I'm in the process of moving and will be out-of-state for the weekend... so I've got to postpone the rest of my MySpace Monday entry and a week's worth of Bee reviews. There's so much to write and I can't set aside the time this week. I'll blog up a storm next week.
You should now have a separate professional MySpace page. You've tricked it out and convinced your normal friends to add you.
It's like being a politician. You had to start by galvanizing your base.
Now make MySpace work for you. Think about the type of people you'd like to connect with. Do a little networking. Add current sources and work toward adding potential sources. It isn't easy to be comprehensive, and you probably won't be, but if you're focused, you'll find a lot of interesting locals and people you might want to talk to now or later.
This week's topic: Adding new friends to your professional MySpace page.
Tip No. 1: Come up with a target. Structure you're search for new friends based in the type of stories you'd like to write. Musicians, comedians and filmmakers are easy to find with little work. Venues, fellow writers, artists, college athletes, high school students or any other source base will take more time to find.
Tip No. 2a: Search for musicians. Click the link for Music followed by the link for Top Artists. You can then search for bands within the radius of your zip code. Despite a few incorrect listings, you'll find unsigned, indie and major label artists from your area roughly organized by popularity. Be wary of the selected distance. Just 100 listings from the three categories show up. New or lesser known bands may not show up if you select within 20 miles of downtown Sacramento. Bands from Oakland will show up if you search within 50 miles. Decide how much time you want to spend searching. There are a little more than 1,000 relatively active bands within the greater Sacramento area. If you want to be hyperlocal, search within five or 10 miles. Then, categorize in groups as small as Elk Grove bands or Davis bands. More on categories next week.
Be aware: some local DJs and rappers have non-music pages and won't show up in the MySpace Music listings.
Tip No. 2b: Search for comedians. Click the link for Comedy followed by the link for Comedian Search. Comedians can be searched in the same way as musicians. Select a distance, type in a zip code and sort by the amount of friends to find a starting list of comedians to add as friends. You'll find almost 20 active comedians within 25 miles of downtown Sacramento. Local comedians can also found among the top friends lists on the MySpace pages of comedy clubs. Local comedians are listed in the top friends lists of Laughs Unlimited, Punch Line Sacramento, Bistro 33 and Louie's Cocktail Lounge.
Tip No. 2c: Search for filmmakers. Click the link for Movies followed by the link for Indie Film and then the link for Top Filmmakers. Filmmakers can then be searched within a selected radius. The search function doesn't look like it's working right now. I'll update this post tomorrow with examples of a recent search.
More to come tomorrow. Part two will offer tips to find groups that MySpace does not categorize as easily as musicians, comedians and filmmakers.
The ombudsman job is to provide a link from the readers to the newspaper and the newspaper to the readers. They ask why a newspaper makes certain decisions and reports the decision-making process to readers in a regular column. It is also their responsibility to criticize when a newspaper makes a poor decision.
It's sad to see the newspaper decide this position is no longer needed. Editor Melanie Sill has written a regular column about the newspaper's print and Web redesign. Maybe the publisher felt her columns provided sufficient explanation of the editorial process.
"Times have changed since the era in which many ombudsmen and public editor jobs were established," Publisher Cheryl Dell wrote in a staff memo posted on the Poynter.org Romenesko Web site. "Readers now have multiple ways to be heard within the newspaper and in the community. Bee journalists are accessible via email, and we publish their phone numbers as well."
It's a tough call. Public editor Armando Acuna will be reassigned to an assistant features editor position. I'm sure the newsroom is happy to welcome him to their department. As disappointing as it is for the newspaper to lose the public editor position, Acuna will probably do more to help the paper in his new position.
Watch the "#1 Countdown Veep Watch" to see the pizza delivery girl stand by the state police officer as he speaks to Cristián by cell phone. The full MSN Countdown episode should be available as a video podcast by the end of the day. Download a piece of history.
Sources close to me tell me that Cristián is an Obama supporter. In a cell phone interview with this blog, Cristián tells me he was trying to make a mockey of the media's driveway coverage of the pending vice presidential announcement. He, and the guys at the SomethingAwful Forums thought it would be funny to see how the media would cover a pizza delivery. Cristián took the matter into his own hands and ordered a pizza by cell phone. A note was attached the pizza congratulating the senator. The senator's name was not placed upon the note. Proof of pizza purchase can be found at the SomethingAwful Forums.
And, like I told Cristián, he made a bigger dent in the media ordering a pizza than he ever did as a writer.
This blog will stay tuned. Here's hoping Obama cracks a joke about it at the Democratic Convention.
Update at 8:25 p.m.: Today's episode of MSNBC Countdown is now available through iTunes.
The Wenatchee World sent a letter of cancellation at the start of July. The Post Register, The Bakersfield Californian and The Yakima Herald-Republic gave AP notice that each publication will cancel its service in two years effect August 2010. The Spokesman-Review plans to find a way out of the contract within 30 days.
Each paper will save money and place a wider focus on local stories.
