Entertainment and Journalism? Whaaaat?

If you’re from Columbia, Missouri, you know that something is cooking downtown right about now. That’s right, the True/False film festival. It’s 11 years strong and shows no sign of slowing. Which is grand for our city’s culture scene and all the businesses downtown. Aside from offering a good dose of refinement and revenue, it generates something else: knowledge. This is because most, if not all of the films shown are documentaries, offering some insight into a subject not widely shown before. Sound familiar? It’s called a story. As journalists, we’re always told to look for stories. And the more informational or interesting they are, the better.

Seeing as the films that are shown during T/F are considered some of the best documentaries of the year, we should probably be handing them journalistic awards, right? Take this video assignment we’re supposed to do for J2150. We have to get footage of person doing something that we think is necessary to show others. Detail shots, scene setting shots, etc. All of them are visually appealing and informative. What is a documentary without these two components? The videos we’re shooting are simply one minute long documentaries.

Documentaries, just like journalism, can be controversial, disturbing, revealing and graphic. But they are deemed necessary. We tolerate our negative reactions because the information is good and removes ignorance surrounding the subject. We have an urge to be informed, to be generally knowledgeable, and we like the empowerment that knowledge gives us. The power to change the status quo or get someone who can.

There’s also the entertainment aspect however.

I’ve lived in Columbia for the majority of my life, and have been going to the True/False Festival for the past three years, and my favorite film I’ve seen is The Invention of Dr. Nakamats. It’s definitely on the comedic end of the spectrum, but it still peers through Dr. Nakamats facade to see that he’s actually terrified of death, and keeps inventing contraptions to put off that inevitable death. So even the funny stories have a hidden message, or meaning behind them worth examining. They just entertain even more than they inform for at least the first half of the film.

Many people look at journalism as hardcore, investigative work. Which part of it is, and it’s a necessary function, but this is the “broccoli” of journalism, the necessary part that every human should consume to be a “healthy” citizen. But if people are force-fed broccoli all of the time, they get bored, and start to ignore what they’re consuming. A fix for this is a good helping of sweet apple pie. It has some nutritional benefit (the apples) but it’s decorated with sugar and cinnamon to entice the consumer, and reward them for all that broccoli they’ve been eating. And hopefully it’ll keep them hooked and coming back for more. That’s when entertainment is necessary, to keep the consumption rolling. We all deserve a treat every now and then, and a story that’s a bit more lighthearted keeps the cynics and pessimists at bay. One of people’s main complaints is that the news is too depressing, which is bound to happen if we only report the injustices and suffering that take place around the world. I’m not saying add fluff, but at least show that there are great justices that counter injustices, and that sometimes people overcome suffering and make something great out of it. It ain’t all rainbows and cotton candy, but it certainly isn’t all death and disease either.

Dream Job

Dear reader, this “assignment” of updating this blog once a week comes to me the most naturally out of all of my homework. In short, I enjoy it. Immensely. (I guess I’m in the right field, eh?) I’ve always liked writing, for my own purpose, for the purpose of sharing, and for brainstorming ideas. I simply find that I am more eloquent on paper (or computer screen) than in person with the spoken word. Not to say that I’m a complete dullard when I stand before you, but I have a way of expressing my personality more clearly when I’m organizing my thoughts for print.

That being said, I want this man’s job. That’s right, Andrew Evans, I have it out for you.

He’s the “Digital Nomad” for one of National Geographic’s online blogs about traveling intelligently. Essentially everything about his job makes me drool. He gets to travel and take photos, videos, audio, and of course write blog posts. He is the quintessential multimedia journalist. And all of these aspects of journalism are the ones that I appreciate the most; the personality that comes with blogging, the visual aspects of the story, and really immersing a reader/viewer in the environment with sound.

Aside from my love of the visual, I love that his job requires him to travel. I’ve always thought that a well rounded person had to have some idea of the world outside of oneself. The times in life when I’ve felt the most enlightened have been when I’ve been pushed out of my daily routine, usually in a foreign place. The mundane and repetitive cycle of weeks and months of school and work make me lose track of the outside world, as if there is no other world outside of Mizzou, Columbia, Missouri, or even outside of my mind. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, the college experience is important, but it reinforces our sense of self, instead of a sense of worldwide community. It’s hard to think that the only thing that separates us from Africa is the Pacific Ocean, and that the people there are living what they know as normal lives. And the people on the other side of Africa in the Middle East are also living out their lives as normally as possible. Whatever the word “normal” means. But we all have a socialized idea of it. It’s what’s been taught to us through entertainment, media and parenting.

I think it’s incredibly important to understand the world we live in, which is why I love National Geographic. And these more personal blogs make the publication more inviting, simple, and less intimidating than the magazine itself. As a child, I didn’t think National Geographic was an easy read. I was intimidated by its density and thus avoided it until I started getting interested in photography, and then I just looked at the pictures. But the accessibility of the blog, it’s shorter length, less formal diction, and more personal voice make the message conveyed easier to digest and helps it resonate with us more. Essentially, the personal touch of the blog makes it feel like the viewer is in a conversation with this person, that they’re speaking directly to the reader, and thus, it affects their thoughts more directly. I’ve always been a fan of less formal writing, so I suppose this is why blogs sit with me so well.

