Reviewing the State of the Media

For anyone who thought reading news on the Internet and social media were just fads, think again. After reading the State of the Media report, conducted by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, thoughts were confirmed that the online trend is gaining speed.

Times are changing rapidly, and I feel nervous but excited for the future of journalism. Newsroom sizes are shrinking, but there is just as much news as before, if not more. Advertisements are becoming more important with the rise of online reporting, and social media sites are starting to play a large role in journalism, too, as they bring traffic to news sites.

But as focus shifts from traditional to nontraditional forms of media, other changes are also occurring. A study shows that nearly half of Americans get at least some of their news from a mobile device. And with the number of tablet owners growing rapidly, it is clear the number of people who get news from mobile devices will increase.

After letting information from the report soak in for over a day, I am still trying to grasp some of what I read. Most of it does not surprise me, but as a future journalism professional, it made me stop to think about what the industry will be like in a few years. That thought is particularly daunting to me. But it also makes me realize the exciting possibilities for journalism in the future.

The report said, “It may be that in the digital realm the news industry is no longer in control of its own future.” This is a daunting thought to me, but as I think back to the history of journalism, I realize that many drastic changes have happened over the years. Some of the changes had a positive effect and others negative, but for better or worse they happened, and journalists figured out how to adapt. I can only hope that we as a society can find a way to improve upon current journalistic traditions.

Although I can’t predict what will happen, I hope that journalism will grow and adapt, and thrive with these changes–and I hope I will also grow in those ways.

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“Booty” no more: Changes to the Bible

As I was looking through Yahoo! news, one particular headline caught my eye: “Bible ditches tricky words.” Intrigued, I clicked on the article, and was informed that a new edition of one of the most popular Bibles written in English will have updated word choice, aimed at helping us 21st century folk understand the meaning behind certain words.

In theory, this might sound great–change confusing words so that more people can understand the meaning on the first read-through. While I understand the appeal, I don’t think it’s a good idea. Religious views aside, I don’t think we have the right to change words that were written countless years ago just to make things more convenient in modern times.

A large part of reading anything–books, plays, articles, etc.–is to understand the context in which it was written. Sure, changing “booty” to “spoils of war” might make sense to more people these days, but that’s not the way it was written. We should be able to do research or look words up if we don’t understand them; it’s not necessary to modernize everything just for the sake of convenience.

Along those lines, I also feel it is wrong to change words of a classic novel to make it less “offensive” in today’s world. A new edition of Mark Twain’s “Huckleberry Finn” replaces the word “nigger” with “slave.” While I in no means advocate the use of the former, I think that our society should be able to understand the way the book was written. It was written over 100 years ago, in times much different than what we live in today. Twain chose the words he did for a reason, and whether or not we agree with his reasoning (or today’s connotations of the words), we should be able to respect his decision to use them.

Sure, changing words can make text more understandable or considered to be more appropriate, but just because we can do something does not mean we should.

Much ado about iPad 2

I’ll be the first to admit it: When the iPad first came out almost a year ago, I wasn’t quite sure what all the buzz was about. Don’t get me wrong, I love Apple products just as much as the next person, and sometimes I even feel like my MacBook is my child. But I did not comprehend the iPad’s full appeal. First off, the name “iPad” turned me off. For some reason it made me really uncomfortable. The iPhone and iPod Touch had the same amazing features as this new iPad, except the iPad was bigger. Not big enough to be a computer but not small enough to be a phone, the iPad did not seem to be something that I could not resist.

Pretty soon, I started seeing people happily gaming/chatting/working on their iPads; I started to wonder what all was the fuss was about. But it was not until my first experience with an iPad that I understood the hype.

Over the summer I went with a friend to the Apple store, where she was getting her computer checked. I walked around, drooling over the iPhones, MacBooks and iPods, and finally reached the iPad section. And let me tell you: It.was.beautiful. I fell in love with the large, shiny display instantly. And although I initially thought typing on the iPad would be a challenge, I was amazed by the ease of typing.

Then I understood what the hubbub was about. The iPad is small enough to be an easily portable, cheaper alternative to the laptop, yet it still functions like a real computer. It everything you’d expect from an Apple product: efficient and easy to operate, yet technologically ahead of its time. Even my dad became obsessed with wanting and iPad, and as much as I love him, my father is not a very technologically-savvy person.

