Campus Coverage Project: Day #1

January 7, 2011 § 1 Comment

Phoenix, AZ.  “It’s the best time to be in the business,” according to Manny Garcia, executive editor of El Nuevo Herald.

So for all of you naysayers who doubt the power of journalism and its ability to subsist as a shifting industry, the joke’s on you. With the advent of social media and advanced digital storytelling techniques, journalists are better equipped to break news more quickly and over a larger audience base than traditional media allows for.

The opportunities are there, and as Garcia pointed out, they belong to those with varied skill sets, as well as the personality and drive to earn the trust of sources. But most importantly, they often go to the reporters with an investigative edge. Because after all, “Watchdog sells papers and moves ratings.”

And here in Phoenix, it’s what personally drives over 75 participants in this year’s Campus Coverage Project, a co-partnered conference aimed at providing college journalists with the tools they need to sufficiently cover the institutions they attend.

After a rousing introduction from IRE’s Mark Horvit detailing an array of breaking and important work, all from college journalists, I can say without a doubt that I am pumped for whatever this weekend has in store!

Horvit discussed the pressing need for more coverage of  the massive institutions that are often responsible for large community employment, command millions of dollars in funding and are routinely overlooked. The importance of the higher education beat is important not only from an economical standpoint, but from a social context as well. As Horvit pointed out, these are the very institutions that are responsible for producing much of America’s future leaders of business and industry.

And who better to cover the university beat than university students?

Farewell 2010, Google-Style.

December 28, 2010 § Leave a comment

zeitgeist |ˈtsītˌgīst; ˈzīt-|noun [in sing. ]: the defining spirit or mood of a particular period of history as shown by the ideas and beliefs of the time. ORIGIN mid 19th cent.: from German Zeitgeist, from Zeit ‘time’ + Geist ‘spirit.’

In under three minutes, Google has managed to sum up the year while promoting its bevy of online services and products. Leave it to Google to multitask!

Phoenix, Here I Come!

December 26, 2010 § Leave a comment

Color me excited. In about two weeks’ time, I’ll be in Phoenix, Arizona, where it is 66 degrees and sunny.

Follow me as I live blog from twitter @ http://twitter.com/jiejennyzou

That’s exciting news for several reasons, the top one being the current nor’easter which is dumping an expected half foot of snow right here in New York City as I type. The same storm already staked its claim on the south this past Christmas weekend.

Winter weather woes aside, my trip to Phoenix will not simply be an opportunity to defrost and take in the sights. I’ll be one of 75 student participants in IRE’s 2011 Campus Coverage Project which will be hosted by the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism in downtown Phoenix. The 3-day-long conference will feature training and tips from some of the top investigative reporters in the country.

As a staff reporter and copy editor for my campus news site, The Stony Brook Independent, I’m anxious to start implementing as much I can from the conferences to my staff’s local coverage of Stony Brook University and the local Long Island area.

Guest speakers are set to include Manny Garcia from The Miami Herald and its sister publication, El Nuevo Herald, IRE’s  executive director Mark Horvit, and Ron Nixon from The New York Times.

I can’t wait to sink my teeth into the training programs they have lined up for us, which include computer-assisted reporting sessions and budgetary analysis workshops.

Check back here for more updates as I’ll be posting as much as I can during January 6-9. I’ll also be live blogging via twitter @ jiejennyzou with the hash tag #ccp2011 (or something similar along the lines to this).

The Times, They Are A-Changin'

December 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Move on over to irrelevancy, New York Times Co.

Well perhaps not to irrelevancy, but to the corner where all the other slightly less relevant companies sit.

That’s right fellow media junkies, NYT Co. is no longer a crown jewel of the S&P 500, which lists the top 500 American companies (though it’s not strictly a U.S. list as some multinational companies also make up the S&P). According to Mashable, the New York Times Co. is out and Netflix is in.

Netflix, the Blockbuster-esque company that first made strides with its video rental services via postal mail, has since expanded to the popular option of video-streaming which requires no red paper envelopes. Other video-streaming companies like Hulu are also cashing in on the convenience of the web.

The New York Times will now be on the S&P MidCap 400, which lists the median range of US stocks. It’s not the slums, but it’s not the elite either, and for a company that has built its reputation as the finest paper in the U.S., it’s a hard economic reality to swallow.

The Times is also set to unroll its paywall on its http://www.nytimes.com site sometime within the next few months. Forbes recently reported that the Times is serious about its paywall and is taking a Financial Times approach to the overhaul as opposed to WSJ’s porous wall where users can access articles for free via a quick google search.

I remember first reading about the Times paywall on its website last January with a bit of incredulousness. Even as someone who plans to go into the industry in the next couple of years, the idea of being charged for the NYTimes bothered me.

There’s no doubt that my life would be different as a j-school student if I didn’t have access to the Times. It was the first newspaper I started to follow on a consistent basis and it set off my growing love affair for print, which has since expanded to other major dailies. But as a college student, the idea of paying hundreds a year for a subscription really really hurts. It not only hurts, but I’m beginning to wonder whether I’ll be able to actually afford the Times.

I shiver in anticipation as I await for more details to roll out. But for now, I’m pretty much at the mercy of the Times. Their sweet, no-longer-free, high quality, journalistic mercy.

So, what say you, fellow blogosphere warriors–will you be shelling out some cash for the Times online? Do any of you subscribe to the Times in print and will you continue to do so?

A Leaky Situation for Wikileaks

December 13, 2010 § Leave a comment

Julian Assange is leading a cyberwar, and it's not pretty.


