American Form: Change +1
October 14, 2009, 3:40 pm
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The primary conflict political parties are having when it comes to reaching young voters is torn between the means of communication and the message, panalists at last night’s American Form said.

The young faces in the crowed directly related to the primary topic of discussion at the American Forum last night. Over two hundred students listened to questions both asked and answered by five professionals in the journalism field.

“Media must do a better job of covering young people,” said Jose Antonio Vargas, an editor at Huffington Post.

“You were the decisive vote, the biggest voice in the room,” said moderator Jane Hall, an associate professor in the School of Communications, to the crowd before the forum had started. She expressed an idea that the panelists agreed with.

“What’s the story now for young people?” Hall then asked. “Is there still a change that young people can believe in?”

Research Hall and a colleague encountered suggests not. In the election, 66 percent of young voters chose Obama. Now that he is in office, only 42 percent of young people support him, and many in this percentage have increasing concerns about the state of the government.

What changed? Obama came with “a galvanizing message young people hadn’t heard before,” says David Gregory, moderator for NBC’s Meet the Press.

Gregory went on to say that young people have become fairly anti-institutional, having lost faith in government, media, and various other areas. Obama campaigned on a technology background, speaking to a generation that has become so savvy in this field

“It was easy for young people to identify with Barack Obama because of media usage in the campaign,” said David Corn, Washington bureau chief, Mother Jones magazine.

Now, however, Obama is “far more a conventional president than a lot of people expected him to be,” said Corn. “[It] doesn’t look like he’s a transformative president in the ways he’s conducting his presidency.”

This isn’t to say that the president has not kept up with his media usage while in office. When a student asked about the differences between the Bush administration and the Obama administration’s use of media, Gregory chose to answer. Obama is “more of a spokesman than Bush,” said Gregory. He went on to say that Bush was “not as committed to engaging the media,” while Obama “wants to engage; wants to deal with individual reporters.”

Yet, Obama and other political leaders, as well as the media, are not talking to the generation that has become increasingly important.

The 18-29 year-old generation accounted for one-fifth of the electoral votes in the 2008 election, says Vargas. And in the 2006 elections, “young people broke against the Republican party,” said David Winston, Republican strategist, and accounted for a loss of nearly 30 points.

This significant loss in voters is a challenge the party is now facing. “How do you have a conversation with young people?” asked Winston. “How do you make yourself ‘cool’ to them?”

Republicans realize that they have lost a lot of the younger generation. He compared his political party to the Oldsmobile brand, saying that neither can introduce a new image that easily appeals to young people. Winston pointed out that Republicans can’t expect that learning how to use new technologies will instantly draw interest. “It’s not a lack of media, it’s a lack of interest,” Winston said.

Regardless of which party is doing poorly, in order to keep young voter’s attention, the generation needs to start feeling as though they are important as well. “There is an obligation on the part of leaders to find ways to engage people in the policy debates,” said Corn.

The health care debate has failed to draw a large amount of student followers, as it is an issue that will not pertain to this demographic until later in their lives. It’s difficult for students to fully develop an opinion on the situation, as it simply is not part of their day-to-day situations.

“I don’t think young people are aware of the issue or really care about the health care issue at all,” said McPike.

“Editors look down on covering young people,” Vargas said. He then mentioned that the government just passed the largest expansion of financial aid, yet the media isn’t covering it. “The media isn’t covering issues that pertain to students!”

This lack of coverage is translating into a lack of interest in the younger voters. There are minimal topics that interest the lives of this generation, so as a result there is less involvement.

“Young people who are engaged have a voice they didn’t have before,” said Gregory. “Twitter, Facebook, and blogs are all a way to be heard and express yourself.”

Even with these technologies, however, is anyone listening to this generation? Vargas cited the fact that Obama has over 6 million “friends” on Facebook. Young people post comments to the president that are subtly informative, he said.