The Internet has changed how I read the news and I don't go to the local newspaper for Associated Press content. I look to national outlets, such as CNN, The New York Times and Time for the sort of stories AP is likely to produce - straight-forward national news, general interest pieces and full-length exclusives. AP stories in small publications, like the five that will cancel the syndicated subscription, feels odd. I think to myself, "Can't I find this elsewhere?"
Publications can't afford to be everything to everyone.
I have a feeling newspapers are starting to understand this. They recognize that they purchase these stories for a premium price and the stories fail to generate as much traffic as local stories. As long as readers keep going elsewhere for national news, many more newspapers will weigh the cost of syndicated content.
I decided to change the topic of the upcoming MySpace Monday. Instead of offering tips on how to catalog your professional friends, I want to first offer suggestions on ways to find local sources. I'll talk about looking for local comedians, local musicians and venues.
Carberry references TrueMilitaryWivesConfessions.com as an example of a user-created and user-centered Web site that provides the sort of information and community only a newspaper or women's group might have been able to a few years ago.
"Women who use the site are submitting their own material, speaking in an authentic and comfortable tone, building supportive relationships with one another and using a Digg-like model to prioritize their most compelling content" Carberry writes.
Specialized Web sites like this can provide newspapers with story ideas and interdependence through co-operation. Newspapers can work with these outlets for content and specialized Web sites can generate traffic by working with media companies. Reporters can use TrueMilitaryWivesConfessions.com to find sources and mold a story proposal by paying attention to the discussions. The newsroom work can work with the Web site to provide information for graphics and supplementary text boxes. Slideshows can be created by asking the users to submit photos.
Reporters spend so much time looking for the human angle of larger stories. The more specialized communities and specialized Web sites develop on the Net, the easiest it is for journalists to find these sources.
Side note: Thanks to Maegan for using a quote I submitted by e-mail. It's cool to have the first reference to my blog.
I had a good laugh after reading the Aug. 13 blog post by Sacramento News & Review Arts Editor Nick Miller at "Alt Sac". Miller, no relation, was pissed off by an SN&R review posted on Yelp by Midtown Monthly contributor Tony King. He goes into a fury in the comment section and participates in a back-and-forth with Midtown Monthly editor Tim Foster, who signs off as "omf."
Click here to read the reviews of the Sacramento News & Review at Yelp.
Click here to read the reviews of the Midtown Monthly at Yelp.
How's how I see it:
Tony K. is a little too self congratulatory of his own magazine in a separate Yelp review. Public reviews are not the place to defend the deadline of a monthly. Every publication has space to fill. You struggle to fill space when you're unprepared, reporters fail to meet deadlines or an article has serious holes. It sounds nostalgic to longingly talk about the pressure of busting your ass at the last minute. It actually speaks to a less professional atmosphere - where certain situations could have been avoided with better planning.
While Tony K. is quick to boast about Midtown Monthly, he's as quick to lay a dig into the Sacramento News & Review in the linked Yelp review. He criticizes the writers for involving themselves far too much in the stories and for being far too happy about what they produce.
"The problem with the Sacramento News and Review (besides it being a chain newspaper spread thin) is that it tries way too hard to be witty, snarky and edgy," King wrote. "Of course in doing so, the SN&R actually comes across as clueless, hollow and self-congratulatory."
The less first-person, the better. Too often, first-person articles put a reader further at a distance from the subject. They show how a simple reporter can be so close to someone who is newsworthy. It's supposed to propagate a sort of window to another person's life. Sometimes the perspective works, more often, I'm left thinking the article could have done without it. The perspective might be besides the point. I think Tony K. just doesn't like Sacramento News & Review Associate Arts Editor Josh Fernandez. He references him and his articles.
Tony K. doesn't stop with Fernandez. He hates the centerpiece designs, hates the feature subjects, hates the review section and hates the SAMMIES. (At least someone else thought that burrito feature was a bad idea.) He even makes an attempt to equate the newspaper to Starbucks. Sorry, three newspapers does not make a chain, a gaggle or a murder. Maybe he forgot that Midtown Monthly and Capitol Weekly are owned by the same company. I think.
The focus of Miller's fury launches some valid points, but he might be the wrong person to back them. Producing a weekly is more difficult than producing a monthly, and again, don't criticize self-congratulations when you are so quick to do it of yourself. If he were in a comparable position, working at a weekly, maybe his opinion would carry more weight. It's tough to tell whether he's been in Miller's position - the position of an editor at a weekly.
Foster stops by the comment section to point out "the whole 'competition' bit gets really old." I couldn't agree more. He is super even-tempered and brings about some solid points, after apologizing for the so-called free agent. Foster writes: "People piss on SNR because they expect more from it, or remember it a different way. they piss on it because they care." This is important. People spewing vile because they've seen better from SN&R and they'd wish it provided a better counterpart to the The Sacramento Bee.
And yes, I recognize many other people are just as angry with The Sacramento Bee and rightfully criticize the declining story production.
