Song Stories: “King of the Rodeo” – The Bamboos

Over the last week and a half, I’ve been working on a video for work. Long story short – we’re launching a new product with a specific target audience, so we’re capturing the reactions of these people as we introduce it to them.

For this video – the first of its series – we went to a local event here in Amsterdam called De Parade. The Parade is a strange name for this event, because it’s really more like a carnival. Sort of. There are merry-go-rounds and food, but no rides. Instead, the rides are replaced by tents and stages where various theatrical performances of all kinds are held.

So we went to the Parade to capture the atmosphere, test out our product and share it with people there in our target group. After all the shooting I sat down to cut up the footage and start to piece together the video. I took the sound from a shot of the merry-go-round to lay a bed of background tone to the video. The clip had some music underneath it, so I looped a section to provide not only crowd noises but background music for the video. Continue reading

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God Is Not Great

I am an atheist. This is publicly available information.

I would also add that I don’t consider myself a “practicing” atheist. I, unlike some prominent and active atheists, do not seek out the religious to criticize them or to try to sway them to my point-of-view.

I don’t have a problem being friends with people who believe in God – in fact most of my friends do, and even the majority of my girlfriends throughout my life have been religious. Very religious, in fact.

I didn’t step foot into a church service until halfway through high-school. My girlfriend was Lutheran and I was undecided, meaning I hadn’t cared enough to think about it, but because we had our youthful puppy love, I obliged to attend church with her now and then. It made her happy, and I scored points with her family, but she could sense that I felt out of my element. Continue reading

Waiting for Superman

I just watched the documentary “Waiting for Superman,” which was released last year and won some awards at various film festivals (though not even a nomination at the Oscars, which seems strange to me – I liked it far better than the Banksy film).

The film follows several children in the American public school system – some poorer than others – as they attempt to enroll in special charter schools. These schools are forced to hold lottery drawings for applicants because they are so coveted.

Of course the greater picture being painted by these stories is the crumbling state of public education in America. Overcrowded and underfunded schools are quite literally falling apart, but it seems these aren’t the biggest obstacles to school reform according to the film’s director, Davis Guggenheim. Continue reading

Graduation & New Gig

Last week I graduated with my M.M.C. in journalism and mass communication from the Walter Cronkite School at ASU, and on January first I start my first professional writing gig.

I will be writing for ReadWriteWeb, a blog that covers Internet technologies, and will be one of two startup beat reporters.  Actually, we are going to be providing resources for startups as well as reporting on startup news.

Anyway, you can now read my professional stuff there, or by clicking here.

I start officially on January 4th, but until then I will be posting a few things, and already have one up now!

Apple to Revolutionize TV With Subscription Service?

Apple already revolutionized the music industry with the iPod and iTunes, and now they seem poised to change the way we watch TV as well.

Rumor has it that Apple has been shopping around the idea of a $30/month subscription TV service to various television networks.  But instead of offering up the service on the Apple TV (as was previously speculated) Apple is reportedly implanting the service into the massive iTunes ecosystem.
tvimac
But Apple could be taking this one step further.

Just recently Apple released a brand new 27” iMac with a massive 2,560 x 1,440 pixel 16:10 screen and 1 TB of storage.  All the iMac needs is a highly anticipated integrated Blu-ray player and the all-in-one behemoth could compete with flat-panel televisions with this proposed TV subscription model.

Some have speculated that Apple could start producing their own TV’s, but this subscription service puts them in the position to gradually mold their iMacs into the TVs of tomorrow.

NY Times Co. ‘Moving in Right Direction’, Or Are They?

The New York Times Company’s stock soared today as it was announced that the Old Gray Lady has exceeded third quarter expectations by raking in $80.6 million, a 30% increase from 2008.

The company, which includes other properties like the Boston Globe and About.com, opened a full dollar higher than where it closed yesterday and increased steadily all day to $10.72 a share for a 22.5% growth.

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NYT stock prices climbing Thursday.

In a letter to employees, Times publisher Arthur Sulzberger stated that the company is “moving in the right direction” thanks to employee comittment.

Ultimately, it is your extraordinary dedication that is allowing us to achieve the results that we have reported today … and it is this same dedication that will enable us to achieve our long-term goals and aspirations.” – Arthur Sulzberger

But in reality the answer is simpler than putting the proverbial nose to the grindstone as Sulzberger claims.

Earlier this week, the New York Times announced they would be cutting 100 newsroom positions before the end of year.  With increasing subscription costs and re-negotiation of severance pay, these cuts are just the latest in the company’s efforts to lower costs.

It worked.

