Blog-lite: Some Quickfire Thoughts
Posted on 26th January 2023 at 19:04
By Sebastian Grace
Can you spot journalism online?
It’s pretty obvious what is and isn’t journalism online. If you turn to The New York Times and read their front page, that’s journalism. Although your political leaning may exclude you from that position, it is a reality. Scroll through TikTok on the bus, and you know those videos of dancing goats you like? They aren’t journalism.
But what about the gray areas we encounter everyday in the hyperactive online world we inhabit? Netflix documentaries and comedy podcast interviews are journalism in my book, though they’re more entertaining than your average Pulitzer prize winner.
Here’s two examples I recently came across which showcase my understanding of the difference, and why:
“We Profiled the ‘Signs of Crisis’ in 50 Years of Mass Shootings. This Is What We Found,” The New York Times, Jan. 26, 2023.
This piece is by Jillian Peterson, a professor of criminology at Hamline University and James Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metro State University, who together run the Violence Project.
They present abridged details from profiles of the suspected or convicted perpetrators of more than 150 mass shootings in the United States, in headline-like style, and attribute the cause of the shootings to the continued rise of “deaths of despair.” This term has been used to explain increasing mortality rates among predominantly middle-aged white men caused by suicide, drug overdose and alcohol abuse.
Though neither Peterson nor Densley are professional journalists, this piece is evidently in the genre due to its aggregation and presentation of evidence related to an event or phenomenon of interest. As the API defines, “Journalism is the activity of gathering, assessing, creating, and presenting news and information.” Despite evidently representing a particular political and social viewpoint on the place for guns in America, the piece remains objective truth telling due to its adherence to a fact based reality.
“He Stopped a Mass Shooting But The Media Never Covered It — Now We Know Why,” NRA, Sept. 7, 2022.
This video is available in the main banner on the National Rifle Association’s website homepage and described as: “On July 3, NRA member Raul Mendez was celebrating freedom with his family and friends when a man walked in and opened fire. Raul was shot through the head, but still got up, pulled his concealed carry, and took out the shooter. The media never covered his story. And we all know why.”
Though a piece of content on the same tragic topic, it is evident that it isn’t journalism. The NRA is an immensely powerful political advocacy group, and this video is slanted to support the position for which they exist to lobby. It presents very little data-driven information in support of an argument, despite its presentation of an individual’s undoubtedly verifiable story, and critiques mainstream media outlets for failing to cover the issue in a particular way, despite the integral traditional principles of journalism to which it fails to adhere.
Boston by the river at night
Boston is a unique city I have become enamored with as an international student. Having been in my adopted home for much of the past four years, I have become more and more familiar with many of Boston’s history-laden streets, buildings and neighborhoods. One of its most stunning features is the city’s ever-changing skyline. Here’s some snaps I took on a bracing walk up and down the Charles on a cold evening this week:
The Harvard Bridge and MIT’s buildings, including the Great Dome. Taken from the esplanade by Storrow Drive. CC: Sebastian Grace.
Another angle of Boston’s famous skyline, including the Prudential Center, showing the esplanade river walkway lit up. Taken from the Longfellow Bridge. CC: Sebastian Grace.
The Longfellow bridge and buildings including Microsoft’s Boston HQ on the corner of Memorial Drive and Main St. Taken from the walkway from Harvard Bridge down to the esplanade. CC: Sebastian Grace.
Boston’s famous skyline, including the Prudential Center and the infamous “PlayStation building.” Taken from the Dr Paul Dudley White Bike Path, adjacent to Memorial Drive and MIT’s campus. CC: Sebastian Grace.
A captivating visual interactive in the news
“Inside Mar-a-Lago, Where Thousands Partied Near Secret Files” By Anjali Singhvi, Mika Gröndahl, Maggie Haberman, Weiyi Cai and Blacki Migliozzi, The New York Times, Dec. 15 2022.
This piece shows how Donald J. Trump stored classified documents in high-traffic areas at Mar-a-Lago, where guests may have been within feet of the material, using modeling technology to depict security flaws at the complex. Here’s some example screen shots, but the whole feature is well worth scrolling through:
The article’s end notes reveal that the 3-D model is based on photographs of Mar-a-Lago as well as building plans of the property obtained from the Town of Palm Beach, Fla., through a public records request. The Times reviewed images from social media posts and other sources to reconstruct how people have passed through Mar-a-Lago from the time former President Trump left the White House in January 2021 through the F.B.I. search in August 2022. Their sources include Mary McCord, former acting assistant attorney general at the Justice Department’s national security division and Brandon Van Grack, former federal prosecutor and former senior national security official at the Justice Department.
This advanced virtual modeling, combined with techniques like drone footage, add an extra element to reporting at the highest level, and are exciting innovations for the future of interactive visual journalism.
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