Category Archives: Journalism

Selfies, a gift for lazy journalism

Oh please, stop it will you! Newspapers and magazines appear to trot out the staple photograph, the selfie, whenever someone important is being covered.

It’s become old. Self promotion at its worst. Lazy photo-op at best.

What’s the real story of photographing a child running up to someone and taking a selfie? That he/she was brave enough to approach the subject with a phone? Of is it that we are so infatuated with children wielding phones, that it just looks cute – so ‘story’ ain’t important.

I’m all about taking human interest photos, but there’s more to humanizing the photo than a glob of a nose (in the photo itself) or two people staring at a piece of glass.

And it’s not just teenage territory. Grown-ups do it all the time.


It’s become a rite of passage that getting close to a pope or politician is really to grab a selfie, not to have a real conversation. And it’s getting seriously, seriously, boring to hear a story begin on TV or in print that “…It was a selfie seen around the world!” or “Today a selfie taken by (insert subject here) went viral!”

WHILE WE ARE AT IT: could we outlaw the term “went viral” once and for all, now that it’s in the same cliché bucket as “Information superhighway” and “World Wide Web”?

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Posted by on September 25, 2015 in Journalism, Media, Social Media


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Baiting the media, achieves nothing – except an ego boost

Donald Trump is more entertainment for the media, than a front-runner per se. They may not want to admit this, but especially in the US, where campaigns are fought and won with war-like strategy, it’s always been useful (to the media) when there’s a wild-card.

Think Sarah Palin. 

It seems as if Trump is trying desperately to fill the void left by Sarah Palin (remember her attack on lamestreammedia?) Which is why his attack on Jorge Ramos of Univision, is enlightening. He knows it will guarantee coverage.

Sadly this is also the strategy of terror organizations, as we have seen in recent months.

Think ISIS, and its despicable acts against journalists.

Or Wednesday’s cold-blooded murder of two reporters in Virginia. The killer seemed to anticipate that this would get him media coverage, making sure he distributed the story himself, via social media. A pretty pathetic use of social media,or any media for that matter. He was just looking for attention, not change.


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Attack machines. Two elections, different priorities

It’s two days away from General Elections in Sri Lanka. And 15 months away from the US Presidential Elections. Comparing these could be a study in what has how personalities (and by this we mean character and reputation) and priorities differ.

Oh, and how the media conducts itself.

This week there has been a virtual political firing squad in the US, as presidential contestants attack each other as a way of differentiating themselves from the pack. And there is a pack, as far as Republicans go! Take this classic, if not representative battle between Rand Paul and Donald Trump. Rand calls out Trump for lack of political finesse in these words:

“He is devoid of ideas other than he likes the idea of power and getting attention for foolish statements and bluster.”

This was a comeback to Trump going out of his way to attack Rand, thus:

“You look at a guy like Rand Paul: He’s failing in the polls, he’s weak on the military — he’s pathetic on military…I actually think he’s a far better doctor than he is a senator.” 

Indeed, all this gets into play because there is media to cover every sound bite.

SWITCH TO A DIFFERENT CONTINENT, and attacks are less about personality and more about substance. Character comparisons are about political expedience or the controversy surrounding it past deeds. Amantha Perera just contributed to a balanced analysis about the two contenders, president Maithripala Sirisena, and his ousted predecessor, Mahinda Rajapaksa. Though it is a general election, the personality of the party leader is in play. But by comparison, despite digging through the past (a recent exhumation, for instance), there is a certain maturity in the political process that’s quite evident.

As Americans must put up with the tripe as Trump and Paul, or Clinton and Bush duke it out over golf games, business reputation, or emails (!), Sri Lankans must consider how its future party and its leader plays on an geo-political stage, with its allegiance to India and/or China.

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Posted by on August 15, 2015 in Journalism, Media


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Triva floods our media while real news slips by

I don’t know if this is an age thing, but commercial radio and TV ads irritate me. They seem to be eager to drown us in triva –not to mention groan-worthy humor. (have you seen that latest McDonald’s ad about French Fries and chicken something? If not, avoid it like the plague!)

