Check out my interview with UMass Amherst journalism student Lindsay Davis!

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Analysis of New York Times piece “For More Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump”

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/30/arts/music/for-more-pianos-last-note-is-thud-in-the-dump.html?pagewanted=2&_r=0

I personally love when a news outlet incorporates a video into their story. I often read a long article, then watch the accompanying video and find I took more away from the visual than I possibly could have from the words, even if the author did a phenomenal job with the writing.

Watch and read this piece by the New York Times, “For more Pianos, Last Note is Thud in the Dump” which begins with a short video, “A requiem for pianos” that leads into an article.

There are a lot of things I loved about this piece the first time I watched the video and read the article, but upon further examination I found many issues and began to question if the piece as a whole was as effective as it could have been.

There is one very big, fundamental issue with the video in this piece, and that is that it includes the point of view of exactly one person: Bryan O’Mara, the vice president of O’Mara Meehan Piano Movers. One must take into account that this man, whom the whole video focuses on and who narrates the video, is more than likely to be biased and hold a strong opinion on the subject considering his background and line of work.

Looking at the video as a part of the piece, like an introduction leading into the article, I think the video works really well. However, it is likely that many people will watch only the video and not go on to read the entire article, and taking that into account I do not feel that the video is effective. On its own, the video is emotionally powerful, and extremely well shot, and I think that is what made me think it was so great at first. However, it does not tell a story independently.

The journalist who wrote the piece, Daniel J Wakin, personified the pianos repetitively, to the extent that in my opinion it became more of a well-written story than a news article at many points. As a feature or artistic work, I feel the video that accompanies the article is appropriate. It is very well filmed, includes some great shots, and conveys a level of emotion that can really only be conveyed with visuals. But I’m sorry; we are talking about pianos here. Not people or pets; pianos. In my opinion there isn’t a necessity for the video because it really doesn’t add anything to the piece that the words do not already covey.

I like the idea of the story because I feel this story could be used to make a broader statement, but unfortunately I do not feel that the article accomplished this. The article focuses a lot on the history of the piano, the change in pricing, and people’s changing value of the instrument. Yet there is a bigger picture, the economic factor of our country buying foreign rather than domestic, that I feel could have been a more effective for the article to focus on.

After detailing the process of disposing an unwanted piano, the article provides a quick quote of Larry Fine, the editor and publisher of Acoustic & Digital Piano Buyer, saying, “Instead of spending hundreds or thousands to repair an old piano, you can buy a new one made in China that’s just as good, or you can buy a digital one that doesn’t need tuning and has all kinds of bells and whistles.” This is the first point in the article that I really got interested. I feel the journalist, Daniel J Wakin, could have tied the story of the pianos to a broader, and more relatable to people who aren’t piano lovers, story of the effects on industries of buying foreign products; and this quote would have been a great way to transition into that discussion. However, following this quote Wakin wrote about how pianos are “dying of old age” and began to chronicle the life of the piano dating back to the 1800s. Here is an example of an article covering the same topic that I feel did a phenomenal job accomplishing this task. This article goes into details about the piano and provides a history of the instrument, but also provides reasons for the decline of the American piano’s popularity by discussing how many we import from Japan and drawing similarities to the situation of the American Auto Industry

By failing to put the story of the pianos in a broader context, I feel Wakin loses a large audience, appealing mainly to piano fanatics who are emotionally affected by the story.

#socialmedia&thejournalist

In todays ever-changing multimedia world, journalists must embrace any new technology that comes their way if they want to stay current; and like it or not, social media is the main new form of technology that journalists must either learn to embrace and use to their advantage, or ignore and risk falling into obscurity.

As Mark Briggs writes in Journalism Next, “The ease of publishing, combined with the ease of consuming, has contributed to microblogging’s rapid growth.” Briggs goes on to explain, “Twitter is the most popular microblogging service. In fact, the platform is so popular that probably more people have heard of Twitter than have heard the term ‘microblogging’” (Briggs 90-91). As a journalist, ignoring a service that is now utilized by more than half of a billion people is senseless, as that half-billion and growing is an audience your competition will likely be getting their voice out to.

As Steve Buttry points out, Twitter is a silly name, and many people will use the site just for fun, chatting with friends, and posting silly tweets. I personally believe this could be one of the reasons some respected journalists have failed to utilize it yet. However, if used correctly Twitter can be an extremely valuable tool for a journalist, and a silly name and the fact that many people will only use the site for personal uses does not validate journalists or news organizations such as the New York Times, who has many writers on staff that are popular on Twitter yet fails to recognize “tweet” as standard English, failing to recognize the legitimacy it can have.

How is it valuable?

In a blog post titled “10 ways Twitter is valuable to journalists” Steve Buttry lists the 10 ways he feels Twitter benefits journalists as:

1. Breaking News 2. Follow newsworthy people and orgs 3. Crowdsourcing 4. Search for sources 5. Gather community quotes 6. Story ideas 7. Save time 8. Distribute content 9. Continue the conversation 10. Respond to criticism and questions

Breaking news is obviously number one on this list for a reason. With Twitter, ordinary people or journalists can post breaking news from their phones allowing the public to get the story seconds after it happens. Obviously with the good there comes the bad, which can be seen in the reporting of the Newtown shooting where Twitter contributed to a lot of incorrect reporting.