Miller goes off in the comment section, and its great. Each side volleys good arguments. I'd kind of like to meet Foster. I think Miller's the kind of guy who'll pound a couple of shots and then ask what you're having.
A truce was called without Miller going on as much of an attack as King.
He simply phoned Foster and hashed everything out.
Everything's perfectly all right now. We're fine. We're all fine here, now, thank you. How are you?
Alas, the flame war was put out.
(Side note: I'm pretty surprised by the amount of reviews of Midtown Monthly posted in August. There are 11 reviews this month. Someone must be e-mailing friends and telling them to battle. SN&R has six reviews this month too, with most of them following King's attack.)
MySpace is a blessing and a curse for journalists. There’s a wealth of information and many of its features can help when researching for a story.
Social networking is consistent presence in the Internet life of anyone in college and recent graduates. We’ve grown up with this technology and only as we enter the job force are many of us thinking about where we draw the line between our private and public lives.
Each week, I will write about how MySpace can make you a better journalist. I’ll offer suggestions, strategies and point out potential pitfalls.
This week’s topic: Developing a public profile.
I started working at SacLights.com at the end of last summer. One of my first responsibilities was to find the Web site and MySpace of every local musician. I wanted to do more than catalog data in a spreadsheet. I wanted to start connecting and collecting. Problem was, we didn’t have a MySpace for SacLights.com and I didn’t want to add bands as friends to my private MySpace. I figured it was a good opportunity to start a second, professional MySpace.
There are too many drawbacks to adding local contacts to your everyday, private MySpace. You may be inundated with concert invites. The status and mood feed will fill with notes from bands. The bulletin board becomes an unmanageable outlet for bands to post fliers. Bulletins and status updates by friends are quickly buried. Bands will regularly post fliers in comment sections, sometimes altering the look with large fliers. Connecting with friends is muddied when you add so many non-friend friends.
Distributed information becomes a concern. You can only control what your friends post if you’ve altered your privacy options. You may be tagged in a compromising photo, sensitive information might be posted in your comment section and, in the worst of case, your top friends list might become victims of harassment by angry sources. A profile pages says a lot about a person. It also leaves a lot lost in translation. A joke among your friends might be offensive to sensitive sources.
Enough about the potential dangers. Here are 10 steps to starting a professional MySpace:
Tip No. 1: Secure your private profile. Make your private profile viewable only by your friends. Require approval before comments are posted. Take a hard look at what you post. You may think you’re profile is secure, but photos can be downloaded by friends and e-mailed around.
Tip No. 2: Start a professional profile. Create a second profile using a work e-mail or professional e-mail address. Add the friends from your private profile so that your friend’s list isn’t empty. Send each of your friends a message to say that your second profile isn’t fake. You're privacy options can be more lenient, allowing for anyone to add you as a friend.
Tip No. 3: Post a headshot. Add a couple of photos. Make sure you have some basic photos that allow sources to know what you look like — very beneficial for in-person interviews at public locations. Headshots are fine. If you’re friends tag you in photos using the private profile, make sure to deny those tags. If you’ve drawn a line of separation, make sure to keep it.
Tip No. 4: Flesh out your profile. There’s nothing wrong with being truthful about your general interests, favorite movies, favorite music, favorite television shows, favorite movies, favorite books and personal heroes. Treat the schools section like you would the education section of a résumé. I treat my company section the same way. I’ve listed the six places where I have worked. You can hold back and list only your current position. The networking feature has never been too helpful. You can find other journalists and they can find you as long as you add it to your profile. Most important, tailor your about me section to your career. Talk about your skills. Employers make look at your professional profile page too.
Tip No. 5: Simple name, simple reference. Make your MySpace URL something simple. You can use your URL as a calling card. Use your pen name if possible.
Tip No. 6: Post stories and photos. Photographers should post an album of work. Writers should post some written examples using the blog feature. The blog system allows for HTML, so some multimedia work can be posted as well. It helps to show people what you can do.
Tip No. 7: Limit HTML and application use. You want to make sure that you’re profile can be seen by anyone. Custom designs by third-party Web sites can slow down load times. Applications are typically more trouble then they’re worth.
Tip No. 8: The notification system is your friend. It helps to allow for notifications. You probably don't want to check your professional and private MySpace each day. Notifications allow you to know when a band, comedian or venue has added you or sent you a message. Tip No 9: Assessment. You want a clean MySpace that offers the necessary information. If you can build your own Web site to show off your work, simply offer a link and do not repost all your work. If you’re a photographer and want to house your portfolio elsewhere, just post a couple of photos as examples and display a prominent link to more work. Re-read everything you’ve written for your profile. If this is your first point of contact with sources, you want them to know that you’re a good writer. Copyediting shouldn’t be a lost art.
Tip N0 10: Add to your heart's content. Now you can go ahead and start adding new friends. Musicians, comedians and filmmakers are a good start. Nightclubs, tattoo parlors and business aren't segmented on MySpace yet, but you can find many of them. It's a good idea think about your scope. Do you want to keep your friends list to local sources or go national? The more friends, the harder it will be to segment them and find them later.