So with all that being said, I look forward to Apple’s probable announcement of the iPad 2, rumored to happen tomorrow morning. I can only imagine what groundbreaking tricks Apple has up its sleeves this time.

Just dance

Amidst the hustle and bustle of the upcoming midterms week, I find myself stressed, busy and lacking free time (not like this is anything new). Even though I would normally be freaking out, trying to accomplish everything I need to in a short amount of time, I have barely begun thinking about my exams.

Instead, I spend my time in the Lied Education Center for the Arts in dance rehearsal. As part of the Creighton Dance Company, I will be performing in next weekend’s Spring Dance Show, a collection of dances by faculty and student choreographers.

I was talking with a few dancer friends in between rehearsals the other day about everything dance means to us. One of my friends said, “If I stopped dancing, I would hate myself.” Exaggeration or not, we all agreed our lives would not be the same without dance.

As much time as the daily rehearsals consume, I cannot imagine spending my time any other way. Yes, it’s hard work. Yes, I’m really busy. And yes, I currently have a bruised toe and a cold. But all that is worth it to me–because even though I know I’ll never be any sort of professional dancer, I love to dance, and almost as much as that, I love all the friendships I have because of my involvement in the dance program.

I’ve realized lately that the majority of my close friends are from dance, which is probably not a coincidence. I spend countless hours with these people, and I’m so glad I do. Not only are they hilarious and supportive of my other endeavors, but they are also hilarious and unique. And on top of that, they understand exactly what I’m going through during these crazy busy times.

For me, dance is a passion, a way of life. Sometimes–I’ll admit it–I don’t feel like going to class or rehearsal. But 99 percent of the time, I leave dance feeling happy, uplifted and renewed.

No matter how frazzled I sometimes get around the time of a dance performance, I remind myself of why I keep dancing: Because to me, there’s nothing else like it.

Fashion and Facebook fans

Aside from sports, dance and eating (yes, I said it), I also love shopping. My favorite store is the Gap. I can’t remember a single time I walked in that store and didn’t walk out either happily toting a navy shopping bag or wistfully wishing I was carrying new purchases.

With that in mind, I decided to critique Gap’s Facebook fan page. Overall, I’d say Gap is doing a pretty good job of promoting its products.

Gap currently has over a million people who “like” its page. Judging from the comments on pictures and other posts, this page reaches people all over the world.

Posts, which include sales, discount codes, pictures and videos, rake in anywhere from 40-700 “likes” and 5-100 comments. Most comments reflect positive feedback to the posts, but some are from disgruntled and/or annoyed fans.

One thing that Gap could improve upon is responding to Facebook fans. A few fans commented they wish more of the deals would include online purchases, since not everyone lives close to a Gap store. As far as I can tell, Gap has not responded to many of the comments, negative or positive. Although there are many people who comment on the Facebook fan page, I’d like to see Gap do a better job of answering questions and responding to negative feedback on the social networking site–at least those questions that many fans have asked.

Along those lines, I, too, would like to see more of the Gap fan page’s discounts to include online sales. I wish I had more time to go shopping in person, but as a busy college student, the reality is I rarely have a block of free time when I can drive to the nearest Gap location to shop for deals.

On the other hand, Gap is doing a great job advertising not only its sales and special deals for Facebook fans, but it also promotes its store in other ways.

A recent episode of “Glee” featured one of the characters professing his love for a Gap employee by way of song. The Gap Facebook page promoted this event both before and after the episode aired, drawing many comments and a great amount of praise.

Although there are certainly things it could improve upon, Gap’s Facebook fan page informs customers of good deals, new clothes and even when the Gap shows up in pop culture. With a few minor adjustments, this page could go from mildly effective to very helpful and effective.

For the love of the game

I’m not going to lie–I spent about 50 percent of last weekend watching sports in some form or another. On Saturday I went to Lincoln, Neb. for the first time ever. While I was there, I visited the state capitol and drove around the historic Haymarket. But I didn’t drive an hour west on I-80 just to visit a new city. I went to watch my favorite team, the Kansas Jayhawks, play basketball against the Nebraska Cornhuskers. Then, on Sunday, instead of writing papers as I should have been doing, I watched the Super Bowl (and wrote the papers later).

