Journalism during the 2016 Presidential Election

Journalism was either praised or criticized by many during the 2016 Presidential election. During this week’s class, we were asked what grade (A through F) would we give journalism during the 2016 presidential election race. I found it interesting that each of us graded differently, but majority were in the B to D range. Many of us shared the same points and reasons why we placed journalism in the “below average” category.

Read: How the 2016 campaign changed political journalism by Kristen Hare and Alexios Mantzarlis to see what 20 journalists graded the election coverage, as well as advice for the future. 

First, many agreed the night of the election coverage was off. I stayed up for the entire thing, flipping through a few different mainstream news channels, and all had different results. I actually noticed that Google had the most accurate results in terms of electoral votes coming in, and then Fox News was the second most precise (from my experience). This shouldn’t be the case – we should be able to see realtime results on all stations.

Second, a lot of the election mainly focused on now President Donald Trump. While he certainly put himself out there to gain the attention of voters and mass media, I think that journalists could have done a better job of highlighting the other candidates more. I felt that the whole election was full of attacks rather than the good of each candidate.

Third, all of the news headlines have become more about what small point in that article or news coverage captures a person’s attention, rather than what the story as a whole is about. I noticed a lot of news stories shared on social media would have a crazy headline, usually attacking Trump or another candidate, and then you open the story and it’s all about another issue, with one or two sentences about that headline. The changing of headlines can  be the journalist skewing what the person said or did to make a story interesting. As someone said in class, it’s like all the headlines these days are for tabloids. (I also found Column: Why click-bait will be the death of journalism by Jeffrey Dvorkin to be an interesting article!)

One final point I’ll make is that numerous mainstream news channels have turned their morning and other shows into talk shows, criticizing other journalists during them. It’s almost like a battle of the news stations – who can sound more truthful or more journalistic?

I’m sure we will continue to see changes in journalism in elections as the Internet keeps evolving. What would you grade journalism during the 2016 election?

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Can Big Data Prevent Fake News?

In this week’s Introduction to Digital Communication class, we discussed “Big Data” and how it influences what we do in our daily lives. According to SAS Institute Inc., “Big data is a term that describes the large volume of data – both structured and unstructured – that inundates a business on a day-to-day basis. But it’s not the amount of data that’s important. It’s what organizations do with the data that matters. Big data can be analyzed for insights that lead to better decisions and strategic business moves.”

The bold part of the definition is important to consumers because it changes our buying experience. For example (a favorite example mentioned in class), if I am booking a flight on Expedia and it says “20 people are looking at this flight right now” or “2 spots left on this flight” – typically I would purchase the flight quickly so I don’t lose my spot. But, this is just marketing. Big Data is helping Expedia and other companies create tactics like the ones stated above to make consumers spend money.

Big Data changes how we shop, travel, eat and even how we interpret news stories. While their are tools to fight against fake news, sometimes it relies on the user to determine the validity of a story.

“The problem is that users are generally disinclined to take the extra effort to check. Even going to a website, tool, or app to verify a story before sharing it is more effort than most people will take,” Bernard Marr said in his Fake News: How Big Data And AI Can Help article. “Until big data, artificial intelligence and machine learning enabled tools become more sophisticated and reliable, we need to focus on educating people (starting as early as primary school) to be critical thinkers and not take every story at face value.”

While the above article mentions the tools that are helping fix this void of sharing or reporting fake news, I agree that the problem does rely on the user. We talked a couple weeks ago in our class about how the Internet has changed how we read, write, speak and listen – all of which definitely apply to social media. Our attention span is short; we want to read something short and know the point behind it immediately.

Many people don’t open an article before reading it – they just assume it is true. I believe this is how fake news is spread. Users see a headline of an article that sparks their interest, they share it, it keeps circulating, and before we know it – it’s everywhere (and it is fake). Most articles like this would be reported as “fake” if the users simply read it before sharing. I see this happen a lot on my personal feed.

Unless we educate users from the very beginning to be critical thinkers, will fake news ever stop being shared? Will users read more than just the headline? To that end, can Big Data really prevent fake news? I’m interested in your thoughts – leave your comments below!

P.S. Here is some other news about Big Data:

The Internet: Making the World Smaller

In this week’s “Introduction to Digital Communications” class, we discussed how we define the Internet. We broke off into five groups – I was with Brenna and Jenny. My group came up with the definition below.

Internet: A global environment that connects people, enables communication, and fosters the sharing of information instantly from any location on a wide variety of devices.

