Thursday, February 21, 2013

The Big One

I can honestly say that the article in Miami Herald by Stephen Doig entitled “The Big One” is a prime example of how computer-assisted journalism has revolutionized the industry. I think the first thing that needs to be pointed out is that this article was written in the early 1990s as a follow-up to his Pulitzer Prize winning article “What Went Wrong,” which was featured in the same newspaper back in 1992. I bring this up because of the amount of work it took Doig without the assistance of the internet. In the article Doig points out that we ran through several CD-ROM files, which have pretty much been obsolete since the early 2000s, as well as the 7 million records stored on 35 magnetic tape reels.

Having grown up through the 1980s and 90s I remember how difficult it was too research certain bits of information. I mean, where does a kid start when talking about the pyramids of Egypt or baseball statistics when only almanacs, reference books and a library card are your only tools? Having an understanding of where to start is definitely the first step, but also having access as a journalist to larger firms like the National Hurricane Center is a massive help as well.

Doig used his old school journalistic methods, as well as the top resources at the time to help create his own system of tracking weather patterns, damage, reconstruction as well as preventative maintenance records. He is truly a pioneer in the new age of investigative journalism.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Google Complex

If 2012 taught me anything it's that Google is my friend, but that friend that only comes around whenever they need to borrow some cash to get out of a jam. I remember in years past this supposed friend was much more helpful in my day-to-day life, but without warning they turned. I never really gave much thought to that as I never really gave much though to how Google really worked. That is, until I read and learned more about it.

I'm an avid user of Google as my primary search engine for the same reason as every one else; it's become more of a force of habit ingrained into our heads by word of mouth and the media. Among my regular searches are baseball photos, stats and stories, etc. as I am not only an avid fan of the game and history, but I want to work journalistically in that field once I finish my studies at the University of Oregon. In fact, I worked for Major League Baseball last season temporarily to really get a grasp on whether or not I was on the right path. During my time I spent anywhere between 4-10 hours a day on my computer, always writing or looking something up. During this time I used only my Samsung Galaxy Note and my newish HP computer. Anytime I look up something baseball related the information I'm looking for comes up relatively quick, but when I need to look for something outside of that subject I'm sent on a small wild goose chase.

The video we watched from TED really opened my eyes on why I've been having so many issues:

Due to my sometimes one dimensional nature, Google has pretty much assumed that the only thing that matters to me in this world is baseball. I don't really blame it for feeling that way; however, sometimes I do research about music, films and food for other projects in interested in. But in most cases it becomes a bit of challenge to track in depth information down from a viable resource prospective.

Another interesting point that was brought up in the video is how two people may be searching for the exact same thing, but Google will yield different results. Oddly enough this issue ended up biting me in the ass about 2 hours before I watched the video. Every day I write a blog post about 1 of the 250 or more New Era baseball caps that I have, making sure to into in depth detail about the history of when it was used, the players who wore it during the era and where one can find it for their collection. In most cases I don't need to spend more than 1-2 hours on research and the actual writing of the article combined; however, tonight it took me a little more than 4 hours. Here's the article:

As it turns out there isn't a viable Web site that had any of the dated information on the particular hat that I was writing about, so I had to conduct my own sort of informational puzzle. Even the Baseball Hall of Fame was a dead end. I got about 3/4 of the way done when my girlfriend asked if there was anything she could do to help. I let her know what I needed and she quickly went to work. Within about 3 minutes she was able to find the last 3 videos/photos I was looking for. This was quite frustrating/perplexing as most of her Google-related searches hover primarily around the medical field since she's in Med school, but she's also a big baseball fan. Despite my best efforts and a wide knowledge of the subject, Google still made things difficult for me, but easy for her for reasons I can't explain.

If what my searches yield is a result of some greater alogrithm, then Google needs to put an end to that nonsense. The idea that what I WANT to look for might not necessarily be what I find is quite a frustrating concept to grasp a hold of, especially considering that Google is supposedly the best place to look for something on the internet.

The Death of Journalism

Back in 2009 I came across an article from the Washington Post which really made me think about how I was going to make a name for myself in the world of journalism.

Give it a read:

For the last 10 years or so I've always done my best to read a newspaper first thing in the morning. It wasn't until I came across this article that I ever really gave much thought to why I was doing that. Every journalism teacher in every journalism class I've ever taken has recommended this practice for the sake of keeping up with the world. As I ran through each page I always found myself caring less and less when a story didn't have a profound affect on me, but I always pushed through that mental block and forged on. I had been hearing since my senior year in high school that journalism was on the wane, but I never wanted to believe it, but then again, I think that's something that anyone who wants to get involved with this as a career feels.

Best Blogs- MLB Trade Rumors

I have my small list of blogs that I routinely follow; however, for this assignment I decided to resort to Time Magazine’s best blogs of 2011 link. Much to my surprise I found out that a blog which I routinely visit made the list. MLB Trade Rumors is a blog that was started back in 2008 by search-engine marketer and Chicago Cubs diehard Tim Dierkes after he quit his day job to focus on his blog. He and nine other guys operate the Website with an incredibly flurry of visitors including yours truly. But what makes this site so much better than others, despite not having the resources or the manpower like that of big name firms like Fox Sports or ESPN, is the level of work put into each article. Whether a player is simply named in a rumor for trade or a free-agent signing MLB Trade Rumors tracks and researches every possible angle and lead until a deal is finalized or killed.

Check it out here:

            Unlike other sports related Websites, MLB Trade Rumors doesn’t mess around cheesy puff pieces about the Top 10 uniforms or hats in the game. They focus primarily on the news itself, relaying information about the game from baseball fans for baseball fans. MLB Trade Rumors also interacts with their viewers on an almost regular basis. Readers are allowed to comment on published articles and in some cases get a return response from the author. MLB Trade Rumors also interacts with readers on Twitter, Facebook and other social media sites.

            While I appreciate the service that they provide in their articles, I sometimes feel that a little bit of an opinion would make for a better article on the basis that the interaction between the readers and the author would skyrocket. Then again, as I have seen from the ESPN message boards more often than I’d like, the comments left by the readers could shift from playful banter or additional insight to flat out hate speech. MLB Trade Rumors does a solid job of keeping the peace with their readers by monitoring the posts left by the readers for all to enjoy.

            Another important detail of MLB Trade rumors is that their articles are categorized a few different ways on their main page. One the right side of the screen is a post list categorized by: top stories, an independent search section, a features section, recent posts and posts by team in case you want to cut the fact out and focus on your team. MLB Trade Rumor doesn't focus on other sports, obviously, and their Web site is updated as breaking news hits.