I hope my suggestions are helpful. Feel free to leave comments on this blog or by sending my a message through my MySpace page.
On the horizon (Update): The next MySpace Monday will detail a couple methods on finding local comedians, local music and local venues. I originally planned to talk about ways to make MySpace your digital Rolodex. That will come in the third post.
I just read an inspiring story about Tampa Bay Buccaneers running back Earnest Graham's fight to earn a roster spot in the League. He dealt with going undrafted after four successful years at the University of Florida, an injury as a rookie free agent that forced him to take a settlement, multiple signings and releases from practice squads and financial hardship. His family was evicted from their apartment and they had to struggle to afford spaghetti. His wife is amazing. She supported him along the way and allowed him to pay for a gym membership so that he could stay in shape. Graham's story is less a sports story and more a story about a man who perserved and fought to be the man he is today. He deserves his three-year, $10.5 million contraction extension.
Sorry to my readers for being away for a couple days.
Is anyone there?
OK. There aren't many people checking out my blog, yet.
Maybe my friends will come around, probably not.
I was pretty tired after work the last couple of days and its sometime hard to think of quick shorts to write. It seems every idea I note takes too much time to prepare in one day. I'll do my best to come up with content during the weekend. I do intend to post, at minimum, daily
My boss sent me a popular link for local bloggers. A Web analyst from Propser Media launched local blog aggregator RiverWrap.com in June.
21Q interviewed Zach Melchori two months ago. Melchori told the blog that he wants to "drive more dialogue" in the city. Blogs are pulled from local writers and national writers blogging about Sacramento.
The concept is simple and a good starting point to find other popular, local blogs. You need somewhere to find blogs to add to your RSS feed.
And, yes, I'm submitting my blog.
On the horizon: I still plan to critique seven consecutive issues of new The Sacramento Bee. I forgot to pick up the last Saturday issue. I'll write my first post starting Tuesday. Also, I'll launch a weekly feature called MySpace Monday, where'll I'll give tips on how journalists can use MySpace for researching and reporting. Facebook Friday is not currently in the works.
Ten university student newspapers accepted the advertisement. Student newspapers at UW-La Crosse, UW-Stout and Marquette University in Milwaukee did not.
I respect the decision by the three newspaper editors to deny publication of the ad. It contains false information. The morning after pill does not cause "chemical abortion." Plan B and RU-486 (the abortion pill) are not the same. Plan B, which must be used within 72 hours after intercourse, stops the release of the egg. The abortion pill, which can be used later in a pregnancy, causes the uterus to empty. Two pills for two separate scenarios leading to two outcomes.
Student editors are responsible for all content that makes its way to print, either in stories or in advertisements. Advertisements may be rejected, as long as students make the decision to do so. The 1997 federal appeals case, Yeo v. Town of Lexington, upheld this right and ruled against a man who sued a school district after student editors at a high school newspaper and yearbook rejected an advertisement promoting abstinence.
Advertisements are often the last thing student editors want to deal with. As an editor, you'll likely be confronted with ad problems. Administrators will be unhappy with ads from bars. Pro-life and pro-choice groups will be unhappy if their ads appear next to each other. Women's groups won't like ads with women in bikinis. Don't get me started on sex toy ads. It's probably best not to run them in the orientation issue.
Student editors: take a little time to see what ads are coming in. Ask questions. Learn about what ads are on the horizon. Don't let yourself be surprised. Allow time to prepare a defense for anything that might generation criticism. It's better than being caught with your pants down... especially on spring break.
"You are killing the paper," Jarvis wrote. "You might as well just burn the place down. You’re setting a match to it. This is insane. Even the slowest, most curmudgeonly, most backward in your dying, suffering industry would not be this stupid anymore. They know that the internet is the present and the future and the paper is the past. Protecting the past is no strategy for the future. It is suicide. It is murder. You should be ashamed of yourselves."
I had to include to the long quote. Such venom. Such passion. I love it.
Yelvington is most concerned with a publication giving priority to one medium over another.
"It's entirely possible that the print and online components might be completely different with some parts being print-only," Yelvington wrote. "But you can't do that if you regard one medium as yours and the other as theirs. And that's the real problem with the Leary's memo."
The memo scares me, yet it doesn't surprise me. I'm not sure how it will change how the newspaper operates after reading a Q&A with Executive Editor Chris Newsom at the Philadelphia Inquirer.
I think newspapers need to find appropriate publication times with all stories. I think a lot readers check out newspaper Web sites around noon and near bedtime. People seem to be more willing to sit with a longer article at these times. Holding investigative pieces wouldn't be out of step with reader trends.
I'm not so sure holding reviews is such a good idea. Then again, I'm not sure what the Philadelphia Inquirer reviews. Some reviews should be posted as soon as possible, like a television writer or a political column during campaign season. I could care less about CD reviews.
