Sunday, April 26, 2015

The Final Post: A reflection on the lessons of JOMC 240

This afternoon, I came across this coin operated newspaper rack for the Herald Sun:

Had I not taken JOMC 240, I probably wouldn't have given it a second thought.

The rack says "More Local News," which made me think about several conversations we've had in class about how news will become more localized. Well, actually our class took two different approaches to the localization of news theory. The first was that major news outlets will publish more local news in an effort to personalize their news content. The second was that local news outlets will out survive bigger newspapers. Either way, we discussed the great value in local news.

JOMC 240 has taught me a lot about the future of mass media, but most importantly, it's encouraged me to think about the future. Yes – news media is changing. Technology and digital devices have forever impacted all types of mass media, and we're the journalists who will navigate this transition.

The future is scary, especially when the future brings radical changes that could potentially take away jobs. But JOMC 240 has shown me that within these changes are opportunities for success.

Several classes we talked about Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Spotify, Napster, Huffington Post, and other mass media that happened because of an idea. The creators of these media took advantage of new technologies to meet a need. They allowed people to communicate through pictures, instantly send messages, download music and read articles online.

JOMC 240 has taught me that although traditional print journalism is on its way out – although a potentially slow decline – media will live. There will always be a market for news, even if that market exists only on laptops. Viewers will always want to "Keep Up With the Kardashians." Listeners will always want to download their favorite songs. And tragedies, like the Chapel Hill Shooting, will highlight the importance of honest, fair reporting, even when the story doesn't quite fit the expected narrative.

Although the medium will change, news will never die.

It will be our role as millennial journalists to guide news from the printed page to computer screens. It may not always be profitable. It may not always be fun, but I believe it is our responsibility to make news relevant and accessible to the digital generation, if only for the benefit of democracy.

Now is the time for journalists to seize the day. The phrase "carpe diem" comes from a poem by the Roman poet Horace. The line in the poem is translated: "Seize the day, put very little trust in tomorrow (the future)."

As journalists of the future, we can't trust tomorrow to make the print-digital transition. We are being presented with the opportunity to reinvigorate and reestablish news for the digital audience.

I think our future looks pretty bright.

Monday, April 13, 2015

Digital Libraries

The following is part of a piece I wrote for magazine writing class. The article was about robots entering libraries, and how they may revolutionize the way libraries function. What I find most interesting about this article is that even traditional analog media (aka books) are being surrounded by more and more digital interfaces. Now we are using computers to handle and retrieve books, which highlights how in the future, I see most (if not all) media turning to digital. 


Robots in some libraries are actually eliminating one of the basic jobs of a librarian: storing and retrieving books.

Robotic storage and retrieval systems have been used in shipping facilities and warehouses for almost two decades, but the technology was introduced to public libraries only about five years ago.

The British Library unveiled one of the world’s first and most advanced robotic systems in 2009 that has the ability to stores and retrieve about 7 million barcoded items. More recently, the James B. Hunt library opened at North Carolina State University in 2013 with “bookBot,” — a robotic system that can retrieve any one of 2 million books within minutes. The high-tech library was expensive, costing about $115 million, but the system has earned its keep.

“It has never lost a book,” said Honora Eskridge, director of Centennial Campus research services at N.C. State University. “The machine can self-audit, meaning it inventories every book on every shelf, and Hunt library has never reported a missing book.”

The system eliminates problems created by open stacks in traditional libraries. When the public is allowed to enter the stacks, books are inevitably misplaced and stolen. With really large libraries — especially those on university campuses — it’s impossible to perform comprehensive inventories. Eskridge said in traditional libraries, it’s generally assumed that 20 percent of a library’s collection is lost or missing.

BookBot ensures the collection is complete and eliminates the need for 10-digit call numbers. The robot orders books by size and not by genre or category, which means books aren’t permanently assigned to a shelf. The robot automatically sends returned books to empty spaces. And by ordering books by size, the robot takes 1/9th the space of traditional stacks.