So hopefully when I graduate from the University of Missouri with my polished new journalism degree, I’ll be able to land a somewhat similar position. However much I covet Evans’ job, I would be willing to start at a less well known publication and work my way up like the rest. And I can’t oust a man who’s doing his job well. So you’re safe Evans…for now.

The Easy Fix

    

In this day and age, it’s no surprise that practically every image you see is altered. People edit blemishes off their faces and make super models look flawless in advertising. It’s hard to look at an image and think that it’s the original. It’s so easy to modify things nowadays, with free photo fixings on computers and online. And if you really want to do damage, there’s a large array of photo editing software on the market that would only set you back around $100.

I personally like to use photo editing to correct mistakes (such as too little or too much exposure) and to maybe change the overall tone of the photo to reflect a certain mood I’m trying to express.  I think these kind of edits are okay for the news world, especially the technical aspect of it. If you’re editing to make a “true” image show more of the truth by making it a bit clearer, that’s not lying. But if something were added or taken away, that’s where the real headaches start.

When I was going through the readings for this week’s reading quiz in good ol’ J2150 I came across the golfing article. I glanced at the photo and saw that it was a fairly tight shot of one man, and I thought, “How could they have possibly altered that very much?” It turns out that the original photograph shows a caddy behind the golfer who is the main focus. It’s not something I noticed right away, I had to read the article to know what the difference was between the two photos. My immediate reaction was, “How is that so awful? The caddy isn’t an essential aspect to the story, and the photo does look a little more clean without him in the background.” I was also egged on by the fact that the caddy in question wasn’t noticeable to me. I figured that if I didn’t know the difference, many other people probably wouldn’t either. That sort of justified it to me, that people wouldn’t even know that a caddy was cropped out. It wasn’t just that, but it was also that he didn’t add anything to the photo, or the overall story. I still understood the story without him in the frame.

As logical as these reasonings are, I realized that the main problem was one of ethics. When completely removing or adding something to a photo, the “fact becomes fiction”. If readers found out that a photo was altered in such a way, they may not trust the publication anymore. Every time they would look at a photo they would probably wonder if that photo was missing something essential. It worsens the publications credibility which leads to less audience members. Even if people didn’t notice a change, it’s still a lie. And lying to one’s readers is a slippery slope. I can see how a photo such as the golfing one could be a gateway for more deceit and alterations that could have more of an impact than something as simple as removing a caddy from the background. A lot of ethics points to previous cases to make decisions, especially in court. And when something of this nature is seen as acceptable in a newsroom, it becomes the new model for the other reporters to follow, who may then reach out to their journalistic acquaintances outside of that particular publication and thus the chain has begun. When the public finds out about being duped by the press, the press tend to lose all credibility and access to their community and stories. It’s the last place a journalist wants to be. Our main tenet is honesty, and when we don’t have that, we’re just as bad as politicians bending the truth until it snaps.

A Blog About Blogging-Why Not?

Blogging seems to be the next trend when it comes to journalism. I think it’s a grand idea, it offers a wide array of subjects to be perused at the reader’s convenience and with the ability to limit the content to one specific subject, there’s always a niche for everyone’s interests. I personally have ventured into blogging before with a very specific niche: satire.(http://kaydbe.blogspot.com/) I’ve grown to really enjoy satire with media outlets like The Onion and The Colbert Report, both of whom make fun of the subjects they cover, and the journalistic processes as well. I’ve always appreciated when someone can poke fun at themselves or laugh when someone pokes fun at them.

Blogging also allows just about anyone to get their voice out. It’s great for showcasing writing, artistic, and design talents without much of a cost. Every journalism professor nowadays tells students to have a least one blog going consistently to send with resumes and cover letters to potential employers. And since blogging allows for a more casual setting, a person can really relax and show who they are. The “anonymity” of the internet makes a person more daring, and more willing to publish than if they had to run their posts through several editors. (Not that they shouldn’t examine their own work with a discerning eye.)

A blog that I came across when browsing through the students in the capstone class caught my eye. Most of the others looked exactly like the templates on WordPress (and I know what they all look like now, trust me), but hers was very unique and inviting. On top of that, it made me want to read one of her posts. (http://aseasonfor.tumblr.com/)  Her writing seemed to match the fun style of the layout, and I think it’s important for a blog to be representative not just of the content, but of the person who’s managing it. It’s a lot more personal than writing articles for a local paper or magazine. It’s designed and written by solely you. You are editor-in-chief, reporter, web designer, and photographer all in one. And blogs are generally opinions, so the blogger is really putting themselves out on the line for others to view straight on, instead of through a lace curtain pulled around them by a large publication or organization. Blogs are both easier to publish, and ballsier in my opinion. There’s the magic word, opinion. And now anybody on the internet can come across this page and comment with their own opinion. It’s beautiful, I tell yah.

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