Thursday, October 11, 2007

Generation Q-uestionable

The New York Times' Thomas Friedman published an Op-ed piece on Oct. 10, that calls my generation "Generation Q." According to Friedman, the "Q" stands for "Quiet," a trait we have earned for our lack of political participation, activism and other antiquated 1960s rhetoric.

Here's a link to the piece:

Why is it that former Hippies and other activists of the 1960s keep trying to relieve their glory days? I think it's time that these peace-seeking, tree-hugging, middle-aged Americans get the clue that their time as past. Sure our generation chooses to address current issues in different ways their our predecessors, but that does not mean that we're avoiding them altogether.

Think about it, more students volunteer than ever before. More students are actively engaged in their communities and conduct community service. Our "Idealism," as Friedman calls it, transcends every aspect of our day-to-day lives. Simply put, we're concerned with the welfare of others and the overall good of humanity.

So my question is, why protest when our silent form of activism seems to be working? Has direct confrontation ever fully changed anything? The peace rallies of the 60s and 70s went on for years before the Vietnam War ended. Our passive-aggressive approach to the War in Iraq has already led to some changes there. At least President Bush has said some troops will be coming home soon. Besides, has the majority of Americans asked for a complete withdrawal from Iraq?

Maybe our Idealism feeds our apathy, or maybe it will become our generation's guiding principle as the baby boomers retire and we step into their leadership roles. I'm bold enough to say that our generation wants to make the world a better place, not divide it on religious, cultural or political lines.

Generation Q is not a questionable one, we're a steadfast one that is seeking change in our own way. Older Americans shouldn't chastise us because we're taking a different approach. They should applaud us for having our own sense of identity.

Lights out on the media

Well... sort of. Last Friday, as I was teaching my MMC 2100 lab, a storm swept over the Gainesville area and knocked out power in Weimer Hall.

I dunno if I'm reading too much symbolism into our unfortunate black out, but without computers, air conditioning or PowerPoint, it was time to cut class short. I mean, how could I teach my students about definite and indefinite articles without PowerPoint? Did you actually expect me to use a chalk board?

Well, much to my students' chagrin, I did, and after an hour of non-air conditioned classroom bliss, I set them free to finish and e-mail me their assignments.

In this age of computer-based readership, is it time to call it quits for print newspapers? Is it worth killing thousands of trees each year for a print product that fewer and fewer people are reading in lieu of a digital one?

Well, that may be up to the next generation of media executives to decide. Don't get me wrong, I still appreciate the print product and actually prefer reading the print edition over the online one, but online newspapers are now making a name for themselves.

Not to mention blogs, just like this one. For the first time in media history, average citizens have the chance to share their stories without having to go through local media to get their news across. They can also share their opinion in a relatively anonymous way without harassment. Hmm...sounds like information-sharing perfection doesn't it?

Of course there will always be a nice for a hand-held paper product. Where else would old folks get their Sunday coupons? But the tides are changing, and my generation may be the one's to decide which direction they go.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

"We the Media"

So I'm reading a book called "We the Media: Grassroots Journalism by the People, for the People," for my New Media and a Democratic Society course and am surprisingly enjoying it. Now I will confess that I just finished the first chapter, but from what I've read so far, the books seems to be rife with information that discusses the state of modern media.

I bring this up over and over again simply because it's a phenomenon that cannot be avoided anymore. The media is changed. Sure older readers still enjoy their printed newspaper, but how many young readers still pick up a paper and read it? Instead, they're heading online to read news Web sites and blogs to get their news. Whats more, these readers are participating in the process by adding comments to online articles, posting to their own blogs and essentially serving as watchdogs to the fourth estate. Having that extra layer of protection certainly can't hurt democracy, right?

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

UF: tasering imbeciles or new media giant

In the wake of yesterday's on-campus tasering of UF student Andrew Meyer, I've been thinking a lot about what this event means for UF, the Gainesville community and, of course, communications in general.

