30
Apr
08

healthcare issue in Alachua County

Working with Laura on our final project for Toolkit II has been a good experience. Our final project, Lending a Helping Hand: Healthcare services for the needy in Gainesville, Florida, is about healthcare in Alachua County. To conduct our interviews, we were blessed with the help of a great clinic and an amazing person.

The Terry story is warm and very touching, such that its complexity made it difficult to produce a 180 second report and relate it to the big picture of the healthcare issue.

After two weeks of waiting, our interview subject, Terry Harmon, still hadn’t shown up. “Any back-up ides for our project?”, we asked ourselves. Although Terry finally granted us an interview, this experience made me aware that any good reporter should always have alternative ideas and a contingency plan prior to beginning interviews.

30
Apr
08

Toolkit II

How could I describe this semester? Last semester, I really enjoyed the Toolkit I course; on the other hand, this semester course, Toolkit II, was slightly more painful. There were simply too many notions to struggle with. Nonetheless, all this hard work made me aware of just how sharp my set of skills needs to be in order to stand out in the 21st century’s media environment.
From the very beginning of my studies at the University of Florida, my professors and friends have stressed to me the importance of new media and online reporting. They said I should focus on skills relevant to those new media, such as technology and creative thinking. With foreigners facing a language barrier to compete with native speakers in print and television reporting, this new wave of media provides foreign reporters a level playing field.

Recently, I have been exposed to new technologies and method that I had never experienced before. Shooting video footage, a task that demands extensive visual work and creative thinking, offers me a chance to develop my storytelling skills. It is always a thrill to find a lead,dig the story and present it creatively. In comparison to last summer’s soundslide, video storytelling has been a greater challenge for me, as it is difficult to effectively calibrate details such as view angles and lighting. I believe that a great video narrator must be a careful observer in daily life. I am glad to have spend time learning how to edit video footage, a task that, though it may seem boring, is actually very enjoyable. On only wish I could have more experience using Final Cut Pro.

Creating web animations with Adobe Flash was also a blast, and seeing my first Flash project successfully come together gave me great satisfaction. At the end of last semester, I wanted to develop my Photoshop skills; now, I really wanted to develop my Flash skills. Hopefully I won’t forget everything I learned…

This semester has been a definite step up from the Fall semester. It was more demanding, giving me the opportunity to challenge myself and strive to become the best news reporter that I can be.

19
Mar
08

analysis of flash package

For my second blogging assignment, I examined a flash package from Financial Times’ Why are food prices rising? As I examined the items in the package one by one, I found many similarities from one video to the other. Generally speaking, the design of the flash package is neat and easy to follow, containing one slideshow and four videos. The slideshow is good for the photos and the audio it provides. However, the videos disappoint me a little.

The videos, which mostly show one person talking and display some photos, charts or maps, are not that attractive. The information contained in the charts and maps is useful, but seeing someone talk for more than a minute gets boring, especially since the speakers are only editors and correspondents. As I watched the video titled “the impact of climate change”, I wished to see some footage about different places where crop production has been impacted by climate. Of course, those shortcomings may have been due to budget and time restrictions that would have prevented the producers to go abroad on-site.

The last video, an interview with Jacquirs Diouf, director of the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, has a wealth of useful information. However, Mr. Diouf does not reveal any new information from other videos. His video is divided into four poorly cut parts by topic. Most of the videos begin showing his hands in air.

picture2.jpg

As I watched the videos, it made me reflect upon the way that certain journalists continuously repeat the same information in report just to satisfy their length requirements. In this package particularly, the makers showed the same viewpoints and comments by different people, which results in a bigger package of lesser content. Can this really attract an audience?

Anyway, I appreciated the charts and maps that the journalists created. Some of them look novel and contain a good amount of information.Take a look at this one.All the logos are clickable and information about climate events in different areas will show if you click different logos.

picture1.jpg

13
Feb
08

‘News video’ vs. ‘feature video’

I am not sure whether people categorize journalistic footage as ‘news video’ and ‘feature video’. Similar to print publications, we mark news articles with labels such as ‘news story’ or ‘feature story’. This said, the video ‘Are EPA coal emission standards strict enough’ could be marked as ‘news video’ and the other one, ‘Clean, safe and sterile at Toronto General’, would be a ‘feature video’. Besides the fact that they are presented in the form of video footage, these videos share many characteristics with both news stories and feature stories.

To begin, I like the ‘EPA’ video from Las Vegas Sun very much. Covering people’s reactions towards the plan to build three new coal plants near Mesquite City, it meets all the criteria that qualify it as a news video. The exposition of the video is quite clear, telling us the basic elements ‘5 W and 1H’ in the very beginning. I found ‘EPA’ very well organized and I believe that the journalist who shot it had a very clear visualization of the end result in mind. Furthermore, the shooting was beautiful and the final edition was edited very well. The journalist interviewed the protesting residents living nearby and recorded the keynote speakers at the conference. Also, he obtained opinions from both sides, making his report unbiased. Something else that I appreciated was that the author gracefully associated still photos with videos. In addition, I could tell from the quality of the photos that this person is a great photojournalist. If I had to point out some flaws in the production, I would say that the footage of people speaking at the conference felt a little bit long. While watching, I had the near-impression that I was about to hear the whole meeting. If the journalist had cut out two to three people’s speeches, the overall video definitely would have been better.