Why is it that a British baby that’s 4th or fifth in line for a ‘crown’ that nobody quite cares about fills our channels? Or why the obsession with the other royal family over on this side of the pond? I’m not talking about the Clintons, but the Kardashians. So many important local and global events are unfolding, but we get non-stop coverage of trivia.

Here’s a glimpse of what went unreported last week.

  • NASA tested a 10-engine aircraft capable of vertical take-off, that could change idea of unmanned vehicles. Interesting, since Amazon seems to think the ‘delivery drones’ are actually becoming more possible.
  • Speaking of books, there’s the Arthur C. Clarke Science Fiction award in the UK, to a young writer, Emily St. John Mandel. It’s been described a novel about the ‘hyper-globalized’ future. Perhaps John Kerry, and Jeff Bezos are reading it right now, while ignoring the Clintons-in-waiting, and the princess of Cambridge, or whatever she is called.




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Great reporters don’t wither (when temperature rises)

I’m not talking of reporters coming under fire on dangerous missions. I’m talking about keeping up the communication when all hell breaks loose in front of you, and you’re on camera.

Take a look at how Phoenix-based Fox 10 News reporter Cory McCloskey handled an arguably hot situation. Cory is a weather reporter on the field. Apparently, in this instance in-studio, the weather map went berserk. The data on the map I mean. I won’t give it away – watch!

By chance I met Cory last week, when he came to my school to do a live weather report, and yes, the man has a great sense of humor. (It involves coffee and solar energy, if you’re interested.)

The above video clip (viewed more than 4 million times as of today) is the stuff that ought to be used in Journalism school. I’m sure my friends in Ahwatukee might not laugh so hard, because we folk in the Chandler area were not subject to his satire.

Mr. McCloskey: I wish there was a sub-category in the Pulitzers (under ‘Explanatory Reporting’ maybe?) that is awarded for humor, and not missing a beat.

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Posted by on April 30, 2015 in Arizona, Journalism, Media


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Podcasting is hot stuff. Again!

There seems to be a growth spurt for podcasting.

I love the fact that the audio format has been on the upswing, even despite the explosion of screen-based communication options. Depending on who you ask, they will tell you video didn’t assassinate the radio star for various reasons. Such as

  • Podcasts is immensely portable, and does is perfect for multi-tasking
  • Podcasts capture the ‘authentic’ voice of the person or the moment being represented – no fake ‘DJ voice’ required
  • Podcasts have in their DNA something akin to long-form journalism – deep dives into content, rather than skimming a topic

  • Podcasts lend themselves to drama, even while being authentic. The nearest thing to the documentary.

My recent favorites are Snap Judgement, Serial, Invisibilia (former radio Lab producers), and Star Talk.

Apart from the usual line up of This American Life, For Immediate Release, and EdReach, an education podcast for Ed-tech matters I now dabble in.


Interestingly this year will be six years since I first got into podcasting. And this year may be the year we begin podcasts at my school. More on this in a later post!


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“This is Salt River Radio!”

Audio is a powerful medium. Overlooked, but extremely powerful.

While video gets all the attention, audio programs –basically podcasts — have been steadily growing recently. This week, I began the new semester by upping the ante for 5th and 6th grade students, showing them how to become producers of content. To start off, I got them to think of themselves as owning their own radio show. A news show, a sports show, or a show about events in the community.

How do they plan and create content? What are the elements of a good show? Good information? A nice pace? A strong personality? Music? Sound Effects?

I plan to use some of my prior radio experience to get students to create their ‘shows.’
The software we will be using is Audacity, which is really powerful software. All computers in the Computer and Technology Lab are now loaded with Audacity, and we just got started understanding how  tracks and buttons work, and how to export an editable audio file, to work on it as we move along.

I’m sure you’re wondering: how could digital natives get so excited about ‘old media’? You would be surprised!

‘Salt River Radio’ is the tip of the spear of something bigger I have in mind. I am also looking for input from anyone with radio experience, who would like to be a part of this project, either as a guest instructor, or otherwise.

Stay tuned, if you’ll pardon the pun.


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