When I first heard about what had happened I sort of shrugged it off as another case of ranting-gone-wrong. I've been to several ACCENT-sponsored events in the past and have seen my fair share people mouthing off to guest speakers. What really caught me off guard in this particular case was how everything transpired and the citizen journalism that took place. By the end of the day yesterday (Sept. 17), there were already countless video accounts of the tasering posted on Web sites like Youtube, FoxNews and various newspaper sites from all over Florida. Surprisingly they each told a different side to the story.

What makes these videos so fascinating to me is how they each produce a different message (which may be the reason we've seen such varying reactions from people). Who knows, maybe one's reaction can be determined by which video they saw? Anyway, this is a prime example of what so many of my professors have been talking about over the course of the last year. New media is not limited to trained reporters and media professionals anymore. In fact, most of the videos posted online were probably taken with cell phone cameras. With this time of citizen reporting, should the established news media be wary? Or does this mean that the nations "fourth estate" now has a watchdog of its own in the very audience it is set to serve? Both are interesting questions.

The event also shows how times have changed. Even when I started college a few years ago, camera phones were none existent. Portable, and easy to afford video recorders were also in short supply. But now that the technology is relatively inexpensive, these types of devices are everywhere. Talk about diffusion of innovations! Now that's media theory in practice if you ask me.

Still, this role of "citizen journalist" is still undefined. Are regular people able to adequately report events, or are they merely pawns for the current media machine to use? Are they owed money for their services? Again, only time well tell. Until everything gets sorted out I hope that Andrew Meyer is healthy and avoids and more conflict with UPD. I also hope that UF's PR department is ready for its biggest challenge since it created The Gator Nation campaign (which, come to think of it, really wasn't that difficult in the first place). Anyway, best of luck!

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Community...what, where and when is it?

The idea of community gets tossed around in a lot of different contexts these days. First, there's the traditional sense of community that involves neighborhoods and cities. In this sense, the term "community" refers to a sense of place. However with the rise of the Internet, a new sense of community is becoming popular.

What this new type of community signifies is a shift in day-to-day interactions among groups of people. No longer are we confined to our physical community for interaction. Now, we can log online and chat with someone halfway around the world about a shared interest or current event.

New programs like Second Life and World of Warcraft have created an online culture that relies on interaction among people, even though they never meet in person.

But there are several implications of this new notion of community. First, it shows a cultural shift to life online. Second, it shows our new found reliance on technology to conduct our everyday activities.

However, for the sake of this blog, I want to focus on the implications this trend has on the media. Newspapers have continually focused on national and international news to sell papers. After decades of this type of coverage, their sales are plummet ting. In my opinion, readers are looking for local news coverage. National and international news should be left for large news sources such as CNN and the NY Times. As a result, local bloggers, and other new media users that are familiar with the new notion of "community," have started filling in the missing, "local" peg that newspapers so desperately lack.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

It's GOwen Local

It may seem like common sense that newspapers and other local and regional news outlets focus on community-based issues, but it seems that some of these outlets have forgotten their roots and have decided to focus on national or international news stories almost exclusively, which is a loss for local residents.

As part of my master's thesis, I am looking into the idea of social capital and the media's role within that particular theory. Social capital can be defined as the relationships and interactions between neighbors and community members. For my thesis, I suggest that one of the large contributing factors to the decline of social capital in today's society is the shift from local news coverage to a more nationalized focus in the media.

Robert Putnam, one of social capital's most widely-read theorists, argues that the decline in newspaper readership is a significant factor in the overall decline of social capital. But what caused this decline in readership in the first place?

Well there are several factors that may or may not contribute to this falling readership. Among those, the Internet, people are reading less in general, economic issues, etc. However, I believe that there was a significant shift in news coverage following the Watergate scandal that lead to this change. Watergate was the first widely-publicized story that made front pages of newspapers across the country. As a result, newspapers began focusing on issues of greater impact. The term "if it bleeds it leads," became a nationwide phrase rather than a mere description of local police beat coverage.