While we were thinking of ways to come up with this definition, Jenny noted that the “Internet makes the world smaller.” I thought this was a very interesting thought; it is so true. Almost everyone in the world is connected to the Internet; thus, making it easier to spread global news stories, communicate with others, etc. I think it truly does make the world smaller because we share more with all Internet users than we would if we didn’t have Internet at all. Websites have even “died” – such as myspace, askjeeves.com, and BabelFish – because the Internet keeps evolving. We all become globally connected and learn more about each other this way – whether it’s a person, country, industry, etc. – it connects us deeper than ever before.

Internet gives us everything quickly. We are able to find answers to questions, connect with others more through social media, shop online with just “1-click,” and much more. The Internet has changed our lives indefinitely, and it makes you wonder what life would be like now if we never had it.

How digital convergence has changed us

Digital convergence is coming together of multiple media entities over time. This combination of media platforms allows us to view content in many ways. For example, we no longer get the news just from the newspaper or television; we can get it on social media and mobile applications, too. The way we read or listen to the news is a combination of the five eras of communication: oral, written, print, electronic and digital (Campbell, Richard, Christopher R. Martin, and Bettina Fabos. Media & Culture: Mass Communication in a Digital Age (2016 Update), 10th ed.. Macmillan, 2016.). The way we define digital convergence focuses on one, some or all of these eras.

Along with the various ways we get our news, comes “fake news.” How do you know the difference between real and fake news? It can sometimes be obvious, and sometimes be hard to determine. People share articles without reading them (they just read the headline) and we may not know if they’re valid unless we do some investigating. Here are some ways I verify real news:

  • Check for grammatical errors.  Editing is key with breaking news! If there is an error, that means the person or organization is not paying close attention to how users will view the content.
  • Check other news-related websites to see if there is a similar story. If I don’t find another story that is related to the original article I saw, especially if it’s breaking news, I won’t believe it until multiple news channels push it out.
  • Check out the source who pushed out the news. With all the satire websites out there, it’s important to check where the news is coming from. I typically will trust the national organizations (CNN, Fox News, NBC, etc.) and some local channels.

The examples above were some of the verification procedures we discussed in my first “Introduction to Digital Communications” graduate class. While there are many other ways to determine fake news, I believe the three above are the most important. The way digital media has changed news, it’s more important than ever to fact check the article.

Digital media has completely changed the way we function in society – it truly amazes me how different the communications world is from when I was little and how it is now. My age group was probably the last group to experience childhood without cell phones and know what life without social media was like; however, I do see the advantages of social media and I embrace it! Social media has been very good to me. Here are some things that I was able to achieve with it:

  • My job. I was living in Columbus, Georgia and was trying so hard to find a job in Syracuse for when I knew my husband and I were moving back. I luckily was able to find my job, Web Specialist II at the Institute for Veterans and Military Families (IVMF) at Syracuse University, through a LinkedIn post.
  • Maintain relationships. Digital media has helped me stay in touch with family and friends all over the country. Not only am I able to share updates with my Facebook friends on my life, but it’s another way to communicate via messenger, photos, status updates, etc. One great example is when my husband was deployed overseas. He had no access to a phone, but with the magic of Facebook, we were able to talk almost every day. Back when my mom deployed in 2002, I unfortunately did not have this advantage. I’d have to wait days to get a phone call from her.
  • Save lives. I am a huge advocate for animal rescue. When I lived in North Carolina, I learned how harsh animals are treated in certain states. Through the power of social media, I was able to connect with others at numerous shelters, especially Harnett County Animal Shelter, and join groups to help save lives. I can honestly say my family was able to save many lives all because of social media!
  • My dream of doing a flash mob! It was always been a goal of mine to participate in a flash mob dance, and I was able to successfully do this on our wedding day! It sounds crazy to include this as an example, but it really is crazy how it all came together with a group of girls scattered across the country – thanks to private Facebook groups and other social media outlets. You can read more about the flash mob here.

With that said, I think my age group had the best of both worlds – life with and without social media. I can truly say that I benefited greatly from both times in my life. While digital media has been around for many years now, it still continues to change. I’m excited for what the future holds!

Tornado coverage: May 9, 2016

This last Monday brought lots of tornadoes and destructive storms to several states. The video below states more than 150 severe weather reports were issued in eight states, with more than 20 tornadoes that touched down. The video below is a must-see. My Facebook and Twitter feeds were filled with tornado videos — I couldn’t believe what I saw.

Many, many prayers to all the families and pets who had to go through these tough times — especially to those who lost their lives and their families. Please take a moment to honor those lives lost, and to pray the places hit return to normal quickly.

Tornadoes are extremely dangerous. Many states are known for their intense tornado seasons, but sometimes tornadoes can occur in places that are not known for tornadoes as well. Make sure you are prepared for when severe weather strikes. Click here to read FEMA’s safety tips and how to prepare for upcoming tornadoes.