The word “wiki” was first coined by programmer Ward Cunningham from the Hawaiian phrase, ‘wiki-wiki,’ which translates to ‘quick-quick.’ The prefix has since been applied to any website that allows for collaborative editing of its content by multiple users.

In 2006, Wikileaks, a self-described collaboration of “Chinese dissidents, journalists, mathematicians and startup company technologists, from the US, Taiwan, Europe, Australia and South Africa,” was formed, allowing “whistleblowers” to anonymously and untraceably post documents.

Fast forward to 2010 and Wikileaks is now in the midst of a cyber-war after being dropped from several DNS servers in reaction to its most recent leak of several thousand U.S. diplomatic cables. Aside from ruffling some political feathers, its director, the extradited Australian Julian Assange, currently sits in a Swedish prison awaiting rape charges.

It’s true that Wikileaks has come to dominate the journalistic conversation, but its continuity hangs in the balance. So far the non-profit organization has managed to stay alive and can be accessed via several domain names with the help of its bevy of web users, but it’s unclear just how much longer the organization can hold on in a increasingly hostile international community.

But on to the journalistic aspect of Wikileaks.

Wikileaks has changed the way that confidential information is released and reported on by the press. It used to be that newspapers had teams of investigative reporters that dug through boxes of files or arranged meetings with heavy chain-smoking sources in dark parking lots. While the latter may be based solely on a viewing of “All The President’s Men,” Wikileaks has managed to affect the news media in a way that no other “whistleblower” in history has.

It has provided an instantaneous venting tool for all sorts of jaded government workers. The journalists– who were once the gatekeepers of such information and spent hours deliberating and often cooperating with governments in an argument over editorial judgment–are suddenly subtracted from the equation.

Not just subtracted, they’ve almost become pawns in Wikileaks’ arsenal of classified information.

However voluminous the information Wikileaks has managed to leak in its relatively short web existence (I can count at least 5 major blow-ups that made front pages), it has yet to deliver anything on par with the Pentagon papers or Watergate; at least in my opinion.

And it’s worth noting that Wikileaks is almost unnavigable because of its breadth of documents. The typical citizen will need a third party (namely, a trusted journalistic outlet) to make sense of all the military lingo and just sort through all the documents for them. In that way, it reminds me most of the Starr Investigation, which was posted in full at the height of the web boom in 1999.

Much like Starr, news organizations are beginning to wise up when it comes to Wikileaks and their skepticism is starting to show. The AP recently announced that it would no longer refer to the organization as a “whistleblower,” which has a more positive connotation, and would instead call it a website that specializes in displaying leaked information.

The Daily Newspaper Minus the Print

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

Ahh, just what I wanted for Thanksgiving, a paper-less daily paper on my non-existent iPad.

Here’s the rundown on Rupert’s newest pet project:

Who: News Corp.’s “The Daily,” a staff of 100, and Mr. Murdoch.
What: A daily digitial newspaper available only from an iPad app.
When: Set to debut sometime in 2011.
Where: Available on iPads everywhere, for a price that is.
Why: Cha-Ching $

Like its namesake, The Daily will be published daily. Imagine a newspaper website, now imagine never being able to refresh it until the next day. The limitations don’t stop there; the staff of 100 is expected to churn out mostly original content, with some recycled bits of content and videos from News Corp. and Fox Sports. [Compare that to most large daily operations which feature at least a couple of hundred on staff.]

Staff highlights include the likes of Sasha Frere-Jones of The New Yorker, Steve Alperin of ABC, and Richard Johnson of Page Six fame. While I’m interested to see what this static, multimedia daily will look like, I’ll admit that I lack the capabilities to do so. The access cost, in this case, an iPad, is quite high–and that’s before I can even access the content via the application.

No need to fear, Murdoch expects half a million to snatch up the app [about 5 % of current tablet users according to the Times]–an ambitious feat, even for the media magnate.

But with tablets and smartphones representing a growing cash mine with users routinely spending on apps, it just might pay off.

Television Without the Box: Ads Galore

November 25, 2010 § Leave a comment

With Google TV and Apple already making their rounds on the online television circuit, a report from Turner Broadcasting that claims web viewers may be willing to watch even more ads online is drumming up support for television without the television.

The report found that online viewers may be willing to sit through ads comparable to that of current television ads (read: a half hour of NBC’s “Community” actually breaks down to a 23 minute episode with the remaining seven minutes left for 30 seconds+ ads).

Currently, Hulu viewers are accustomed to much less, watching that same 23 minute episode with four to five 15-30 seconds breaks–totaling a whopping minute and a half of ads. Viewers on Hulu also have the option of watching a minute-long trailer or long-form commercial first and bypass the 15-30 seconds breaks entirely for an uninterrupted viewing experience.

The plan? Pad online streams with so many ads that its simply television online. Really? Moving backwards much?

Granted that online viewing still has its limitations, the idea of online streams simply becoming jam-packed with ads will still not bode well with online viewers. The flexibility of the web is still hampered by traditional media, with some shows running on a delayed posting date in conjunction with broadcast agreements (e.g. popular shows like Fox’s “House” is posted 7 days after the original broadcast).

And we still haven’t seen anything comparable to a 6 o’clock news show online that doesn’t originate from a network. [And even so, how many times will you go online to watch Nightly News with Brian Williams the DAY AFTER the original broadcast? It’s old news made even older.]

But for now, it’s good news for those hoping to squeeze the nickels and dime out of online viewers, who, for the most part–don’t really pay attention to ads. At least I don’t. The best part of watching House online, even if it’s a week later, is being able to quickly toggle to my Facebook page while some Toyota ad blares on in the background. Is it just a case of the dollar-dime rule, this time applied to television and the web instead of print and the web?