“Obama has to go beyond a compelling election that takes on the action of sport,” Gregory said. Simply because the president currently has support from this generation does not mean it will always remain. The president must keep in touch with these voters to ensure the positive feedback remains.

All in all, young voters want to care about a subject. They want someone to trust, but have become so detached from the media as a result of interest. The media needs to realize this, and reach out to the younger generations.

“Technology is not a panacea,” said Vargas. “At the end of the day, this is about message.”


A New Playing Field
September 28, 2009, 12:41 am
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Whenever possible, I follow a tradition of a newspaper and coffee in the first few minutes of my day. I slowly go through all of the sections of the New York Times in some attempt to become more knowledgeable about the world around me. I also skim over the homepage of the New York Times website in times when the paper version of the newspaper is unavailable.

I have to semi-disagree with Dr. Walker’s assertion that only older generations are becoming more comfortable in obtaining their news information from a variety of technology sources. While this may not have been her intentions, it seems as though she states that only the older generations are capable of viewing news across technological platforms. On the contrary, I think that the younger generations are more technologically savvy. They have grown up seeing the evolution of news distribution, thus making them just as (if not more) able to pick up news, whether it be consciously or not. This isn’t to say I don’t agree with her statement at all, I just feel that it should be amended to include us young adults!

Through blogs, Twitter, Facebook, and various other new means in which news information is being spread, it has become easier and easier to blur the lines between formal and informal news sources. When something newsworthy occurs, often these three primary means of social interaction are used in distributing the information. When Michael Jackson died, it seemed as though my Facebook and Twitter were both clogged with information solely about this topic. When Obama won the 2008 election, statuses were constantly being updated with new facts about the results. From my experiences, I have found that the younger generation has learned that they can subconsciously pick up news stories. Instead of picking up a newspaper (which many still do, regardless) they are able to pick up news from those around them and the websites they traffic so much. Although television shows such as the Colbert Report and the Daily Show are not news sources, it is still possible to obtain some general information about what is going on in politics.

The Seven Laws of Journalism have been what we have been learning in Writing for Mass Comm. The two that stick out most to me (besides Journalism isn’t dead) are Grow a pair and Life is hard (so deal with it). Maybe this is just because these two pertain to what I have to change about my style of writing, but I feel that these really apply to the generation Dr. Walker is teaching. Our generation has developed the reputation of being lazy. In order to get to the hard-hitting facts and ensure there is going to be a story to eventually write, one really needs to “grow a pair” and go out and get the story. Nothing will just fall into your lap. Along the same lines of being lazy, let me just say that I’m sitting in the library the night before this blog is due, surrounded by others who are furiously typing assignments that are assumedly due tomorrow. In order to be a truly successful journalist, the story can’t be put off until the last minute. I completely agree with Dr. Walker on this.

What it comes down to is journalism is changing. While there are still some who enjoy a hard copy of their news along with a morning coffee, new technologies and sources of information are making the news both easier and harder to take in. The generation that will eventually take over in this field needs to realize that they cannot depend on the old rules and instead need to make their own path in order to ensure the field keeps thriving.

All Mashed Up
September 17, 2009, 2:11 am
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The steady beat of a popular Ying Yang Twins intertwines with the catchy melody of an Aerosmith song. Within seconds, the Aerosmith song fades and is replaced by one by Rhianna, as the background beat shifts to a Michael Jackson hit. The songs continually shift and are replaced, each coming together to create a new track.

An emerging music trend strays from creating original music from scratch. Instead, songs are layered over each other to create entirely new tracks. This relatively new form of music, referred to as “mashups,” has become increasingly popular among teens and young adults.

“Mashups are the result of skillful merging of two or more distinct songs into a single musical piece,” says blog TechHaus.

Certain DJs have become well known and are considered artists in their own right as a result of their work in this genre. Gregg Gillis, better known by his stage name Girl Talk, has put out multiple albums showcasing his creations. He’s not the only one. Others who have begun to do the same include: Milkman, Super Mash Brothers, Easter Egg, and many others.