Eskridge said the greatest advantage of the robot is not it’s really fast high-tech retrieval, or that it keeps people from constantly sorting through the stacks. She said the greatest advantage is its ability to make more space for people.

“At one point, there was so much space devoted to books, there was almost no room for people,” she said. “That’s what a library is about — space for people.”

This is what Nancy, Vincent and bookBot have in common. The robots are really not about the technology; they’re about the people.

Why hasn't digital sheet music caught on?

The digital book industry has become exceedingly popular with the widespread availability of e-readers and tablets. Books have been available online for decades, but the digital book industry only became popular when digital books — like their paper counterparts — could be transported. The same characteristics of digital sheet music—cost, ease of transport and access—also apply to digital books. A study by Ricoh, a multinational imaging and electronics company, in 2012 published market research about the future of the book industry. “The Evolution of the Book Industry: Implications for U.S. Book Manufacturers and Printers” found the instantaneous download feature of ebooks trumps any user’s preferences for the sentimental features of printed book. In other words, they found that even most people who love the smell, feel, texture, taste and sound of paper books are more likely to download ebooks because they can be read instantly. Ricoh’s 2012 market research also predicted that in 2016 ebooks would capture 60 percent of the entire book market, which is unlikely because ebooks in 2015 only capture 30 percent of the market.  It may be possible that in all cases digital e-reader technology catches on more slowly than predicted.

Although printed music and printed books are quite similar, it should not be overlooked, however obvious, that reading words and reading music are quite different activities, and these differences may explain why digital sheet music is less popular than digital books. When someone reads a book ­– unless it’s for class – they will read through the book only once. Musicians often practice sheet music in anticipation of a performance, which means repeatedly flipping through sections of the score and writing notes about performance practices. Musicians often study the music they play, which makes the digital format more difficult to manage. Likewise, this may explain why digital are not as popular as printed textbooks.

            Characteristics of sheet music may preclude itself from being qualified as mass media. Although sheet music distributes information to a wide audience, it’s more of a “mass medium once removed.” Sheet music is marketed to a select group of people (formally trained musicians) who then translate the musical score into music consumed by the masses. Unlike books, which are directly distributed to the consumer, digital sheet music must be distributed to a performer before being consumed by listeners. This niche market of performers may explain why digital sheet music is less popular. The market for sheet music may be less receptive to technological changes, for example, because many performers are older.   

Saturday, April 11, 2015

How online communication changes communication

From my very unscientific observations, I've concluded that abbreviations are no longer acceptable on social media or texting. In fact, abbreves are now "shibboleths"– a fancy way of saying people will judge you for using them. 

TTYL8R and G2G are archaic. They were acceptable when people used T-9 word on Razr cellphones in 2006, but in 2015, there's simply no excuse. Some may argue "lol" is an abbreviation for "laugh out loud," which I will concede they're correct. But it's function is different. "Lol" functions like a smiley face emoticon, helping readers understand the tone of a sentence that could perhaps be interpreted as too serious or overly literal. And other practices of abbreviation, like shortening sentences by deleting verbs and subjects, are no longer acceptable. 

In 2015, text messages, Facebook comments, etc, should all be written in complete prose, but interestingly, a few people still use the language of 2006 T-9 word. I read the following comment on my Facebook this morning: 

Do not watch BBC news anymore due to bias

There are many problems with this comment. 

1) The subject "I" is missing, which makes the writer's message unclear. Is it a statement or command? In other words, is she not watching the BBC or is she commanding me to not watch the BBC? 

2) Likewise, "due to bias" could be referring to the news network's bias or her own bias. Is she biased about news networks, or does she think BBC news delivers biased news? I assume that she believes the network is biased – but still, it's unclear. 

3) Her statement is unsupported. Yes, she didn't have enough time to include the subject of the sentence, so of course she wasn't going to offer any supporting claims. But that would've strengthened her argument. 