Fort Benning: Another chapter down

Earlier this week my husband, two dogs (Scrappy and Eli) and I closed in on another chapter in our lives at Fort Benning. Ryan was there for the Maneuver Captain’s Career Course, and I was working as a journalist at the Bayonet & Saber newspaper in the Fort Benning Public Affairs Office. Fortunately, I can say that I was lucky enough to end my time there with one of the biggest events and stories of the year: The Lt. Gen. David E. Grange Jr. Best Ranger Competition.

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The Best Ranger Competition was the most interesting event I have covered. The competition involves 50 teams of two, who compete in a rigorous three-day, 60-hour event. It was so cool to see the kick off and the final buddy run at the end, and everything in between. I also met Capt. Kristen Griest, one of the first females to graduate Ranger School! I have now met both 🙂

I had the opportunity to embrace new adventures, too! I conquered my fear of heights and stairs and climbed the Ranger tower at Victory Pond. It was so worth it for the pictures and footage we got! (See below.)

I wrote two stories on the competition: Best Ranger Competition creates new challenges and National Guard team captures Best Ranger title.

Both stories were so fun to write. Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy came for the awards ceremony, so that was so cool to hear him speak! He even retweeted a few of my tweets — he’s very active on social media! 🙂

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Acting Secretary of the Army Patrick Murphy speaking at the Best Ranger Competition awards ceremony at Fort Benning.

I was also so excited to see Capt. Robert Killian win. His family spoke with me the first day of the competition and they knew it was his year. It was a perfect story.

Along with our team we have some amazing photographers! You can check out all their Ranger competition photos at www.fortbenningphotos.com. Some photos were featured in the ArmyTimes!

On that note, I was glad to end my time at Fort Benning writing such fun stories; however, I’m extremely sad to leave such a great team! All of my coworkers were so talented, smart and beyond funny! But I know we will all keep in touch!

Now on to the other exciting news in my life: I have officially accepted a position as a Web Specialist II with Syracuse University’s Institute of Veterans and Military Families. Working at SU was a dream of mine since I was young — it feels so surreal!

I’m so thankful to have had our wonderful and fun chapter at Fort Benning. I will miss all of our friends we have made — that is one of the hardest parts about being in the military community, you always have to leave your friends! 😦

But on a positive note,  I am also excited to start our new chapter in New York. It is bittersweet.

As my good friend Courtney said, “You may be going to New York, but you’ll always be a Georgia Peach!”

We are currently in Florida spending some time with family before we head up north. We are also going to New Orleans (my fourth time — it’s my favorite!) next week. I can’t wait!

 

Chattahoochee River flooding

April Fool’s Day brought a lot of rain to the Fort Benning and Columbus area. My friends from home flew in for a long weekend and planned to sit by the pool all day while I was at work, until it stormed all day. Needless to say, that did not happen.

After I got out of work, we decided to take advantage of the rainy day by going to the National Infantry Museum. We then went downtown to go to dinner, and that is when we saw the results of the storm.

The Chattahoochee River completely flooded the riverwalk and its surroundings. I quickly tweeted my video of the flood to The Weather Channel and other local news stations. My tweet was picked up by The Weather Channel, ABC News, storm chasers and a local news reporter. I was SO excited to get a “favorite” and mention from The Weather Channel on Twitter! You can see the video and tweet by clicking here.

Below are some pictures I took of the flooding from my phone. You can see how much rain fell if you look at the lamp posts.

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Will you have a white Christmas this year?

Ah, it has been a little over a month since I last posted on my blog! While I am sad I have not posted, a lot of things have occurred in the last month that held me back from writing.

This past month I have been traveling to visit family and friends in New York and in Florida (since I was without a full-time job.. why not?!). But when I returned to Georgia from those adventures, I landed an interview with a local newspaper and was offered the job. I happily accepted!

I am a journalist for the Bayonet & Saber newspaper on Fort Benning. I have learned so much already, and I am having lots of fun so far. I have always been interested in working with a media company, so it has really been such a great experience. I get to contribute my marketing skills to the job, too! I really love marketing, communications, writing, editing, social media, etc. All of it truly excites me. While I really enjoyed working at a credit union/nonprofit, I am thankful for a different type of experience to enhance my knowledge in these areas.

With all that said, I have barely had any time to write and build my personal social media presence as much as I have in the past. I spend many nights working on stories when I come home from work. Once I get a good grip of my current job, I’ll be able to post more frequently.

Well, enough about me! Let’s talk about Christmas… will you have snow in your front yard this year?!

In the words of Bing Crosby, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas.”

Temperatures have been quite warm for this time of year. Even my hometown of Rome, New York  has not had any snow (besides a few flakes back in October, but nothing stuck).

