opinion pieces. Their findings showed that the “bloggers commentary only became a relevant standard of comparison for the news story when the differences between the two messages were more extreme.”

I found Tenore’s article on Long Form journalism interesting. Oftentimes I will go visit my mother who always has a stack of magazines and newspapers to send home with me. She has certain articles she suggests I read and while I have good intentions, inevitably those articles wind up lost among the other stuff in my car. If I had an application like ReadIt later, I might actually get around to reading them! “The tools they’re using to create an immersive, focused environment for reading are the same ones that challenge our ability to avoid distractions at work and when we’re out with friends: mobile apps, websites and Twitter” (Tenore’s comments regarding applications like ReadIt later). However, most of the websites like Facebook and Twitter that we visit are merely for a few seconds. If we have an app that requires us to focus on something, then obviously we have it for a reason. Perhaps these types of innovations are the perfect balance to our busy lifestyle. If I didn’t have time to sit down and read the article, then I could read it on-the-go, which would make it conducive to my rushed way of life.

Another study by Coleman aims to find an understanding of how citizens engage and use information on websites. The internet has been blamed for fewer people volunteering, contributing to charities, participating in community activities, or even attending social activities or visiting friends (I imagine I could be considered as part of this statistic.)  Voter turnout went from 65 percent in the 1960s to 39 percent in the 2002 election. The study links theory of public opinion to uses and gratifications in order to examine whether a website that is high in usability can encourage citizens attitudes toward civic engagement. “The study confirmed the idea that websites designed for maximum usability that conform to users’ wants and needs in content and appearance and foster positive attitudes toward civic engagement in citizens.” Basically the study showed that a website with good design and good structure would draw readers. “If people can find what they want and need to know quickly and efficiently, they may feel more self-confident about getting involved” (Coleman, 2008).

Yes, I see where users will become more involved if they can easily navigate through the materials, but what struck a chord with me about this study and a possible constraint to its application is cost. The authors did not factor in that web design, upkeep and maintenance of an internet site may not be fiscally possible for some smaller non-profit organizations who desperately need volunteers, but do not have the resources to hire someone  from the knowledgeable in web-design (or staff someone knowledgeable for that matter). It is unfortunate that some of these organizations, who may only be able to get their word out  through the local newspaper may suffer because of new media and the rise of a seemingly lackadaisical generation who only want to sit at home.

References

Briggs, M. (2009). Journalism next. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

Coleman, R., Lieber, P., Mendelson, A.L., & Kurpius, D.D. (2008). Public life and the Internet: If you build a better website, will citizens become engaged? New Media Society. (10)2, 179-201. doi: 10.1177/1461444807086474

Tenore, MJ. (2010, August 19). How technology is renewing attention to long-form journalism. Retrieved from http://www.poynter.org/column.asp?id=101&aid=188741

Thorson, K, Vraga, E, & Ekdale, B. (2010). Credibility in context: how uncivil online commentary affects news credibility. Mass Communication and Society, 13(3), 289- 313

Project Proposal – FAFSA or Bust!

September 20, 2010

The majority of our students attend classes with the assistance of some type of Financial Aid. Be it scholarships, loans, grants, waivers etc.

However, I bet they do not know that the application for Financial Aid becomes available every year on January 1  and that the sooner they submit, the more money they are eligible for.

I assume most of our graduate students do not know that ETS offers GRE waivers for Seniors and Unenrolled Grads if they meet certain eligibilty requirements.

For me, awareness about what goes on in the Financial Aid office is minimal on the UT Tyler campus. I think many of the issues students have could be solved by using new media outlets to solve questions.

Media Convergence

September 19, 2010

                When we think about all of the different mass communication outlets like television, radio, print, the internet we can get overwhelmed. Well what happens when we put all of these technologies together, we get convergence. What media convergence allows journalists and other media professionals to do is tell stories and present entertainment using a variety of media. Because of convergence, audiences can control the when, where, why and how they access and relate to information of all kinds.

                Dailey, Demo and Spillman in 2004 defined convergence as newspapers and television news staffs working together. While we see this type of convergence even locally with outlets like the Tyler Morning Telegraph and CBS 19 forging efforts to make news better, convergence is so much more than they explained. Convergence journalism also requires more from the journalists. “To be successful at convergence, journalists need to understand the strengths of each news medium or outlet and work to develop and provide news stories that dovetail with those strengths” (Grant 32). Furthermore, it [convergence] involves a newspaper’s daily edition or a newscast’s scripts being placed online, a newspaper reporter appearing on television for a “talkback” or interview on his or her story, the television weather caster developing the weather page for the newspaper. Although this may make for a more satisfied audience, it makes for an exhausted, overworked and underpaid journalist.

                Another change that is causing the need to move toward convergence is our fragmented lifestyles. No longer do we have two-parent households where dad is the bread winner and mom stays home to cook and clean and wait for her husband’s arrival at the end of the day. We are a progressive society, who as commuters and constant movers, have little time to watch the morning news and read the newspaper. Since the media must be adaptive to changes like this, convergence is a tool that has become more and more useful in the rapidly changing media landscape. The study in the book also shows how the under 25 group are using TV and internet when there is breaking news. “Convergence … responds to the need for a different paradigm of interaction” (Grant 50).

                I found an interesting video (link posted on my Twitter) from the TV show CBS Sunday Morning about how far media has come in the past 30 years (done as part of a tribute to the shows 30 years on air). The video states how 5 years ago Facebook was not even created and today has more than 200 million visitors, (even more now as the video was done over a year ago). Not too long ago, we had to mail a letter in an envelope, listen to music on a turntable, use a payphone to call when we were outside of our home, had to buy a newspaper, type reports on a typewriter, visit a theater or buy a VHS if we wanted to see a movie, and the list goes on. But, because of convergence all of these things can be done from one simple device. Be it your computer or smartphone, we have the world at our fingertips. While this is great, I am also afraid and convinced that this type of convergence has led to the decline in the workforce.