Would this time have been better spent working on assignments and trying to get ahead for the week? To some people, possibly. But to almost anyone who is a true fan of any team or sport, there is nothing better than getting to see your team play in person. Well…nothing better, except watching your team win in person.

All these athletic commitments–yes, commitments–along with my obvious obsession with the Jayhawks got me thinking about America’s love of sports. In theory, they don’t sound that great: Sit in a hot, noisy, crowded room for two hours watching a bunch of sweaty men (or women) run around and throw a ball at each other or a net. Melt outside in either sweltering heat or freezing cold for three hours while a herd of burly men tackle each other. Nothing about the aforementioned activities sounds appealing…right?

Wrong. Sure, there are plenty of people who could not be paid to go to a baseball game on a hot summer night or watch a hockey game in the bitter cold of winter. But overall, people can’t get enough. Why? Because sports are fun. Whether you’re playing (I would imagine–my parents knew better than to try to put me in organized sports) or watching, sporting events are so captivating and energizing.

Between the anxiety as you watch your team fight back from a multiple-point deficit, the thrill of beating a hated foe or, yes, the heartbreak of a last-minute loss, sports give us something to care about. The camaraderie between fans brings the most unlikely of people together. I’ve had many conversations with people in various parts of the country merely because one of us was wearing a KU shirt. I made friends with people at the KU/UNL basketball game because of our mutual love of the Jayhawks. And never have I given and received so many random hugs from complete strangers as the night in 2008 when KU won the NCAA National Championship in basketball.

So girls, if you’re annoyed your boyfriend is only half-listening as you complain about how you chipped a nail while he’s trying to watch his favorite team’s rivalry game, give him a break. And boys, if you don’t understand why your girlfriend will stay up until 3 am finishing homework she ignored while watching her team of choice play, I have the answer: She does it for the love of the game.

Just how social is social media?

When I think back to my life before I began utilizing social media, it’s hard to remember just what I did with my free time. But these days I know just how I waste time: social media, a tool that has revolutionized the way we interact with other people.

Thanks to social media tools like Facebook and Twitter, instead of completely forgetting about that random girl from junior high whose locker was next to yours, you know that she bought some new flats on sale at Target and–big news–she just painted her toenails blue! No matter whether you think it’s for good or bad, you can’t deny social media has drastically changed the way we communicate.

An article on the Guardian sparked debate over social media. Some say social media allows us to be in contact contact with friends, family and colleagues, and others argue it has made us lazy and isolated from the real world. Even though I know it sounds like a cop out, I think both are true, and I agree with some points of both sides of the argument.

While social media is great for maintaining friendships and networking, to me it also creates a sense of extreme laziness and isolation. Sometimes I spend time looking at social media sites and then realize I haven’t actually had a face-to-face conversation with another human being in hours. Other times I Facebook chat with my roommates–while we’re in the same apartment. Is it something I can’t talk to them about in person? No. We’re just honestly that lazy sometimes.

For friends I’m still close to, I’d much rather talk on the phone or Skype than get a bi-annual life update via Facebook. But there are people I’d like to keep in touch with who I’m just not comfortable calling. Thanks to social media (namely Facebook), I have kept in touch with numerous friends from high school who I otherwise would have surely stopped talking to a month after graduation.

I can’t lie. I’m on Facebook a lot. I find it seems to magically pop up on my laptop screen when I just don’t want to read about 19th century theology any longer. And as I get more used to Twitter, I’m sure I’ll be spending more time there, too.

But just how much is too much?

In my case, I find I spend way more time on social networking sites when I am at school, avoiding homework than when I’m at home with my family or am busy with other activities. As long as I’m occupied with something else, I have no real need to check Facebook or Twitter. But when I’m at school, sitting in my room, staring at the wall I go right back to social media sites.

As social media grows and changes as everything does, it will be interesting to see its role in people’s lives. Will everyone be connected to social media sites at all times? Will Facebook and Twitter die out, only to be replaced by the next big thing? Only time will tell. But I’m betting social media isn’t going anywhere for quite awhile.