Category Archives: Journalism

Biased

I discovered this amidst my notes from JMC301: Intermediate Reporting and Writing.

I think I’m developing a bias against reading/talking about bias in journalism.

I’m over it.

As a college junior is this opinion premature? Yes, but I can’t help it.

Bias is bad, bias is human, bias permeates everything. Blah, blah, blah.

I understand (and put into practice) that when reporting I need to keep my personal opinions out of my work. That is perfectly just. What I don’t like is when bias is confused with personality and uniqueness.

If being bias free means my writing needs to be dry and boring, I’ll quit journalism right here and now.

Journalism was never meant to be boring. It was meant to test the creative abilities of reporters by needing to be both interesting and opinion free.

Anyone can spit facts onto a page. It takes skill to engage and inform consumers in a memorable way.

I must have been frustrated when writing this…

Entrepreneurs at ASU: Reforging the Road to Success

There’s a new trend for the brightest young business minds of today. Skip the traditional method of working your way up the business ladder, found an exciting new business instead and you’re already on top.

For entrepreneur Mark Sholin, this is a reality.

Sholin graduated with his Chemical Engineering B.S. in 2010 from the University of Arizona and entered a Ph.D. program at ASU. While working as a research associate in the BioDesign Institute a certain technology called ARBCell captured his interest and this lead to the founding of ARBSource in August 2011.

The ARBCell is a treatment method for water that is cost and energy efficient. Organic waste in water from a high production facility, such as a potato chip factory, is degraded and eliminated using organisms and a unique reactor design. In the end the water is clean and the process produces hydrogen gas which can be sold or used by the company.

“What I like to say is that ARBSource transforms wastewater treatment from a costly liability into a valuable resource,” Sholin said.

ARBSource, though still pre-revenue, has already been noticed. It is being supported by the ASU Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative with a $10,000 investment and it is a finalist in the CleanTech Open, a worldwide competition for cleantech startup businesses.

The CleanTech finals will be held in San Jose, Calif. November 15 and 16. To win the $250,000 prize, ARBSource must beat out 20 other companies.

Sholin credits his company’s success to the young and enthusiastic team behind ARBSource as well as their older, more experienced advisors.

“At CleanTech we were the youngest by far,” Sholin said. “But we show that we’re knowledgeable and credible.”

Being young, in fact, is a benefit, Sholin said. As long as the team stays “leveraged by experienced advisors” youth will make the business more memorable.

Josh Hottenstein, the Arizona director for the CleanTech Open, has worked directly with Sholin and praises the start up. He worked to pair ARBSource with mentors who would be able to foster the newly formed business’ growth.

“CleanTech works to find, fund and foster clean technology entrepreneurs,” Hottenstein said. “Even though it is a competition, we work with every contestant to be their advocate and connect them with mentors in the field.”

Hottenstein said that ARBSource has what a start up needs: a sellable product, unique hook and a solid team.

“There are a lot of ideas in Arizona,” Hottenstein said. “I try to connect them with resources to turn them into a company.”

Will Curran, a senior at ASU and colleague of Sholin’s, said the two of them often brainstorm together about how to build their businesses.

Curran founded and runs Arizona Pro DJs, a business that delivers high quality entertainers and music to events such as birthday parties and High School dances.

“We bring concert and club elements to events,” Curran said.

Curran is a two time ASU Edson Student Entrepreneurship Initiative award recipient and couldn’t be more thankful for the help it gave.

“Edson was huge,” Curran said. “We were able to use that money toward expensive equipment we needed.”

Both Sholin and Curran agree that ASU and the resources it provides was a huge boon to their businesses.

“The learning curve for me and ARBSource was accelerated by ASU’s resources,” Sholin said

“It’s important to utilize all resources, and ASU has tons of them,” Curran said.

ASU’s effort spent on creating an atmosphere that encourages and supports student entrepreneurship has definitely paid off in the cases of Sholin and Curran. Now it’s time to see who will succeed next.

Sugar Skulls: El Dia de los Muertos in Mesa

Clickclick. Clickclick. Loud music pumps into the air as stilt-walkers with their faces painted to look like friendly skulls and dressed in traditional Mexican clothing noisily make their way down a pathway filled with adults and children.

Tables with bright plastic table clothes are lined with bracelets made from skull beads, ghoulish masks and wood panels painted to depict scenes from long ago. A little boy eyes the skeleton figures that look like morbid action figures.

Every year the Mesa Arts Center hosts a free El Dia de los Muertos, Day of the Dead, festival in late October. This festival is both informative and entertaining, appealing to children and adults.

Diana Hollinshead came to the festival with her granddaughter. She heard about the festival through a friend and thought it sounded like a fun weekend activity.

“I’ve really enjoyed my time here,” Hollinshead said. “I didn’t know much about the Day of the Dead before but this has been really interesting.”

Dr. Carmen King de Ramirez, Clinical Assistant Professor of Spanish at ASU, believes that despite Day of the Dead celebrations recently becoming more popular in the United States, many still don’t fully understand the meaning behind the holiday.

“I believe that we have a long way to go in educating the public about the symbolism of the Day of the Dead as a holiday that celebrates death as natural part of the life cycle that should be embraced and not feared,” Ramirez said.