Enterprise, trend and news features can be published whenever. They often get pushed a couple of times. I don't see why one of these articles can't find life online first. If circumstances permit it, and the news environment calls for it, print it online first. Capitalize on the news environment. Don't be left looking like an ambulance chaser. Printing online can even alter the print edition, and even provide design elements by using reader comments or anecdotes.
It's common for newspapers to print stories about events at the end of the week. This isn't a problem for some, and it helps to have a snapshot of what's coming if you haven't made weekend plans. But it's a problem for people who want to plan ahead. I'm sure any of these features would be described as news features at the Philadelphia Inquirer and they may be published so late as to be considered irrelevant by some online readers.
Lost in the flurry about publication is that a newspaper needs to keep a steady steam of content coming to its the Web site. Links to daytime crime reports shouldn't bury investigative pieces. I also don't expect midnight and morning readers to care about a noon fire. Articles should be rotated appropriately on the front page. Newspapers need to get more bang for the buck. Nothing should go unread because its too hard to find on a Web site, or published too late.
I don't mind that The Sacramento Bee posts its daily stories online at midnight. I'm not bothered by it because the Web site regularly updates with other content.
On the other hand, its time consuming to check my RSS feed when the Sacramento News & Review posts its Thursday articles. I haven't clicked on the link from last week and its 52 links remain unchecked. Too much at once. I don't want to read everything at once, and, even if I bookmark some articles for later, many will go unread.
Newspapers: don't grasp at the old newspaper model. The Web is your friend. It provides a medium for more eyes than ever before. The print circulation numbers of the past are history. More papers distributed won't solve declining revenue. At the end of the day, that's what the memo was really about.
Instead, find ways to get users coming back to the Web site, and translate that Web time to increased revenue.
She suggested that journalists need to recognize that they are storytellers. Gather the facts and be skilled enough to present the information in a variety of mediums. She also suggested that young journalists figure out ways newspapers can foster new revenue streams.
Honestly, her blog entry doesn't say too much I didn't already know. Journalists need to be innovative and versatile. Researching, interviewing and writing no longer make up a sufficient skill set. Journalists need to be unafraid to record audio for podcasts, produce short videos and interact with readers more than in the past.
It all doesn't seem to be new to me.
And I've been thinking a lot about this.
I think newspapers are soon going to find themselves in the position of college newspaper editor trying to hire a graphic designer. When I was the editor in chief of The State Hornet, I used MySpace to hunt for staff members. I searched for majors and minors in journalism, government-journalism, public relations, communication studies, photography and graphic design. I made my pitch and tested interest. Graphic editor was my last hire before the start of the semester. It was also one of the most difficult.
Graphic design majors were either too skilled or not skilled enough. Talented graphic artists could find better pay elsewhere and the newbies weren't qualified to be an editor. I was lucky to find the person who would become the graphic editor.
Newspapers might soon get themselves in this position. Students are being told that they need to be versatile. They're told to have a variety of skills, and while they build these skills, jobs are cut and hiring freezes continue. Students will look elsewhere.
I wonder, where will the young journalists be when, and if, the hiring freezes end?
The Sacramento region doesn't offer too many internship and entry-level positions since The Sacramento Bee decided not to replace many entry-level positions in the Sports, News and Features departments. Many positions at media organizations are unpaid, for-credit internships. You'd need to cobble together a bunch of jobs to make ends meet freelancing. I know that's the name of the game; it doesn't make it any more reassuring.
Rosen found an obscene amount of plagiarized stories published in a Montgomery County, Texas-based alternative weekly. A reader e-mailed to her noting that a story in the Bulletin contained identical paragraphs to a profile Rosen wrote about Jimmy Buffet. She found many more examples of explicit stealing. Article links are provided for comparison.
The Web site for the Bulletin has since been taken down, the Slate wrote in a subsequent editor's note.
It's a good read, especially when you consider all the time Rosen spent finding questionable content.
The lesson is... with almost anything posted on the Internet just a couple button presses away, don't steal someone else's work and think you can get away with it.
I was surprised that Fletcher, the local union representative, was so vocal. I just didn't think current writers would be so open to speak to the other newspaper. He is worried that the newspaper won't provide the needed breadth of coverage and said some beats remain vacant. No energy writer. No health writer. Fletcher said that the newsroom has 28 fewer reporter than at this time last year. This number likely doesn't count the many student assistants and interns that no longer exist in the various departments. Sports clerks, news clerks and features interns were not replaced when the students left for other jobs or graduated from college.
I can't say much about the print redesign or the upcoming online redesign. I don't feel informed enough to comment. But I am worried about the quality of newspapers. The cuts seem to keep on coming, jobs openings are rare.
(I'm not claiming I know about more cuts within the newspaper. I don't. I just worry that they will. I mean to say that they keep coming as a comment about the industry as a whole. The summer has been rough.)
I think newspapers are pushing writers to work harder to meet the demands of a 24-hour news cycle. I worry about a breaking point. I worry about writers burning out. Writers have left The Bee and haven't been replaced. Journalists get paid squat, so reporters do the job because they love their beats and they like their coworkers. When journalism becomes more of a job than a passion, reporters look at the pay and say, "I can get paid better to do a job elsewhere."