       FourSquare and Facebook’s check-in apps allow people to keep their “thumbs” on each other. The video we watched on the Brian Solis website shows how check-ins can be a great thing for networking and other purposes. Call me a worry-wart, but I personally believe things like this can have a large “creep” effect. I believe people like stalkers and pedophiles can use these types of applications to their advantage. For example, let’s say John likes Jane and they are “friends” on Facebook. Jane thinks John is weird, but just to be nice she remains friends with him on the Social Networking site. If Jane, without thinking that John could have a strange obsession with her, posts her whereabouts, John has all the more access to her and Jane has potentially put herself in danger. Maybe I’m alone in this thought, but I believe the check-in application could be harmful.  

                Convergence is certainly gaining in popularity and important to the future success of the journalism industry. While it is risky, one must take risks to get the outcomes they desire.

Grant, A.E., & Wilkinson, J., (2009). Understanding media convergence : the state of the field (pp. 3-30). New York: Oxford University Press.

Gimme a B Gimme an L Gimme an O Gimme a G!!!! BLOG!!

September 11, 2010

 The world of news has no doubt come a long way since the creation of radios and newspapers. There a myriad options this day in age that keeps us always “in the know”. When breaking news occurs, we don’t have to wait until the paperboy delivers the Telegraph the next morning, we can go online and with a few clicks find out the who, what, when, where, why and how of the news story. Not only can we find all of that information out, we have the ability to pick exactly what it is we want to read. We are not limited to just what is on the “Front Page.” So with all of these advancements it is important to see where we are headed and why these new internet tools can be the key to the future of journalism.

While having options is wonderful, one may wonder that with all of these options do people now have the ability to be one sided when it comes to the content they read? People are able to filter what they hear on the news now because of things like j-blogs (journalist’s weblog), which is a cross between a column, a news story and a journal. “The Mission of the j-blog,” by Susan Robinson explains whether blogs on mainstream journalism sites are a new form of postmodern journalism or simply traditional news with traditional journalistic values wrapped in a new package. According to Robinson, “Journalism is evolving for a new kind of audience thirsting for personal connections, but in the process, its practitioners continue to cling to traditional rationalizations of what they have been trained to do.” This statement probably rings true for many who have been in the profession for many years and are possibly having a hard time realizing that their field is facing some changes that they may not be comfortable with. As the baby boomers grow older and generations X, Y NeXt, (whatever they may be), enter the workplace, college and high-school, they are turning to forms of new-media (blogs, twitter, etc.) to get their news, therefore the news world must evolve to meet their demands. One of the major differences on a blog is that comments can be made immediately in regards to the topic. This way the (highly opinionated) public has the option of commenting on the content they are reading. “J-bloggers link to other news stories and independent and include reader comments to present as many ‘truths’ as possible.” Also, in blogs, the journalist has the freedom to be “involved in” instead of “independent of” the news story. Robinson explains that with this freedom, even the reader can contribute and citizens have the opportunity to ‘repair’ what was published. “Compared to the real world of objective reporting where every single detail must be verified and the reporter invisible, the j-blog allows the reporter to let loose in some creative writing – all verified because the reporter is both source and the subject.”

 Another issue that is raised is an ethical issue “ethics is a frequent topic for j-bloggers who are cognizant that what they are doing pushes the standards of journalism.” One can only hope that if they are aware then hopefully they will not go to push those standards too far. Another major point made in our textbook is about the role of agenda setting when it comes to blogging. “The agenda-setting role is clear – if a critical number of elite blogs raise a particular story, it can pique the interest of mainstream media outlets.” To me this essentially means that the public can determine what is news. They blog about it, it spreads like wildfire and the next thing you know it is a national news story. The textbook also makes note of blogging as brand. Most of the time when visiting a blog that has “hits” on it from around the world, I tend to find a lot of advertising. While this is a money-making tool for the actual blogger, for me (and perhaps others) it can make the site seem cluttered and material hard to find. One negative about “blogging as brand” is that “spammers” can dilute comments made on a blog. It is awful irritating to read 5 or 10 strong arguments made about the content in a blog and all of a sudden …. “Viagra pills cheap, click here.” It is things like this that make readers choose to seek other blogs and or other informational sources.

 Another article by Sweetser et al. explores the relationship between credibility and blog use among professionals in public relations and journalism via an online multi-page survey. It is a quantitative analysis that employs uses and gratifications theoretical approach. The study also looks at some of the reasons why people use blogs. According to her study she found that several scholars found that “ordinary bloggers” were motivated by social interaction and the desire to document their lives. The results showed that communication industry professionals are using blogs as an extension of their normal work, and journalist more frequently than public relations professionals.

On a personal note, I look daily at the blogs of some random moms and designers that I never have and never will meet, but for some reason their [blog] posts keep me coming back for more. These women are not trained journalists, they are stay-at-home moms, or interior decorators, who seem to have such a knack for words and the ability to construct something with words and pictures that is so intriguing. Because of these types of blogs, I don’t have to buy five or six dollar magazines.

In conclusion, online media is a valuable tool, not only in the news world, but in nearly every type of content imaginable. Although it has setbacks from things like advertising and spam, people don’t seem to mind. Blogs give a proverbial “voice to the voiceless” and gives people who are highly opinionated a good outlet to express their views. We all need to get used to blogs because I don’t see them as merely a trend. I see them having some longevity in the “new media” world.

Hello world!

September 5, 2010

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