Why Journalism?

Dear Students:

Why did you choose journalism? Along with the lessons about writing, reporting, and editing I genuinely want you to answer this question. It is not an easy career, it changes rapidly, and there really is no such thing as job security. So why journalism?

“Fake News” is a term heard and seen daily. What does it really mean to you? Will it have an impact on how you do your job? Are you ready to enter a career that appears under attack? What will you do differently?

During the summer I co-taught a 3-week intensive program for high school students. It was shocking to hear how much mistrust they when it came to the news media. “Everyone is lying,” was a phrase often spoken by these well educated young students. So I asked in return, “why journalism?”.

Gone are the days when mass media was all on the same page. You chose a network for news, read the local paper, and the stories were there. It was a common ground across America. We all worked from a similar set of facts and stories. Today that has changed, people tailor their news to fit their lifestyle, there is no common ground. So what will you do as a journalist to inform your specific audience?

The students this summer talked about a lack of balance in the media, “everyone leans left or right,” was the comment. Is that indeed the case? What can you do to restore faith in the media? Several students cited transparency, adding each media outlet should admit to the bias and let the reader or viewer decide for themselves. It was a worthy discussion.

What is the role of journalism in today’s society? Is it to tell the truth? Inform society as a whole?  I think the more important question is, what do you see the role of journalism in the future?

So why did you choose journalism? I look forward to helping you find the answers.

Sincerely,

Angela Anderson Connolly

Affiliated Faculty Member/Journalism

Emerson College

A Letter to my Graduating Students

It is that time of year, graduation season. I greet the end of the semester with my students with mixed emotions. I am both sad and happy to see the students I have watched grow and learn graduate.

The students graduating from the program this year were Freshman when I began teaching as a member of the Affiliated Faculty. I feel as though they have seen me grow as a teacher, as I have seen them grow as journalists. It is a fairly small program, and I get to know many of the students extremely well. It is exciting to see them win awards for their work leading up to graduation. It is more exciting to hear from each one where they will be headed next.

I often get asked advice about starting out, and I say the same thing to each one, be yourself. No matter the field they chose to enter remaining true to the person, and their values will always be the right choice.  I know there will be times those values are challenged, and that is when you have to dig the deepest.

It is a bit of a scary time to enter the world of journalism. The industry is changing, evolving. The reliance on digital content and the 24-hour news cycle puts more pressure on journalists than ever. It is even scarier for young adults heading out on their own for the first time without the support system of a school or home. It is my hope that first job will offer some support and encouragement as each student grows.

I wish my students well as they step across that stage, I am proud of each and every one of them. They learned to think for themselves over the past four years, and have the skills needed to succeed. It is time for them to spread their wings and trust themselves, I look forward to seeing the great journalism you produce.

Puppies Don’t Do Politics

Admit it, the puppy picture made you click! Cute animals attract everyone, and there is not tension or disagreement when you embrace that cuteness.  Cute animals bring us together, and that can be a good thing.

National Puppy Day was celebrated this week, everywhere you turned someone was holding a cute puppy. The day was created in 2006 by Colleen Paige, an author who also calls herself a pet and family lifestyle expert. The idea was to encourage puppy adoption and bring awareness regarding puppy mills. Since Twitter and Facebook this day has become an international movement, just check out #NationalPuppyDay. You will find pictures and tweets from celebs and just people who love their dog. I admit to being one of those! My Facebook feed was filled with puppy pictures from friends and news organizations. Watching the morning news programs, all I saw were puppies!

 

Today Show National Puppy Day

CBS National Puppy Day

This got me thinking, why are there so many animals in the news lately?  I asked my students, they said it was a break from reality. There is so much negative news that the cute or funny animal video reminds them life is good. It is a stress reliever of sorts. It is a way for them to stop thinking about the seriousness of life, even just for a few moments.