4) It doesn't have punctuation. Periods and commas are essential in written communication whether it's online, offline or on paper. Punctuation helps readers navigate the written word. So unless you're E.E. Cummings, I'll expect periods. 

In 2015, her Facebook comment should appear: 

I do not watch BBC news anymore due to the network's bias. 

Monday, April 6, 2015

When news makes mistakes

An independent study recently found the Rolling Stone article about gang rape at the University of Virginia to be untrue. The error is serious. Gang rape is serious, and accusing a fraternity of such heinous behavior will not go without consequences. 

When mainstream media makes such egregious errors, it makes me worry about the future of mainstream media. But it also makes me wonder--what caused those errors? 

The New York Times said the investigation found that the editing process failed at nearly every step. Could these failures be from scaling back as a result of the decline of print media? If so--this wouldn't be good news because it means that more horrible mistakes, more failures of the editorial process, will be almost certainly inevitable at other newspapers and magazines. 

Hoping the press conference at noon will shed more light on the situation. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

The Tidal Empire

This weekend I've binged watched the television show "Empire." And without the drama, back-stabbing and sexual content, the Empire music industry – the subject of the show – resembles the new "Tidal" music service.

Let me first praise the "Empire" television series. The plot lines are exceedingly developed and the characters complex. The best shows have characters that aren't simply good or bad. They are both, which makes the show feel more realistic. Empire is truly the Downton Abby of pop music.

Empire, despite its dramatic plot and string of murders, is relevant to today's music industry. The company "Empire" is a lifestyle brand, where the artists aren't just producing records. The company produces videos, shoes, t-shirts and online content for the biggest pop and rap artists. The fictional company puts the biggest names under one label. (Hence the name "Empire.")

Similarly, the real company Tidal seeks to combine pop music's biggest stars into one label. Jay Z, Usher, Nicki Minaj, Madonna, J. Cole, etc. etc., will soon be selling their music through the same service. If Tidal is successful, it may bring pop music's biggest stars closer together.

Watching "Empire" has made me wonder what this could mean for pop music. In the show, Empire artists often perform duets because their agents work for the same company. I wonder if Tidal succeeds, could the company create more friendships within the industry? And because Tidal's artists have an invested interest in the success of the company, I think that absolutely, these pop musicians will want to play off each other's success.

Which could bring more duets. Seriously.

Yes--I think the success of Tidal could mean more pop music duets. And let it be known, I will be first in line to buy the new Beyonce and Madonna album.

Saturday, April 4, 2015

On the future of news

I read an article in USA Today (Ironically, I didn't actually read it in the paper. I read it online, but at one point it appeared in print) about Michael Wolff's somewhat optimistic attitude toward the future of the newspaper.

He writes:

"We are, however (no getting away from it), not working for Facebook, a job that at this moment probably feels pretty good. Wall Street clearly doesn't give great value to what we do. Often our own children seem to wonder why we do it. But on the brighter side, the powers that be aren't so much taking our livelihood from us as they are giving it back. Ready or not."

I  agree with his view. Yes, the print newspaper is dying. Printed material just doesn't work today. They take too much time to print; they deliver yesterday's news, and people don't want yesterday's news when they can read today's news online. 

So at the moment, it's pretty scary for traditional print newspapers and journalists because their industry is dying. Interestingly, Wolff describes their industry as a "manufacturing industry" because newspaper companies manufacture physical products. Of course, the industry is changing. Newspapers aren't selling much of the physical product. 

While we are in the crossroads of the newspaper industry, it's important to remember that written news will never disappear. Written news is still the most efficient way to consume news because watching news through video or audio takes more time (for example, audio books take a lot longer than reading the book), and news must be condensed and simplified to be understood by a television audience. 

So journalism isn't dying, while the printed paper is. Unfortunately, no news medium has yet replaced the printed paper. We still need something, a new platform – the next iTunes for news – to come along and shake the newspaper industry. 

As we sit in limbo and the clock ticks, it's impossible not to have anxiety as a journalist. We're just waiting for this medium to strike.