As a result, we've seen local media change their focus. Rarely to local stories lead on the front page, but rather that slot is filled with war, disaster or celebrity coverage that has happened in far away places.

I'm not suggesting that providing more local coverage is a save-all for newspapers. But to me, common sense suggests that when people read a newspaper, they want to read about what is happening near where they live. Now, this isn't to say that national news isn't important, but newspapers should place a heavy emphasis on community building rather than national news distributing. By providing more local coverage, newspapers can contribute to a city's social capital by creating a sense of belonging for its readers.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Ah-ha Senator Craig...we finally got you

Yet again, another Republican Senator has been caught up in a scandal that is sure to cost him his political career, except this time, the media seemed to get it all wrong...or at least well past deadline.

Senator Craig, a Republican from Idaho, plead guilty to lewd acts in a public restroom in a Minneapolis airport earlier this month. The events actually took place in the summer.

What's ironic about all of this is how the media seemed to ignore, or completely miss the police reports, that were most likely filed shortly after the Senator's Aug. 6, plea. For shame political journalists. In our world of 24/7 news, it's surprising that something this important slipped under the media's panoptic gaze. It's almost as if the newspapers in Minnesota and Idaho were deliberately trying to avoid the scandal.

Sure there are probably some excuses as the why this story took nearly three weeks to break. Every newspapers/tv news station has its own demands that it has to meet on a regular basis, but when a story as influential and consequential as this gets no coverage, it's a failure of our media system.

Earlier today, in my New Media and a Democratic Society course, we all argued that a free press and freedom of expression are two crucial elements of a successful democracy, but what happens when that free press abandons its watchdog role and fails the citizens it is sworn to protect and inform? It seems to me there something is amiss in the media world of 2007 -- a scary thought when there's an election looming in the near future.

But perhaps there's something greater at hand. Maybe the local papers are owned by conservative corporations who demanded that they keep the story quiet. Or perhaps Senator Craig simply lucked out until Monday. Who knows? Either way, it's a travesty and I hope that the nation's media can fix it's dilemma...American citizens depend on it.

Raising Heat

It seems that UF has hit a new low when it comes to making budget cuts...or should I say a new high. Recently, the College of Journalism and Communications decided to raise the temperature in Weimer Hall's classroom by at least two degrees to help reduce utility costs.

Don't get me wrong, I'm all for being environmentally conscious and using resources wisely, but there has to be some sort of compromise. With the high humidity and even higher outside temperatures, students are having to sweat through class, and professors are having to let students out of class early because they cannot focus.

What makes this temperature change ironic is that the college spent a large sum of money refurbishing classrooms on the first floor of the building and replaced chairs and other fixtures in other areas of the building. I would rather sit in an old chair and be cool then bake while I'm in class.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

GOwen Somewhere and Gettin NOwhere

So the title of the blog is supposed to reference my life, but as I start my sixth year of school at the University of Florida, it is started to feeling like I'm not getting very far. Don't get me wrong, I graduated (with two degrees) in four years, and now I am working on a master's degree. It just seems like I've been in school forever.

To reintroduce myself to the blogging world again, I'm a graduate student at the University of Florida studying mass communications and urban and regional planning. I've written for just about every publication in the Gainesville area, and I've worked at a couple of papers in other states as well. For the last year I have taught unwilling undergraduates the basics of grammar and how to write for various types of media (journalism, PR and advertising).

This blog won't be political in nature, though politics may come into the fold every once in a while. For the most part, it will be my thoughts on different events and personal observations. I won't make any guarantees about how often I will actually post, but I'll aim for at least once a day.

I'm not that edgy, but I try. My sense of humor is notoriously dry. For that, I apologize.

If you disagree with anything I say, please say so in a comment. If you agree... don't hesitate to encourage me!

Well, until something interesting happens...happy blogging.