Exit: Lisa Heyamoto. Stage: Europe.
“There’s increasing pressure to grind even harder. It used to be that you were asked to do a story by the end of the day,” Fletcher told SN&R. “Now we’re writing a draft for the Web, then maybe another draft for the Web, then writing a story by the end of the day.”
The multi-level story approach is a good idea, if implemented correctly. But I agree with Fletcher's point. The pressure is rising and the workers are stressing.
There's a line from The Dark Knight that keeps popping in my mind when I read about the newspaper industry:
"It's always darkest before the dawn."
I hope so.
On the horizon: I'm collecting a week's run of The Bee and will analyze the charges with daily blog posts, one issue per day with a full analysis at the end.
ESPN the Magazine has always been somewhat of a joke. The writing usually fails to match the quality of Sports Illustrated. Many features are lazily written and the prose is often too loose. I'm surprised a company can do so well, and produce such good content in other mediums — television and the Web — and fail to match that quality in its print edition.
I have noted that ESPN prides itself on something the competition does not offer. Nearly every issue, or every other issue, has a shirtless man. It doesn't appeal to me, but I imagine it entices a fair share of women to check out the magazine. Portrait shots. Competition shots. Workout shots. Grab a random issue of ESPN the Magazine and you'll likely find at least one muscular man without a shirt. The current issue might be the exception. It doesn't have a shirtless male in the entire issue, except for the hairy dude in the Stride ad. However, the previous issue does, with topless skateboarder Ryan Sheckler gracing the cover.
Still, I receive a subscription to the magazine as a perk of signing up for the ESPN.com Insider program. I tend to thumb through the magazine pretty quickly, and rarely read stories I wouldn't otherwise be interested in.
I'm not a USC fan. I'm not even a college football fan. It shouldn't matter. You need to sometimes take a chance on an article. I'm pretty fascinated by the increasing diversity of sports. I figured the article might shine a light on one of the most watched Hispanics in any game, at any level.
Mark Sanchez is the starting quarterback for the Trojans. He was born in Long Beach, Calif. and raised in a white neighborhood in Orange County. The article is standard. Details about his family and upbringing are included. We learn about Sanchez's father's determination to push his kids, the recruitment process of the highly-touted player out of Mission Viejo High School and how Sanchez is embracing his heritage.
Heritage is important. Latino. Hispanic. Mexican. No matter the word, many professional athletes in football can not claim the background. This makes Sanchez special. Diversity, from people who merit competing, exemplifies fair access. The more colors in the rainbow, the more we know everyone had the opportunity.
The article mentions that NFL quarterbacks Jeff Garcia, J.P. Losman and Tony Romo have Mexican roots. Garcia's mother was of Irish decent and his father of Mexican descent. Losman's mom is Mexican and his father is Caucasian. Romo is a third generation Mexican through his father. His mother is of Polish-German decent.
Yet, according to the author, Mexican-Americans do not embrace these players with the same passion that they do Sanchez. In a sidebar titled "One up on the pros" and written by the author of the feature, we learn why Sanchez is "the most beloved passer among Mexican-Americans."
He loves LA
His name — and face — is familiar
He gets a ton of hype
He's embraced his heritage
I don't mind that Sanchez is from LA. I don't care that he gets a lot of hype as long as its deserved. I think it's great that Sanchez is growing into a role model. These three characteristics are fine.
The second bullet is what makes me mad — it's almost as if reading the three letter note crystallized the underlying theme of the article. Once again: "His name — and face — is familiar." Sanchez is a 6-foot-3-inches tall college junior at one of top universities. His brown skin shmmers and his long, curly black shines. On game day, he can be seen wearing a mouthpiece with the three colors of the Mexican flag. He is Mexican and looks the part. The sidebar reads: "The formerly red-haired Garcia is half-Irish. The name Losman doesn't exactly scream 'Hey, I'm Hispanic.' And Romo is a name that could easily be mistaken for Italian."
This is the portion of the six-page spread that most surprised me. I was mad. I was surprised that the magazine embraced racially prejudiced feelings. I struggled with these questions:
Do Mexicans feel that skin color is more important, even when compared to others with Latino roots? Is Sanchez more Mexican than Garcia, Romo and Losman? Should this matter? Even if the players are more successful, do they merit less love than the kid who looks like them — the Mexican fans?
Should ESPN question this prejudice?
I'm bothered by this because it tells me that Mexicans will put their strongest support behind someone who most looks like them. This tells me that skin color is most important. This isn't even comparing Apples to Oranges. It's comparing a Granny Smith to a Red Delicious. We're talking one apple with one color skin and one with lighter tone.
It got me thinking about how a minority may get behind a countryman:
What about socio-economic background? Did the player have the same struggles as the fans?
Does the person relish their heritage and embrace it? Is the player fluent in a tongue other than English?