Briggs urges journalists and aspiring journalists to “ Follow smart people on social media who have nothing to do with news,” a benefit of twitter which directly correlates to many of Buttry’s 10 ways Twitter is valuable to journalists, (especially #2) and one I feel is very important to journalists and average people alike. It is always good to talk to smart people; either engaging in conversation with them or reading their work. It pushes you mentally and usually, in my experience at least, makes you think outside of your comfort zone. Social media outlets like Twitter provide probably the most accessible outlet available today for doing this. A journalist can follow another journalist they admire, or someone completely irrelevant to the field that they find interesting, and reading their daily thoughts will help the journalist (or like I said, everyday person) learn and become a better writer and thinker.

The Journalist and the Audience Coming Together

In Journalism Next Briggs writes a “Twitter Best practices” list that includes, “Be relevant and timely…Be informative…Be instructive…include links… reflect your personality… build relationships…” These seem to me to be some generally sound basic rules for tweeting professionally as a journalist.

Briggs quotes Marshall Kirkpatrick of ReadWriteWeb saying, “‘We’ve also found lately that Twitter itself is very useful for performing public interviews” (Briggs 101). This is one technique I have observed journalists use on twitter that seems to be very beneficial for developing a retour with the audience. On almost any Television news program, entertainment show or talk show, a journalist will pose a question and tell the viewers to respond on twitter with a certain hashtag. This is not only beneficial to the journalist and program for gathering information, but for developing a two-way conversation with the viewer or reader as well.

The Personal/Professional Divide for a Journalist using Social Media

Buttry also delves into some of the ethical issues that a journalist must address weather writing for a respected newspaper or composing a tweet, saying, “The principles of journalism ethics – seek the truth and report it; minimize harm; act independently; be accountable – don’t change, but social networks present unfamiliar circumstances for making ethical decisions.”

Some people will act as though there is a long list of what you should or should not say or do on social media as a journalist, and many people have even created multiple Facebook or Twitter accounts, using one for personal use and another for their professional use. Although you could argue about the ethics of what to do or not to do as a journalist using social media, in my mind this is overthinking the situation way too much. I think Fox puts it in the simplest term when he says, “Don’t be a dumbass. Seriously, Use your head.”

In my opinion, everyone, weather a journalist or not, should follow the general rule of thumb that when it comes to any sort of social media do not post anything that you would not want someone out there to see. This includes your future children, your grandparents, or your crazy ultra-conservative boss. I know everyone says this, but everyone says this because it is true; anything you post on the internet is there forever, and when someone Googles you anything that comes up with your name attached to it is the first impression they will get of you.

Local Fire Claims a Young Life and Leaves Over 30 Homeless

As UMass students and the community at large mourn the loss of 21-year-old UMass student James Hoffman, Stoughton, Mass., questions still linger as to where and how the fire that claimed his young life originated.

The fire, which was reported at 4:43 a.m. Monday January 21, spread quickly through 10 units, leaving five completely destroyed internally.

UMass Amherst campus spokesman Ed Blaguszewski released a statement shortly after the fire, before the victim was identified, saying, “We understand, based on information provided by the Amherst Fire Department, that a man died today in a fire at an off-campus condominium building, and that he has been identified as a UMass Amherst student. Official identity of the victim will be made by state officials. This is a terrible tragedy, and we deeply mourn this loss of life. The university is providing support to all UMass students and there families affected by the fire.”

I happen to live in the Rolling Green Apartment complex. Luckily, my building was not at all affected by the fire, but it is obvious that the whole community of residents has been shaken in one way or another.

No official letters or emails were released to residents from the apartment staff directly discussing the fire January 31st, 10 days after the fire, when they sent out an email to residents saying, “Many thanks go to all the residents who have helped during this very difficult time, along with the many members of the Amherst Fire Department, neighboring Fire Departments, Amherst Police and the American Red Cross. We are happy to report that we have secured new homes for every resident who has needed one, and some residents have moved to other communities” and providing information on where to send donations or cards for the deceased.

Although there has been no official statement on whether or not all of the fire alarms in the buildings were properly functioning, their has been some speculation within the community of residents that this may have been a contributing factor, as in the immediate days following the fire the staff of the apartment complex changed all of the fire alarms in the buildings and has repeatedly tested them.

Welcome!

Thank you for visiting my blog! This is my first post of my new blog that will focus on Multimedia Journalism. Through this blog I hope to provide my simple analysis of what is going on in the world today in the field of reporting. My goal is to provide a helpful analysis of a complicated multi-media world while presenting my opinions, founded in research, on current events, news coverage, the changing media landscape, and more! Although I love to write and have been doing it my whole life, blogging is a whole new world to me, and I am more than open to any comments or advice on anything I write as I embark on this journey into the web!