Wednesday, December 24, 2008

White noise

We have so many things fighting for our attention nowadays. Prior to starting this entry, I was multitasking: importing a CD to mp3s; listening to new music; browser tabs tracking New York Times articles, friends' blogs and online profiles, and best-of lists. In a time of information overload, it's a struggle to discern what sources of information are important and vital from that of ephemera.

Bree Nordenson's article in the latest issue of the Columbia Journalism Review presents a convincing case for how journalists and newspapers can adapt in our age of informational white noise. She argues that journalists and newspapers need to become guides through the information jungle we find online, rather the gatekeepers of the news. They are in a unique position to gather and disseminate a story from multiple angles.

Journalists need to become synthesizers on behalf of the public. One prime example of this role Nordenson cites is the subprime mortgage crisis and NPR. Listeners and even fellow journalists were confused by the complexity of the situation, so NPR News and This American Life devoted an hour-long episode to the topic titled, "The Giant Pool of Money." It became the program's most popular episode in its 13-year history. They followed up the episode with another episode and a blog called Planet Money.

We are in a position where, thanks to the Internet, access to multiple news sources are readily available with almost no monetary cost (unless you consider creating a user account costly). We should be able to discern the truth of the matter due to the multiple sources of information we have on hand. One website I use frequently is Metacritic. It compiles reviews from several sources and tries to calculate an average review score for the movie, DVD, TV show, video game, or music album. (They used to include book reviews, but unfortunately it has since been dropped from their site.) I stick to a handful of reviewers for my entertainment/cultural intake, and the website accomodates that most of the time. I can choose to read about the newest Amadou & Miriam album and find what my favorite critics are saying. It is so useful to have all of that information in one site. And that's what journalists and newspapers need to do now.

That isn't to say that there's no place for a straight news story. There's always a need for nothing-but-the-facts approach to an event. But with everything that's out there on the Internet—news sites, online magazines, personal websites, blogs, discussion forums, article comments, email lists, chatrooms, and so on—it is difficult to stay on top of the news. To stay informed nowadays can be considered a Herculean task, probably akin to cleaning the Augean stables with nothing more than a hand trowel.

I consider myself to be well informed on most subjects, but I sometimes find myself beleaguered by the array of online resources. What's NPR's take on the story? NYT's? Washington Post's? How about The Guardian or The Globe & Mail? What does The AV Club think of this album? Pitchfork? Village Voice? Phoenix New Times? What about that team blog? What is their opinion?

Then there are issues that go a little deeper. How do I handle the underlying biases? Should I be looking for a differing opinion in order to get a balanced view of a story? Is this critic/journalist/writer missing something I should know? All of these are questions I ask myself whenever I approach a topic, and it can be daunting to address them.

When confronted by this white noise of information, what can a reader do? Trying to convert pure information into knowledge and wisdom seems to be the challenge now. Granted, it's not necessarily a new challenge, but the scale of it makes it novel. I'll try to outline my process for dealing with this glut next time.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

How High the Moon, or How These Lists Never Really Work Out

I. Put your iTunes/Ruckus/Napster/etc. on shuffle.
II. For each question, press the next button to get your answer.
III. You must write that song name down, no matter how silly it sounds!
IV. Tag friends who might enjoy doing this.

1. If someone says "is this okay" you say?
"Wish I" by Jem
2. What would best describe your personality?
"The Two Lonely People (aka The Man and the Woman)" by Bill Evans
3. What do you like in a guy/gal?
"Groovin'" by Booker T. & The MGs
4. How do you feel today?
"Aunt Hagar's Blues" by Louis Armstrong
5. What is your life purpose?
"Only This Moment" by Royksopp
6. What is your motto?
"Honky Tonk Hiccups" by Neko Case
7. What do your friends think of you?
"Roots Natty" by the Gladiators
8. What do you think of your parents?
"Satisfaction (Live)" by Otis Redding
9. What do you think about very often?
"Africa Centre of the World" by Fela Kuti, remixed by DJ Spooky
10. What is 2+2?
"By the Throat" by Pretty Girls Make Graves
11. What do you think of your best friend?
"Anos Dourados" by Antonio Carlos Jobim
12. What do you think of the person you like?
"The Moon in June Stuff" by The Brunettes
13. What is your life story?
"One to Three" by Les Savy Fav
14. What do you want to be when you grow up?
"Sunshine" by Lupe Fiasco
15. What do you think when you see the person you like?
"Theme From to Kill a Dead Man" by Portishead (?)
16. What do your parents think of you?
"Scientist Ganja" by Dub Scientist
17. What will you dance to at your wedding?
"Sweet Savannah Sue" by Louis Armstrong & the Hot Sevens
18. What will they play at your funeral?
"Flowing Spring on the Rock" by Chinese Plucked Instruments Quartet
19. What is your hobby/interest?
"Dreams and Lies" by Laurel Music
20. What is your biggest secret?
"Best Week Never" by Patton Oswalt
21. What do you think of your friends?
"Destroy Everything You Touch" by Ladytron
22. What's the worst thing that could happen?
"bambi" by advantage Lucy
23. How will you die?
"Ogi no Mato (The Folding Fan as a Target)" by Ensemble Nipponia
24. Does anyone like you?
"Wow" by Kylie Minogue
25. If you could go back in time, what would you change?
"Underwater" by Ghostface Killah
26. What hurts right now?
"Kanske Ar Jag Kar I Dig" by Jens Lekman
27. What will you post this as?
"How High the Moon" by Art Tatum

Tags to anyone reading this!

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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Friday, December 12, 2008

Weekend plans

Study microbiology
Arizona Daily Wildcat party @ 5:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m.
Nick Seibel's after-party @ 8 p.m. (Possibly going - may need wine for that)

Study microbiology
Courtney Johnson's arts desk party @ 8 p.m. (Will need wine/cheese/gifts for that)

Study microbiology
Grocery shopping
Sleep well

Microbiology test @ 11 a.m.!
Eat celebratory lunch
Plan desk party?

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Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Winter plans

Finals are approaching and my days as the copy chief at the Daily Wildcat are coming to an end. I'll finally have time between finals to catch up on the world at large and the music landscape.

One thing I'll need to do during the winter — aside from getting more sleep — is work on this blog's design. I haven't updated it in almost a year, and it shows. Another thing to work on is more frequent posts. Hopefully, with more free time next semester, I'll be able to post something at least once a week.

In working on the NutClub's blog (another project I need to revamp), I find that Wordpress offers a little more flexibility with its design than Blogger can afford.

Here's the plan for winter and beyond (Skip ahead if you don't like lists):
- Restore power to my bedroom and living room
- Finish my tenure as copy chief at the Daily Wildcat
- Prepare visual editing sheet
- Clean up desk and computer
- Finish my finals
- Clean up room
- Make plans with a certain someone (Too obvious?)
- Sort through old assignments and papers to see what's worth keeping
- Prepare writing samples and complete applications for Daily Wildcat
- Compose list of potential dietetics internships locations
- Reserve hotel room at the Oberlin Inn for journalism conference
- Prepare materials for the conference re: ethics, copyediting
- Sort through comics for donation or sale and for Rian
- Sort through clothes for donation
- End-of-the-year lists and gifts!
- Prep winter holiday gift for friends - something art-related.
- Computer clean-up
- Collect writing samples for studying

So, lots to do and little time to do it. I'm going to have make a step-by-step list to tackle each item.

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