Is the player a trailblazer? Is the player the first to be successful, like Tiger Woods in golf, Danica Patrick in racing or Yao Ming in basketball?
The sidebar kept staring me in the face. The graphic and text screamed: Garcia, Romo and Losman are too light-skinned. They look white. They are white. They're mostly white.
They're not Mexican enough.
What else am I think?
Sanchez, at least from what I learned reading the article, did not have to struggle like many other Hispanics do in this country. He grew up in a good neighborhood. He had a father who expected him to be successful. Spanish is not his first language. He has embraced his culture. He wears the Mexican flag mouthpiece, speaks to high school kids in Mexican East LA and seems to be a role model. His background, more or less, does not seem all that different than the three NFL players with whom he is compared.
There's something to be said and honored when a person is the trailblazer. Sanchez is not the first. There have been others. While Losman certainly hasn't turned out to be a player who matched expectations, Romo and Garcia went from undrafted players to a combined five Pro Bowls. They're hard-workers and winners. They're good role models whose names don't appear in police logs.
Maybe Romo isn't embraced because he's been linked to two beautiful, American blondes in Jessica Simpson and Carrie Underwood. Maybe Garcia isn't revered because of the rumors that he's gay. Maybe his half-Puerto Rican, half-Italian wife isn't Hispanic enough.
I'm bothered when a magazine tells me that one person is more something than another person when it comes to race. I'm surprised ESPN didn't take the time to say Barack Obama isn't black enough.
I'm white and I'm a fan of sports. It doesn't sway me negatively that professional sports has a minority majority. My favorite players aren't white. Tim Duncan. Tony Romo. Roberto Clemente. I revere these players for one reason or another, be it success, favorite team affiliation or work off the field. I used to compare my horrible streetball skills to Doug Christie — another biracial athlete.
Sure, I root for a white guy to succeed from time to time. But I don't do it maliciously. I don't holler for Mike Miller because he's from Nebraska and boo Jason Williams because he quote, unquote acts black.
When does support for a player based on ethnicity cross the line? When is that support offensive to other players who don't garner the same support?
Remember this: as long as you support a player more for his face than his success, you separate him from the rest. He becomes different and the people you would call racist are more likely to see him in this way.
I tend to pick up the weekly in search of events and occasionally read what the writers are saying about local music. Cosmo Garvin usually has some interesting thoughts on local politics.
But, I’m not here to blog about an overall assessment of SN&R. I’ll try to focus on three things:
Burritos. Cover girls. Rushed production.
The July 31, 2008 cover of SN&R featured two color-coordinated twins with burritos in hand. The brunette in the center smiles into the camera while holding the single-bite burrito.
The other brunette stares across her shoulder at her twin while holding her untarnished burrito. The visual intends to give off the impression that, just maybe, one burrito is better than the other, and that one of these women has found the Holy Grail. Go within the pages young traveler, er, reader.
These aren’t any ol’ cover girls; they’re bloggers Sarah and Rachel Campbell of TwinSoup.com. If you’re hip and connected to the midtown scene, you might know who they are, and you might think that you can trust that these bloggers might lead you to the best in local burritos.
(Side: The self-described “semi-retired scenester ‘it’ girls” write short posts about weekend events, boutiques, trendy wares and, sometimes, a note about something on the horizon. From the perspective a new reader, TwinSoup.com seems to be more like a bulletin board than an in-depth blog. The posts could use more detail and criticism.)
There has been a buzz surrounding these women and their blog. In same week that they appeared on the cover of SN&R, Sarah announced on July 29 that the blog would be a central part of the Fashion & Style section at News10.net. The two bloggers, she wrote, would also appear as guests on the locally-produced Sacramento & Co. Curiously, no mention was made of their cover appearance; no image of the cover posted onto the blog.
Back to the article, I’m pulled within the issue because of the cover and the headline:
The burrito piece is not what it seems. I expected a “top 10” presentation as seen in “best of” issues. Not so. The best is not within. The article provides no sidebar ranking burritos. No locations are provided in accompaniment of the 16 restaurants sprinkled throughout the article. The two-page, almost 1,900-word piece is a sea of text.
Sure, there’s a picture of a large burrito with a text-wrap above the beginning of the story. A couple of pull quotes loosen up the text. And, oh, three drop caps are used.
(Though I do like that the text wraps around the burrito. I hope that’s intentional. Burrito. Wrap. I shouldn't have to explain myself.)
Here’s what’s great. The TwinSoup bloggers didn’t write the piece. Freelance food critic Kate Washington didn’t write it either. The pictured burrito, from Azul Mexican Food and Tequila Bar at 1050 20th St., doesn’t come from one of the named restaurants. Something tells me the photographer was sent across the street on deadline to come up with some cover art.
The presentation seems like a rush job, and does a disservice to the writer. The other extended piece, "The 10 most awesomely bad moments of the Bush presidency", is also a list. It's tough showcase to an issue when neither feature has art that develops its own story and acts as more than something nice next to text. When all else fails, throw some pretty girls on the front. Sex sells.
