Journalist Meg Kissinger from Milwaukee Journal Sentinel came to visit our classroom Wednesday for a discussion on mental illness reporting and how she approached writing about the subject. This week the students had the decision between writing a blog post about this journalist- who writes great articles filled with emotion and imagery of others going through pain- or something about our beat website. And we all know how that websource is doing.
Seriously; this woman can write. Review her work. Reading about some individual using his tongue for cleaning up a floor splattered with vomit will disgust you. Short sentences such as "he went home to die" will push you into thinking, 'dang, that's messed up.' Kissinger has that ‘it’ factor when it comes to writing, especially when she types about mental illness.
Kissinger said that she produced high quality stories because she didn’t shy away from uncomfortable situations. She said that she traveled down to Virginia Tech after their unfortunate shooting and talked with a person who a suspect shot in the leg in a classroom. Kissinger suggested that our class perform in the same way; get as much information as possible from people involved in the chosen subject. Ask that psychiatrist. Don’t be afraid of figuring out the story behind that particular family member with that illness. Letting different but personal voices be heard only makes an article stronger.
Kissinger also developed strong stories due to experiencing her own hardships. She said that she got cancer six years ago. Two of her siblings- one brother and one sister- committed suicide. I learned that we shouldn’t just include other’s stories, but include our own for a little bit as a way of showing others that we empathize with them.
I’m glad that Kissinger found her interest in scripting such stories. I’m also interested that she admitted that there are some times when she thought about stories with lighter moods (I have no idea how she thought of writing about clowns making beer ice-cream). But it really is an inspiration that someone is not just writing, but writing about important issues that the society needs more knowledge about. I have a family friend who has a mental illness; his sister passed away from the same situation, but he survived. And I notice that people treat him differently. So it’s great that there are some people willing to teach others about mental illness and how we should work toward accepting each other; regardless of differences.
Nope; I don't feel as though The Arizona Republic is listening to me. Not much happened since I first visited the website for my first blog post beat that our professor assigned to us. The criticism I'm offering the site doesn't strike as effective either. Nothing changed except for the crazy background that the page provided viewers one morning. Remember the one with a huge football player glaring at the readers as he posed as though he would burst right from the screen? Yes; that guy.
The webpage looks a mess. The editors still split all the content up into three columns. And toward the bottom the articles become super jumbled because someone tried squeezing in rows halfway while another column design still followed a consistent outline. The breaking up of events needed a major makeover. Those who managed the page should consider that more. It's because of such disorganization that I prefer the phone application instead.
One thing I noticed this time was that there is this "things to do" area plastered right in the middle of the page and highlighted in yellow in comparison to other categories with blue-highlighted material. This is good, Arizona; stick with this type of design. In fact, if "things to do" is an important aspect, the online newspaper should bring it to the top.
But the "things to do" area also started one specific pattern that upset me. Clicking the "most popular" link, I scrolled down and found this category was repeated further down the page. But that wasn't the only set of events repeated. The first topic under the "Money" category read "Smaller cheaper Galaxy X III." Later down the page there was a new "Money" category. It read "Smaller cheaper Galaxy X III."
Sigh. That's sad. The site just filled up with information that editors already stated. The online medium needs more attention toward things already emphasized. And don't forget that the page requires better organization for outlining their content. Tisk, tisk, The Arizona Republic; it's not a good digital journalism day for you.
Professor Lowe recently sent a reminder to his students about the assignments due on Wednesday. One included writing another blog post based on a website that he gave each undergraduate for further analyzation throughout the semester. This week students needed something from their sites that “screamed digital journalism” to them.
As soon as I saw that comment, I gripped my computer screen and shook it. "There is nothing that screams digital journalism for my page!" I yelled. And it’s true: past blog posts I created for the news source that the professor reserved for me, The Arizona Republic, implied that my news source didn’t have anything to "scream" about. Pixilated photos dominated the internet site. Editors just put one disorganized mess into three columns. And today the webpage had an issue where an error page would pop up after every five minutes. Or maybe my computer or the service I received just acted up again. But still: I saw no chance of finding something good within this content.
I then scrolled down and looked on the right side of my screen: it read, "Get AZCentral anywhere." I remembered looking at the website through my phone one time, and how much easier looking up information was there than on a computer. So I grabbed my phone and started scrolling. It's great that the web editors kept everything the same yet introduced it in a different fashion. The designers could’ve worked more on the organization of which type of news would come next ("More News" shouldn't be right before "sports" and "community news"). But only one advertisement placed right above the azcentral.com logo popped up in a narrow horizontal row. No two confusing rows that you could click on for information came up. And my Android phone didn’t have pictures until the sports section, but that made it easier for the eyes and more professional.
I also looked at the Facebook and Twitter links. The Facebook group presented a nice photo with local reporters as the cover picture. The quality of the pictures from scrolling down on the page: great. There was this one image of macaroni and cheese: elbow noodles were glossed over with white mozzarella, a thick layer of cheese and breadcrumbs sprinkled on the top. Yes I did eat macaroni and cheese that night. For Twitter, nothing too distracting was in the background: a simple logo and information about the Facebook and Pinterest page was placed in the top left corner. And tweets engaged their followers. The site asked questions and requested that people send back responses. Only a couple of people responded to those kinds of posts, but hey: that's a start.
Yes: the site has its flaws. But the different access opportunities and social media ways that the source provided information served as great examples of digital journalism. I'm happy that something good came out of the source.