Business Insider: Why We Love Cute Animals

This feeling is actually backed up by science. Researchers at CalTech found people are hardwired to respond to animals. In fact, the research found the part of the brain that is known to be responsible for emotional reaction lights up when the person is shown an animal. ABC News did a story on the study, read for yourself:

ABC News: Why People Love Pets

A more in-depth look at the study can be found here:

Science Daily: Animals Effect Our Brains

So we know the videos get a response, so is that why they are featured in the news so often? When it comes to unlikely animal pairings, there is a special response. Not just because the animals are cute and the pairing is unexpected, but as The New York Times article points out, on some level people can relate and want their species to get along better. It is a metaphor of sorts that crossing cultures can work out.

NY Times: Strange Animal Connections

Then you have the animal webcams, why do we sit at our computers for hours? Some experts argue they make us feel good, and that in turn becomes like a drug.

Seeker.com: The Lure of Animal Webcams

I will admit to loving the National Zoo Panda Cam.

National Zoo Panda Cam

How many hours have you spent waiting for April the Giraffe to give birth, when I last checked into the webcam there were nearly 80,000 people watching?

 

The videos can bring is a sense of awe and levity. My students made me promise to share this ten-year-old video of a bear and a trampoline. The bear was fine by the way.

 

Can you blame the media for tapping into the emotional connection people have with animals?  Could it be that even though there are differences between dog and cat people that humans have a special relationship with animals? Is it one area where we can agree, animals are cute and amazing? If someone gives you a hard time about watching animal videos online, well research shows it is actually good for you.

Daily Mail: Pictures of Baby Animals Improve Concentration

NBC News: Watching Cat Videos is Good For You

Washington Post: Why Do We Love Our Pets?

Business Insider: We Love Cute Animal Videos

So my questions this week, why do you watch animal stories?

Do you wait through commercial breaks if the animal story is teased?

Is it really such a bad thing that we have found something everyone can relate to?  We have all had a bad day, but this Jack Russell reminds us to just keep going. The world fell in love with this clumsy dog!

We have all had a bad day, but this Jack Russell reminds us to just keep going. The world fell in love with this clumsy dog!

Animals are cute and fun, and I enjoy the distraction! So just like National Puppy Day has turned into an excuse to look at cute puppy pictures, this blog has turned into an excuse to watch cut animal videos.

Let the Sun Shine In

Sunshine Week is Over

This past week was “Sunshine Week” in hindsight I wish I had written about this sooner so more people would be aware, and possibly attend local events. The week, put together by ASNE and the Reporters Committee highlights the need to free and public access to public information. The organization has put together a lot of articles and resources to help you learn more.

Sunshine Week Website

There were events around the nation to talk about access to information, and articles are written not only specifically for the event, but also by local newspapers about attempting to gain access to information.

http://www.concordmonitor.com/sunshine-week-animal-cruelty-records-8651597

You may think Sunshine Week was designed for reporters only, that is a misconception. We all have the right to access information from our government. Public disclosure of information is vital to democracy.  There is a lot of information at your fingertips in government databases, but that is changing.

Several articles during Sunshine Week focused on the Trump Administration’s removal of once publically available information. For example, you cannot longer go to a website and see who has visited the White House. The Obama Administration had a link where you could check the guest book.  President Trump’s staff has said they will make that information public on a regular basis when it is ready for release.

https://www.whitehouse.gov/briefing-room/disclosures/visitor-records

There has been other information removed from public web page’s that include data about animal cruelty and climate change. This has prompted groups of people to come together and take part in what are being called “data rescue events.” The groups select federal data they believe is at risk of being removed from websites and downloads the information to private servers to ensure the information will not get lost.

http://sunshineweek.rcfp.org/trumps-actions-raise-fears-about-access-to-government-data/

Every administration makes changed to government websites and alters content. This was no surprise. However, journalists and freedom of information advocates fear how far the Trump administration will go. As journalists we strive for transparency, shouldn’t we hold our elected officials to the same standards?  Right to Know laws and Freedom of Information Act requests are not just for journalists. You can help hold elected officials accountable. I know next year I will become more involved with local events, I hope you will too.