Instead of the Day of the Dead being a dark and scary holiday, Ramirez said that it is a joyful celebration of the earthly lives of loved ones who are now dead.

The roots of this holiday can be found in a mixture of traditions from indigenous Mexican and European cultures.

“Mexican people have fused together the religious aspect of the holiday and folkloric traditions by celebrating the day with festivals, parades, dances and music,” Ramirez said.

Festivals such as the one hosted at the Mesa Arts Center are a way to share the rich cultural traditions of Mexico.

Rhona Jenkins and Denise Peterson volunteered their time to make sure the festival operated smoothly.

“I’ve been doing this for a few years,” Peterson said. “It’s a nice way to help the community.”

Since the festival has had previous success there isn’t difficulty finding people to help, Jenkins said.

“We show up in the morning and are put where there’s need,” Jenkins said.

Some volunteers sit at tables and answer questions, some pick up garbage, and much more.

The festival offers many different attractions, but apparently there is a favorite.

“The sugar skull decorating booth,” Peterson said, and Jenkins nodded and smiled.

It must be true: nearly every group of visitors walking around the festival had at least one decorated sugar skull, held carefully in a paper box, in their possession and along with it new found knowledge about El Dia de los Muertos.

Business and Journalism

In my Principles and History of Journalism class today the guest lecturer was Professor Tim McGuire, the Frank Russell Chair for the Business of Journalism at ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication. Prof. McGuire also teaches Business and Journalism classes and Ethics classes. Before retiring in 2002, Prof. McGuire worked for the Star Tribune in Minneapolis and wrote a syndicated column for United Media called More than Work. Prof. McGuire holds many honors, including being a Pulitzer jurist six times. To say the least, Professor McGuire is an authority on journalism.

Prof. McGuire didn’t waste time getting down to the root of the problem festering in the open wounds of modern journalism. Where is the money? Where are the jobs? What are skilled journalists to do? How will journalism retain its integrity in this new world dominated by the World Wide Web? How will the truth and beauty of journalism survive the fight between Old and New?

Prof. McGuire showed this video to the class and afterward he asked what the conclusion meant. The answer? No one has the money! The Old Model doesn’t have any money, the New Model doesn’t have the money – no one does. Mainstream media is under assault and it isn’t going to be remedied by newspapers merely creating an online version of their tangible paper. The central problem for Old Model media is that advertising has been decoupled from news. Now people can have their news and eat it too, whenever and wherever…without the pesky advertisements.

The Old Model media advertising business long had a monkey on its back. This nagging, yet accepted as unavoidable, problem was that advertisers had to pay for the whole audience, not just the audience that would buy their products. So if an advertiser in a local newspaper paid for 1,000 eyeballs, they accepted that maybe half would actually buy what was advertised. This was just the way it worked.

So what changed? The ability to direct advertising at people who are highly likely to buy the product, otherwise known as ‘Specificity.’ This means that car advertisements are placed on websites about cars, sports equipment advertisements are at ESPN, and an ad for ASU phone covers shows up on the side of my Facebook profile because I go to ASU. Now advertisers, when using the web, are able to pay only for the eyeballs that are more likely to buy their products. “Hurray!” shouts the advertisers, while newspapers and other Old Model media outlets groan and say “I guess we should figure out this online thing.”

This is where I say, in my heart of hearts, I miss the Old Model media. Part of me longs for the journalism of Woodward and Bernstein, Robert Novak, or Walter Cronkite. The image from the movie All the President’s Men where Woodward and Bernstein sit in the library going through hundreds of pieces of paper is strangely attractive to me, it seems more real than the Google search I would do today. And then I shake my head and return to reality.

Prof. McGuire said, in his no-nonsense, cut the crap way, “You want to be a journalist. Who the heck’s going to pay you?!” He stressed that what needs to be on the top priority of young journalists’ minds is the question, “What mechanisms are going to be in place to allow you [the journalist] to be a journalist and be paid?” The answer is daunting, and yet exciting at the same time. The answer is we, the next generation of journalists, need to invent the new platforms from which to continue the legacy of independent, reliable, accurate, and comprehensive journalism.

Today the audience sits on a grand throne, demanding news 24/7. Journalists have largely been relegated to stumbling along, trying their best to appease the expectations of the audience. Prof. McGuire described this as the Push/Pull issue: Journalists no longer push news on the audience, rather, the audience decides when and how it wants to pull its news from the journalist. This leads to sub par journalism and regurgitation of old stories just so there can be something ‘new’ for the audience every five minutes.

A lot of this can seem unnerving to the student sitting in his or her JMC110 class, who just wants to be a good journalist…and get a job after graduating. Never fear. This isn’t a tale of despair, instead it is one of hope. I asked Prof. McGuire after class what would be his advice for me and other young journalists. What should we do in this Old vs. New world? His main point is that we need to become New Journalists. Learn how to do everything, from writing a news report, to shooting and editing video, to creating a website. Don’t disregard the old, learn its history – its triumphs and failures. Know from where you come as a journalist, and at the same time embrace this newness. The face of journalism is changing, its visage is still clouded by contention and confusion. The task that faces New Journalists is to clarify the face of journalism, revamp it and build it up to its full potential. The future of journalism is now, and now is the time to learn the craft and make it our own.