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Media Reform: Look to Curation, Innovation to Bring Change

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Somewhere during the run-up to the 2000 election, I remember legendary Washington Post columnist David Broder writing about the increasing split within the country along the Blue (liberal) – Red (conservative) divide.  I guess what I saw this weekend at the National Conference on Media Reform is a reaffirmation that the divide is alive.

This was a conference for the like-minded where bashing the media was second only to booing conservatives.

There was no denying the political undercurrent that was present throughout most of the conference.  Which I guess was to be expected.  But the underlying message — at both panels and on the conference Twitter feed — was that big media was failing and that somehow that failure allows the conservative message to gain more traction.  The irony is, conservatives say the same thing.

So, when we talk about “media reform,” what exactly are we talking about?  In the end, it really comes down to two things:  What the media is covering and how they are covering it.

Yet, for all the talk about reform this weekend, I’m not sure many attendees at this weekend’s conference understand the power that they have.  The focus seemed to be more on the failure of major print and television news organizations rather than the possibilities available to all through online journalism (or new media if you prefer.)

At several sessions Saturday attendees heard some optimism — and some key phrases.  Here’s a key-word rundown and what they could mean for true media reform:

No barriers to entryASU’s Dan Gillmor started the day talking about how the barriers to entry into journalism are gone.  David Cohn ended the day at his panel talking about how the barriers to entry into journalism are gone.  In simplest terms, that means if you think there is not enough coverage on a particular issue, then you can provide it.  Pick your issue, start your blog, shoot video to put on the blog and start engaging with your audience about the issue.  There was much passion at this conference.  Take all that passion and apply in to a blog.  Make the passion work for you!  It’s better and more productive than whining endlessly about the state of the media.

Collaboration.  The old models are disappearing.  It’s no longer a one-way conversation.  If you approach a news organization and say you want to write a blog for them, or provide photos or other content, chances are they will say yes.   The same goes for journalism schools — more and more journalism schools are searching for issues to have their students report on.

Curation.  For me, the best session today was listening to NPR’s Andy Carvin and others talk about the power of Twitter.  If you aren’t following @acarvin on Twitter, you should.  Since the uprising in Egypt, Carvin, along with Nick Kristoff of the New York Times have been transforming real-time reporting before our very eyes.  Carvin sees himself as a real-time Twitter news anchor, sifting through eyewitness report to determine what is accurate and what is rumor.   The future lies with online journalism and revolutionaries like Carvin.  If you’re looking for media reform, watch what Carvin is doing.

The Next Generation. Finally, the last panel of the day Saturday featured David Cohn and Jackie Hai in a panel titled “Journalism Next” focusing on what these young entrepreneurs are doing.  Jackie is a UMass Journalism alumnae who took my first Multimedia Journalism class at UMass and I’ve known David for more than four years, since we worked together on newassignment.net.  They are each involved in exciting projects and see nothing but hope for the future.  Follow their work.  Both are deeply immersed in the online journalism space and are part of the group of great innovators reforming media.

Multimedia Bootcampers Set Tone for New Semester

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Welcome back Journalism students!

UMass Journalism Multimedia Bootcamp.

Bootcampers Brittney Figueira, Matt McCarron and Katherine Valera have fun while editing during the Journalism Program's annual Multimedia Bootcamp.

While you were all running around to Target, Wal-Mart and Big Y this weekend, 11 of your Journalism comrades were running around with video cameras, putting together stories as part of the Second Annual Multimedia Bootcamp.  The students included freshmen, sophomores and transfers and were joined by Journalism graduate Jackie Hai and professors Brian McDermott and Steve Fox for 2 1/2 days of intense introduction to the world of Multimedia Journalism.

“This was a great group.  I think they will do well,” said Hai.

Take a look at the work of the Bootcampers:

* A Home for the UMMB

* College Roommates

* Pricey Textbooks

*Taking the “Zoo” Out of UMass

Bootcamp discussions ranged from video editing and shooting tips to brainstorming the perfect story idea to ethical dilemmas when shooting video.  Students were also welcomed with mini-visits from Professors Raz Sibii, BJ Roche and Maddy Blais.

The importance of internships was also mentioned…frequently.  And I stumbled across this notice from Dow Jones today, so get out there and apply!

Have a good semester!

Bootcampers swamp UMass & Amherst

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“In a perfect world, think about what would the best visuals for your story be?…”

UMass Journalism Multimedia Bootcamp

UMass Journalism Professor Brian McDermott reviews digital images with the 2010 class of Multimedia Bootcampers.

That was the question/thought of the day from UMass Journalism Professor Brian McDermott Friday as 11 UMass students brainstormed before venturing out of the classroom Saturday to shoot and compile video stories.  The dynamic group of students took part in several fun brainstorming sessions, with the most popular story idea focused on the ‘ZooMass’ image that UMass can’t seem to shed.

Accompanied by McDermott, Professor Steve Fox and UMass journalism graduate Jackie Hai, students pursued stories ranging from a feature on band camp to the “party” reputation of UMass to the cost of textbooks to the emotions of move-in day.   The trio of instructors were able to give hands-on guidance on lighting and composition of shots, as well as ethical issues including avoiding setting up shots and using open-ended questions when interviewing, not leading questions.

The Bootcamp students were the first to use a brand new batch of equipment — including new video cameras, wireless microphones and headphones.  It was all handled with care and students were back in Bartlett editing by late afternoon.

Check back later for their final projects!

Journalism Bootcampers Arrive at UMass!

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UMass Journalism Multimedia Bootcamp

Professor Steve Fox goes over story ideas with the 2010 group of Multimedia Bootcampers.

This year’s group of Multimedia Bootcampers arrived to Bartlett Hall — home of the Journalism program — early and energetic Thursday evening.

“I had to get out of my dorm and get over here,” said Brittney Figueira, who arrived about an hour before the start of Bootcamp.

The 11 students are made up mostly of freshmen, with a few transfer students and sophomores as well.  They spent most of a sticky Amherst Thursday moving in to their dorms before heading to Bartlett.

“This is a pretty impressive group,” said Professor Brian McDermott, who is joining Professor Steve Fox and UMass journalism graduate Jackie Hai in teaching the two-and-a-half day session this weekend.

Students took part in a fun interview exercise to help break the ice then gave their “elevator pitches” — 3-4 minute summaries of their journalism backgrounds — before the class.  Students actually “pitched” twice — the first pitch was used as practice before being delivered on video.  That video will be used today as a way  to show the group some video editing tricks.

The Bootcampers also brainstormed possible story ideas for today.  Students will spend a few hours this afternoon going out to streets of UMass and Amherst to put together short video packages.

Their final packages will be posted in this space, as well as on Amherst Wire.

I’ll check back later with updates.

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