Ben Russell, in what appears to be his first full-length article for SN&R, writes a story about his personal journey to find the best burrito in Sacramento. The beginning is colored with too much detail about the supposed history of the Mexican, or Texan, dish. Russell takes too long to get to what I want to know: what are the good burritos and where can they be found? In the end, I’m not too sure. He provides sufficient detail about the burritos throughout, yet he fails make a determination. “Some are good,” “there are some middling burritos” and "there are a few really bad burritos” is a pretty insufficient conclusion. I do like what he says about the burritos he has tried. It's just, isn't this supposed to be the search for the best?
Who is at fault?
The presentation is misleading and certain elements could have been added to spotlight some places. There's no sidebars nor restaurant locations.
Regardless of the presentation, the article is too long. The first 600 words tell too much history. The reader can be drawn in with less. I imagine many readers didn't continue reading past the first few paragraphs.
The best history, of any, would have been the history of local burritos. What local restaurants have been around the longest and what charges have the owners seen in what is offered and what is asked for by consumers?
The editors could have trimmed down the last 300 words. The author claims to have not had a great burrito. Then, tells the reader his definition of his ideal, great burrito at the end. It seems to be a mistake to say what you’ve been looking for after 1,300 words. We’re talking about burritos. Get to it.
I suppose the same could be the same for this blog. I’ve written about half as much text critical of a story about burritos. Enough said.
By the way: Juan In a Millions makes one hell of a super burrito.
I had been thinking about starting a blog for a while now.
I've long wondered, why do people choose to write a blog? What's the compulsion to keep writing despite few prospects that the writing will lead to pay?
(Side: am I too focused on being paid for work? If writing is my skill, is it too much to ask to be paid for it?)
How many bloggers expect people other than friends to read what they write? How do these bloggers deal with the vitriol written in the comment sections of the Web - the bathroom walls of our generation?
Blogging, I think, is an intentionally selfish pleasure. You intend to write for yourself and you write in the hope that you will gather a following.
More than anything — meaning, more than simply sitting somewhere and trying to think why people blog — I learned a lot about blogging from a piece in The New York Times Magazine.
Gould, a former Gawker blogger, started her writing career as a self-published blogger at self-titled Emily Magazine. She says she felt a connection with the people who read her blogs and left comments. "As nerdy and one-dimensional as my relationships with these people were, they were important," Gould writes. The community was important.
Blogging is equal parts sanctuary and public square. Gould says that she thought blogging provided an outlet to write whatever she wanted to write, and that she felt a right to say it - no matter how private the situations that inspired the writing. In spite of this, Gould writes about how her willingness to share is as thrilling as it is scary when people find her blog.
Gould equates blogging to an open house where strangers can look in. She believes that people blog because they like the idea that a record of their lives is being kept somewhere. People "can check in on you, compare notes with you and tell you what they think."
(Side: We really need to work on different nouns, verbs and adjectives for the word “blog.” It shouldn’t make sense to say, “I blogged on my blog about blogging.” This, of course, being the subject of this blog.)
It's funny. Whenever I hear a name, I imagine all the places I can search for information about the person behind the name. Google. MySpace. FaceBook. LinkedIn. Yelp. Blogspot. Sacramento County Court Index. I can learn more about a person than they would likely share on a first date or from a first-encounter.
And that funny thing is, if I somehow did this before I met someone, wouldn't they be caught off-guard if I said, "So I see you're a fan of Radiohead?" In this digitally-intertwined generation, face-to-face dialogue is awkward and stilted if the information doesn't come from the same conversation. The mention of something freely given on Web is uncomfortable.
Gould gets at this a bit. She digitally overshares and is called on it. She went so far as to have a separate blog while at Gawker so that she could write personal content. Oversharing is the summation of inspiration and compulsion. Gould cites these as the two ends of the "will to blog" spectrum. See something. Blog. Think something. Blog. The persistent need to blog, and the feeling that the blog is important, leads to oversharing.
The article is interesting in that the reader sees when blogging goes bad. Blogging is so impulsive, yet that same impulsivity can be so bad. While it seems somewhat counterintuitive to blogging, I plan to do a fair amount of sketching before I blog. I feel uncomfortable at the thought of not attempting some level of depth and analysis.
I'm blogging to get back into the grind of writing. Too often, I have said, "that would make a good SNL skit" or "that would be funny to hear on a radio show." I need to blog, for no other reason, at least, to flesh out some of my ideas. If I get feedback, awesome; if not, it would be no different my dormant LiveJournal.
I don't kid myself. I don't expect to gather much of a following. My blog will be an exercise and I hope to improve my writing and criticism. I don't plan to cover too much personal information and I will seriously choose my spots in what I write. I'll keep my comments to a minimum regarding my current job and the same can be said of any place I will/could apply.
I intend to focus on what I know about journalism and plan to criticize local and national media. I have some rough thoughts about my next couple of blogs and it’ll be interesting to see what I come up with.