Sulzberger even concedes this point, saying, “while actual circulation volume has declined, our circulation revenue increased 6.7 percent due to price increases” but qualifies that statement by adding, “clearly, the demand for our quality journalism in print remains substantial.”

But is this really “the right direction” as Sulzberger contends? Is it truly healthy for the New York Times Company to keep its head above water with budget cuts, price increases and layoffs?  Obviously this can’t continue forever, and the company will need to improve upon its floundering advertising revenues to remain in business.

Sulzberger believes things are turning around on the advertising front.

Early in the fourth quarter, print advertising trends have improved modestly compared to the third-quarter, while digital advertising trends are improving more significantly.” – Arthur Sulzberger

We all know the day the New York Times folds is the day pigs fly, hell freezes over and we all eat our hats, but for the company to continue to be a dominant force in the news industry they will have to recover from the advertising lull so they can continue to innovate and push newspapers in a new direction.

Finding Subjects and Sources on Twitter

About midway through the Spring 2009 semester I decided on a topic to pursue for the coming summer News21 journalism initiative.  The topic was broad: Latinos in the military. I decided to do a little research on the Web to see if there were any discussions already brewing.

Last August, I joined the social networking site Twitter, where millions of people share their thoughts about everything and anything.  I wanted to know if anyone on Twitter was talking about my topic, so I threw a few word combinations at Twitter’s search engine.

Nothing much came up in my first few searches but eventually I got a few results by searching for “citizenship AND military.”  One of the results was particularly interesting.  It said:

“My heart breaks for him that can’t go in the military. He should B able to  serve the 4 yrs and B given the opportunity to get citizenship.”

The message was posted on April 9 by a user named “Yankeelin” and was the third “tweet” in a series about this individual.  Prior messages from the same user said:

“My daughters boyfriend Alberto is from Mexico too. He’s been here since he was 5.”

and

“…and he graduated H.S. as the top ranking ROTC cadet in NC, but his family and him are not legal. So he can’t go in the military!”

I found the story compelling, so I saved the links to the posts and forwarded them in an e-mail to my reporting partner for the summer project. The subject line was: “Maybe we can use Twitter to find stories?”

On May 18th, the first day of the News21 program at Arizona State, I decided to follow up on this story but I wasn’t exactly sure how to proceed.  How does one approach a complete stranger on the Internet?

Yankeelin’s Twitter profile revealed that her name was Linda and lived in North Carolina.  A White Pages search of her name and hometown returned one result with a phone number, but I decided a less forward method of first contact might be more appropriate in this case.

On Twitter, you can send a message to other users by beginning a message with the “@” symbol followed by the person’s username.  One problem with this method is if the user does not log onto the service frequently, he or she could easily overlook this kind of direct message.

The other challenge was that Twitter limits each message you send to 140 characters, 11 of which I would be using up with “@yankeelin” and a space before my message.  So cramming an introduction and an explanation and a request to talk was going to be tough to do in 129 characters.  However, I managed to squeeze in the following message:

“@yankeelin Im a student studying latinos in milit, love to chat about ur daughters bf Alberto (saw ur tweet from april)- chcameron@gmail.com”

By sacrificing some punctuation (”I’m” became “Im”) and with the use of some well known Internet abbreviations (”ur” for “your” and “bf” for “boyfriend”), I was able to get my message across in exactly 140 characters.

A few days went by and I considered calling the phone number that the white pages search had turned up, but to my surprise, just before noon on May 20, I received an e-mail from Linda in response to my tweet:

“Hi I saw your ‘tweet’ to me about my daughter’s boyfriend wanting to go into the military.  You were writing me in reference to a tweet I wrote back in April.  My daughter’s e-mail is attached, and the two of you can communicate about it.  Her name is Jo Beth.”

A few emails to Jo Beth eventually led to some phone calls with Alberto, the JROTC superstar with dreams of joining the military.  He mentioned that his girlfriend had explained how we found him and we shared a laugh over this unorthodox way of reporting.

The more my reporting partner and I chatted with Alberto the more interested we became in his story.  Here is a kid who was the top JROTC cadet in the state and all he wants is to serve his country in the military, but he can’t due to his citizenship status.

We pitched his story to our editor and the decision was made: we HAD to talk to this young man.  So we booked our flights to North Carolina.

Next thing we knew we were sitting in Alberto and Jo Beth’s living room with two cameras, a lighting kit and a notebook full of questions.  We emerged a few hours later having squeezed every last detail out of Alberto and feeling very confident about the story.

As we flew home from the East Coast, it was amazing to think that the opportunity to interview Alberto started with a successful search on Twitter.

Celebrities and others have given Twitter a reputation for obnoxious and pointless messages about what someone ate for breakfast, but in terms of connecting with REAL people with REAL stories, it was the perfect tool.