Thursday, May 14, 2009

Best Tucson Restaurants (So Far) & Congratulations

Apologies for the lateness of this posting — finals, etc.

For the Commencement Issue, I cut loose, a little, and highlight some of the best restaurants Tucson has to offer students.

Congratulations to all the Arizona Daily Wildcat graduates!

Thank you all for your hard work to keep the UA/Tucson community informed.

Hope to see you in print, online, or, perhaps, on an e-book reader.

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Friday, May 8, 2009

Thoughts on journalism

A clarification. In yesterday's post, I talked about an incident that occurred in a journalism class involving a student and her video project. It may look as if I was deriding the UA School of Journalism and its journalist-professors. I was not.

Instead, my scorn was aimed at the student and her project. The fact that she could make such a project and try to pass it off as journalism is ridiculous. Just as there are some articles and events that do a great disservice to the credibility and staff of the Arizona Daily Wildcat as well as the UA community, the same can be said of what goes on in the School of Journalism.

The point I was trying to get across was that the classroom is not the same as the work environment, yet both are vital. The classroom can be a laboratory where people can experiment in a safe place without fear of reprisal from the general public. This is no different from an artist drawing in a sketchbook or a choreographer dancing in an empty studio.

But this experimentation is not the same as displaying one's paintings or performing a dance piece — or writing for a regular newspaper. As that student may have perceived it, her class work was not under public scrutiny, so there was little or no consequence.

So you turn in shoddy work for a journalism class. Your classmates may not respect what you've done and your grade may have taken a hit, but there's always the next assignment to boost up your grade. That is, if you even care about your grade or the class.

But turn in shoddy work at the newspaper and you'll get complaints from students, faculty, alumni, parents of students, local businesses, special interest groups, other staff members, etc., and you may never get a chance to regain their trust again. There are real and lasting consequences involved with working at a newspaper — even a student-run newspaper — and that student, for better or worse, didn't get to see and feel those consequences in the safe confines of the classroom.


Since I'm on the topic, there has been a national discussion going on about how to save newspapers. Guests and callers on a recent episode of The Diane Rehm Show offered a few suggestions including nonprofit status, new business models, and a government bailout similar to what the auto industry has received. Wednesday's Democracy Now! showed an excerpt from David Simon, creator of The Wire, who testified before a Senate hearing led by Sen. John Kerry about the state of journalism and the need for "high-end journalism," that is, professional journalists. He advocated for a nonprofit model for newspapers. Ariana Huffington of The Huffington Post, and Steve Coll, former managing editor the Washington Post, also testified and presented different views as to what can be done for the newspaper industry.

I wonder if it's possible for the newspaper industry to survive. I doubt it can continue in its current physical form. I also doubt we can get the same quality of reporting from online sources without significant capital to finance it. As Simon summarizes so well, the major blogs and news aggregators feed on the primary sources of news and those who follow these secondary and tertiary sources do not have to pay for the content. But they still need the newspapers to provide the news.

People have become accustomed to getting free information online. However, people are also willing to pay for online content so long as they get perceived value. When selling something online (and the news is a product that is sold), the buying process needs to be so quick and easy that even a child can do it. (Amazon and iTunes are good models to consider.)

Given that two-thirds of North America's population uses the Internet, I'm surprised that industry leaders haven't moved faster to transition online or create a stronger print/online hybrid. It's almost like the American auto industry and hybrid cars...

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Summer preview

For the final Wildlife issue, I write about what you can do during the summer in and around Tucson.

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Thursday, May 7, 2009

Editorships and scholarships

I was passed over for the summer editor-in-chief position at the Arizona Daily Wildcat. It went to Justyn Dillingham.

I was also passed over for the fall art & features editor position at the DW. The position also went to Justyn.

When combined, these facts may lead one to think that I may be feeling bitter about the results. Yet I'm actually a little relieved to not have both positions. It has given me the chance to take some much needed time off. I've been in class ever since I began my study of nutritional sciences, and it's nice to have the opportunity once again to travel or work at a better-paying job.

My best friend Matt invited me to visit him in Boulder, CO, this summer to attend a Death Cab for Cutie, Andrew Bird, and RaRaRiot concert, and I'll be able to do that for once.

Of course, I'd like to continue to work at the DW. Where else can I get journalism training without taking the classes? Where else can I meet people doing journalism because they want to do it rather than because they have to do it for a journalism class? Where else can I see journalists out in the field working to get stories that have a direct impact on UA students?

This isn't to disparage against the journalism department since they have, so I'm told, some good great professors with strong backgrounds in journalism. But the classroom is a safe environment where someone can shoot herself "testing" 3 different tequilas while wearing a low-cut dress and claim it as an investigative piece into the various brands of Mexican tequila in a crappy YouTube-style video. (Sadly, this actually happened in a journalism class. I'm not sure what grade that person got. The sad and annoying part is that she didn't even get any tequilas that aren't readily available in the U.S.! How informative can that be?)

Questions I've been asked by others regarding my work at the Wildcat: why are you doing this? Why write for them? Why not work at a job more related to nutrition like diet tech or assistant at a RD's office? First, I missed the hectic environment from my days at the Oberlin Review. Second, I didn't really develop my skills as a journalist while at Oberlin aside from my work as a copy editor and manager. Third, I think developing these skills will be helpful in the future. I'm adding to my writing portfolio and stretching out my resume. I'm also learning more about the Tucson community and what it has to offer by way of its food and arts. Though the latter may not be as important to a dietitian, it's vital to know what local food resources are available so that clients can used them to their full advantage.

As it stands, I've already done a lot for the Nutrition Club this year, which was one of my and the officers' goals. It was enough to earn me the club's scholarship. I've also been elected to be a club fundraiser, and my goal next year is to raise enough money for at least two scholarships again. Hopefully, I can exceed that goal with our new officers.

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