So what is the appeal in this type of music? “It’s cool to have a bunch of different styles and artitsts we’re all familiar with mashed into one song. It’s fun to dance to,” says American University sophomore Claire Harris.

The use of so many songs within one track both increases the odds that the listener will be familiar with the music as well as keeps a fast pace. If the listener has heard and enjoys the songs that are used within the mashed-up track, they are often able to sing along. In addition, the constantly changing songs typically have a fast-paced beat.

Mashup artists most often showcase their music in club-style settings. Girl Talk has become notorious for putting on shows that end in violence or wreckage. He, as well as other artists in the same genre, put on shows with house party style mentalities. Young adults come to dance and sing along to the sections of songs they are most familiar with. “I love mashups simply because of the energy they have. It’s hard to listen to the music and not want to get up out of your chair and dance,” says Susquehanna University sophomore Julia Berlin.

This style really isn’t for everyone, however. “It can be interesting to listen to once in a while, but it’s not something I’m really into. I prefer the songs the way they were to begin with. Also, that kind of music is hard to sing along to,” says AU sophomore Mollie Kaubrys.

What does the future hold for these artists? With the new forms of technology emerging, almost anyone has the equipment to take a variety songs and create something new out of them.

“I think it’s very easy to become a mashup artist, but it’s hard to be able to do it right,” says AU sophomore Sharon Shih.

Objectivity, schmojectivity
September 3, 2009, 12:58 am
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Jeff Hess took the words out of my mouth when he said in his blog, “the reality is that no human can divorce their thoughts from their world view.” In reporting, objectivity is inevitable and not that big of a deal, with some reserves.

Think about it: you’re writing a story. You research both sides of whatever debate you’re assigned to, gathering all of the facts and ensuring you have all of the information possible. Through all of this extensive research, it’s likely you’ll agree with one side more than with the other, right? Thus, when you go ahead and write said article, some bias might creep in. In attempting to try and find that perfect description word, you may choose one that is more favorable to the side you agree more with.

This isn’t to say objectivity is a terrible, horrible, grotesque thing that should be avoided at all costs. Honestly, as long as all of the facts have been presented (including the stories from both sides, if need be), a reporter can put whatever spin on an article he or she wants. If the opinions begin to take away from the article overall, however, this is where objectivity becomes a problem.

As the Rhetorica blog discusses, politicians have the right to be biased in their work. They “belong to parties and espouse policies and ideologies.” Journalists, too, create their own ideas and policies through their writing, but their main job is to inform the public. When ideas and facts become intertwined, problems ensue.

But is there any way or need to stop this? I say no, to both. As long as we have ideas, we’ll have opinions.

Hello, COMM-200
August 27, 2009, 4:34 am
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I’ll be honest. I’m tentative of this class. Oh, there is no doubt that it will be interesting (tonight was one of the only nights I can remember having a difficult time putting the textbook down after I had finished my assigned reading). Yet, I’m having a hard time imagining I’ll be able to change my style of writing. Evolve from long-winded, elaborate sentences full of descriptive language to concise, grabbing text? Me? I hope I can adapt. I’ve never been very confident in my skills as a writer, so maybe this will help me established a more well-rounded style.

I’ve been struggling with my major. I have the main idea, foreign language and communication studies (with a minor in graphic design), yet what concentration to pick? Spanish is the easy choice for language, yet would I find visual media or public communications more interesting? I’m leaning towards public communications, mainly because I have a creative minor picked. It also just seems so interesting. I’m really hoping to learn more about it.

Growing up around a graphic designer, I’ve always been more attracted to that side of the development of a newspaper. Putting all of the text and pictures together in a way that is visually appealing – that to me is the most exciting part. After reading the chapters in the newspaper, I’m excited to learn about the rest of the work that comes with being a journalist. I guess I’ve never really thought much about how much work goes into the story itself and the pictures that go along with it.

All in all, I’m looking forward to this class. It offers a lot of the help I think I need in making the next steps in my life!