I will be going home for Christmas this year, and I am truly hoping there is snow on the ground for the holidays. I look forward to winters at home every year I can go!

Meteorologists say if there is at least one inch of snow on the ground on Christmas morning, that is defined as a “white Christmas,” according to The Weather Channel’s website.

“This year, we have one of the strongest El Niños of record in play. That and a persistently warm East and Midwest, along with a cold, wet West, is setting the table for what we may see Christmas morning,” the website’s article adds.

So, who will have the one inch of snow or more this Christmas? Below is the map The Weather Channel put together showing where snow is most likely to be on Christmas.

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It looks like I do have a possibility of seeing snow on Christmas! I’m definitely keeping my fingers crossed. Today it was almost 80 degrees here in Georgia, so I am really wanting that cooler weather so it feels more like the holiday season.

Click here to read more about the white Christmas forecast, and click here to read more about El Niños.

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What exactly is a blizzard?

Winter will be here before we know it. Some states, like Nevada, have already felt the early onset of winter. I recommend reading this infographic by Jon Erdman on The Weather Channel’s website describing what a blizzard really is. There are a lot of facts on there that not even I, the weather enthusiast, knew about.

One example is that everyone has heard about “tornado alley”, but I had no idea there was a “blizzard alley”. The infographic states “A 2002 study by Dr. Robert Schwartz and Dr. Thomas Schmidlin compiled the number of blizzards from 1959-2000 over the U.S., finding a clear “blizzard alley” in the Dakotas and western Minnesota, extending into Iowa, Nebraska, southeast Wyoming and eastern Colorado.”

Source: The Weather Channel

If you live in an area where snow is frequent, I definitely suggest reading the infographic and be aware of the snowy conditions around you when they come. It provides a lot of good information that every person living in a colder state should know. There are some major differences between a normal snow storm and a blizzard, and winter is coming up quickly, so be prepared by knowing the facts.

The bright side of winter being on its way… Thanksgiving (even though this is still technically the fall season), Christmas, and 2016 will be here SO soon!

My ABC11 Eyewitness News experience

I had the opportunity to shadow ABC11 Eyewitness News Reporter, Nicole Carr, for the day. I met Nicole back in April 2015 when Fort Bragg Federal Credit Union hosted its first ever Scavenger Hunt. My boss and I put the Scavenger Hunt together and got over 1300 new followers on social media from its popularity. You can read more about the Scavenger Hunt and the interview we had with Nicole by clicking here. Nicole is very outgoing and friendly, so I thought I would take a shot at asking her if I could come in for the day to explore the life of a reporter. I was absolutely elated when she gladly said yes.

I have always been interested in working for a news station or The Weather Channel®. I find the work to be unexpected and fun, which is exactly how it was when I came in that day to shadow Nicole.

We planned on having a calm morning and Nicole was going to show me how the reporters go about their day at the office, but like she said, you never know what your day is going to be like when you get into work. As soon as we got to the office, Nicole got a call that she had to go to the location of a murder investigation right here in Fayetteville. I followed the ABC11 Eyewitness News van to the scene.

Little was known about the murder and what exactly happened when we arrived. The scene was filled with sheriffs, news reporters, photographers, and strangers asking about what happened. The house was blocked off by caution tape and police cars. Residents had to consult the sheriffs before heading into their neighborhood.

As more information was coming in, we found out that a 28-year-old was shot and killed while his girlfriend was tied up. The girlfriend was able to untie herself and call 911. She was lucky to be alive; however, the three masked men who robbed the home and killed her boyfriend are still on the loose.

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A woman who lives close back to the murder location stopped to ask what was going on. She said it is hard to tell if anything bad ever happens there because gun shots are always being fired due to people killing crows or other animals who may “disturb” their land. She also said she was robbed twice since she lived there.

As the day went on I got to experience this sad story come to life, but I also got to witness how news reporting works. Nicole had to search for witnesses and try to gather more for the developing story, but we came up empty. Nicole had to report live at noon at then again at 12:30 p.m. while I was shadowing her. I got to put the receiver in my ear and listen in on the cues and news anchors sharing stories. It was a very cool experience. It was strange to listen to the news that way instead of watching it on TV like I do every morning. It was thrilling! Nicole also showed me how she has to write up a script for each story she is involved in as well as record and edit footage to be packaged for upcoming news segments.

Nicole gave me some great tips on news reporting and I am glad I got to spend the day with her. Although a sad and unfortunate story was occurring, that day showed me that I truly do enjoy the news and love everything about it. You get to travel and meet new people everywhere you go. I think the most important part about being involved with the news is that you learn something new each day. You can never fill your brain with too much information!