The second video, ‘Clean, safe and sterile at Toronto General’ from Toronto Star, is a nice feature video that delivers information about the cleaning of surgical instruments in Toronto. The opening line, “it is not car wash, and they are not cleaning dirty dishes”, immediately caught my attention. All the information provided in this video was very interesting and new to me. “Forty thousand surgical instruments per week, impressive!” I told myself. The footage shows us a very complete picture of the whole process of cleaning such surgical instruments. However, I felt sick when the footage suddenly switched from images of instrument cleaning to surgery. The blood and organs disturbed me unexpectedly. Such could certainly have been omitted without affected the audience’s level of understanding. When making a video, we should consider the audience’s reactions and attitudes towards images and information. Journalistic videos can be viewed by thousands of people from all age and gender groups, most of who may not expect nor desire to see such bloody images. If that footage were necessary to deliver the meaning and could not have been cut out, then another method should have been found to convey the information.

11
Dec
07

It’s a “Miracle”!

The past three and a half months, 100 days in total, were full of surprises!

The beginning of my time here was already very exciting. A Chinese student, I had the opportunity to come to the United States, the worldʼs media kingdom. At last I was going back to school, studying my favorite major and pursuing my dream career-Journalism! I met many new friends, discovered a new culture and challenged myself, every second, in every way! Looking back, the most surprising aspect of this first semester at the University of Florida is the substantial amount of new knowledge that I acquired. I feel like a sponge in the ocean, absorbing everything that I possibly can.

I chose to begin my graduate studies with three courses: Dr. Clearyʼs Mass Communication Theory, Dr. Leslieʼs International Communication and Professor Mindyʼs Journalistsʼ Toolkit. The latter two classes came to me as a surprise; I realized that, through hard work, I was able to succeed in this new school environment-just as much as a native student!. Leslie is a strict professor. Thanks to his strict criteria and his high work ethic, I find that I have made tremendous progress in my reading, writing and communication skills. Also, I was able to broaden and deepen my knowledge through reading scholarly papers of diverse subject matters.

During my Toolkit course, I was exposed to concepts that I had never seen before. In fact, prior to stepping into this class I was very unconfident about my English and the myriad of required technological skills. However, as I read back on all the blogs that I wrote during this semester, I notice a pattern, a recurring theme. On countless occasions, I wrote a sentence along the lines of “I had never realized that I could do this before, I’m learning so much!” Before this course, I had never even heard about making sound slides, I never understood how to frame a photo, and I never used HTML to make a webpage. This course truly challenged me to better myself and I know all the skills I have learned will benefit me my whole career. With every finished project and accomplishment, I had a renewed motivation to advance further into the world of journalism and media.

When done in Chinese, I conduct interviews with ease; interviewing in English, however, is entirely different. I feel timid, afraid that I cannot express myself clearly and conduct the interview well. Although I still lack enough confidence to comfortably conduct interviews in English, at least I have the opportunity to work hard at it and better myself.

During the course, I found my true passion, that of photojournalism. Kobreʼs book helped me develop some basic skills about photojournalism and build a good foundation. By shooting photos for my sound slides, I could see my progress, which made me want to learn more about photojournalism. Taking good pictures is not only an essential skill for successful journalism; it is also immensely enjoyable!

11
Dec
07

Affordable Housing in the U.S

At last I finished my final projects! I feel very satisfied with what I have done, as this is the first webpage that I have ever made.

screenshot of final project

When I finally got done with my final package, I sent it to my friend in Shanghai to ask for feedback. Her first comment was that affordable housing in the U.S. is a heavy topic. Another comment I received was that my project as a whole attempted to illustrate the problem from a perspective that emphasized the country’s quickly soaring house prices and somewhat overlooked Americans’ stalling income levels. According to my friend, such a biased point of view will paint too simple a picture-I agree.In fact, I have thought in depth about this problem. The reasons why people cannot afford housing are somewhat complicated. While some Americans are lazy, most are hard working and driven, but still cannot afford their own house. Even more, this is not only a problem in the United States; the whole world is affected. In fact, this issue is even more severe outside the U.S. Along with the urbanization and industrialization, global real estate prices are soaring higher and higher. Three web pages definitely cannot cover such a broad subject, so I think it would be best to focus on the disproportionate rise in house prices and the augmentation in household incomes.

On my introduction page, I introduce this issue. What is affordable housing? How severe is the shortage is in U.S.? I use the concept of “American Dream”, as I think this all-American idea can make audiences feel more involved.

In the slideshow page, I use a sound slide that combines the interviews of a citizen affected by lack of affordable housing and an official working to solve the problem. A few questions are addressed. What is it like to struggle with those difficulties? Is there help on the way? What people think is the main cause of this issue? In the sound slide, I try to illustrate that the perception that those who cannot afford housing are lazy is mistaken. In fact, most people work diligently to achieve their “American Dream”.

My data package contains a chart which clearly illustrates the change from 1974 to 2006. The data is relevant and updated, which I think can really help me illustrate the problem. Besides, I included government data on this page that shows readers what the government has done to solve the problem. Because of other factors such as inflation and regulations, it seems that the government cannot do much.

10
Dec
07

data and journalism

Using data to illustrate a news story is widely seen in daily news reporting, whether it be for a newspaper article or TV news. Originally, I thought that the data journalists use were exclusively represented in tables and histograms. I never thought that maps could be used to illustrate data. This kind of data can really help journalists to better tell a story. The example of the “Crime in Chicago” map, which Mindy showed us in class, is really interesting and offers a very convenient and clear way for users to search the information they want.I think that while data like Google Maps can be used in all kinds of media, it can only be effectively used on Internet. This is due to limited space and interactivity in traditional media such as newspapers and magazines. Nonetheless, no matter which kind of journalists one is, knowing something about making charts or maps can be very helpful.

I finished my first chart the other day. Before I started working on it, I expected it to be very difficult. However, I quickly realized that to make a good chart it is crucial to find relevant data. I spent a long time gathering data to make my regressions more accurate and thus better illustrate the issues at hand. Still, I feel that I have a lot to improve in my data searching. Nowadays, everyone can search data on the Internet and thus the research abilities are vital to being a successful journalist.




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