Global voices: Reporting on the Blogosphere

On Tuesday, Firuzeh Shokooh Valle of Global Voices visited my Reinventing the News class with Professor Dan Kennedy. Valle is a Northeastern alum from Puerto Rico, and previously took the Reinventing the News course I am enrolled in now with Professor Dan Kennedy.

She explained that she became familiar with Global Voices while taking Reinventing the News, and realized their lack of a Puerto Rican reporter. She contacted Global Voices, and eventually become part of their staff.

Today, Valle is a graduate student and (according to her online contributor profile for Global Voices) specializes in the coverage of human rights issues, mainly violence against women and children, the LGBT community, poverty, racism, and immigration.

Valle talked about what Global Voices does, and that is covering “virtual conversation,” or what individuals are posting and saying about a specific event online. I think its really interesting, and important, that Global Voices covers these individual opinions, because typically these individuals are experiencing these events firsthand, and it is valuable to learn and understand how different people feel about certain events. This kind of reporting, or aggregating sources, also sheds light on the indiviudal voice of people in different areas of the country, prompting more people to blog and share their thoughts and opinions. It also allows journalists to get information about events without actually being in the specific location that the event is taking place. In a way, this reporting on the virtual community, or blogosphere, is actually a form of crowdsourcing, which I think is something that will become more and more prevalent as people increase their use of social media.

Valle also spoke about Global Voices’ impact on the recent uprising in Egypt, detailing how traffic has exploded and more and more individuals are coming to Global Voices to get their information first-hand from individuals experiencing what is going on in Egypt.

“Instead of looking elsewhere for opinions, Global Voices gives you opinions in an organized way,” Valle said.

 I found it really interesting that Valle was in the very position I am in now when she realized the potential she had to work for Global Voices. It makes me excited to know that any day, I could see my own potential in some website or site, and reach out to it, eventually forming a career and/or making a name for myself.

Photo Credit to Wfryer of Flickr


Networking Through Northeastern

You’ve heard it before: “It’s all about who you know.”

And whoever is telling you that, is right. Networking can help open doors, and even get your first foot inside. You just have to get your name out there and make yourself memorable.

The Northeastern Entrepreneurs Club is giving students a chance to shake hands and share ideas with leaders from entrepreneurial clubs and other individuals interested in entrepreneurship at “The Real Social Network,” tomorrow from 5-8 p.m. at the Venture Cafe in Cambridge.

Check out this article from BostInnovation to learn more about the event, and be sure to stop by if you can!


Jeff Howe on the Pros & Cons of Crowdsourcing

Last Friday, my Reinventing the News class had the opportunity to hear from Jeff Howe, a journalist and professor at Northeastern University, on crowdsourcing. Howe has been a journalist for 15 years, has written for U.S News & World Report, The Washington Post, and is now a contributor for Wired Magazine. In 2006, he gained popularity for writing an article about the rise of crowdsourcing, and later wrote a book on the subject in 2008.

Photo of Jeff Howe courtesy of ernohannink via Creative Commons

It was interesting hearing Howe’s perspective on crowdsourcing, which is the outsourcing of tasks to a large, undefined group of people with hopes of getting results. The way I see it, instead of asking one person, or a group of people to do something, crowdsourcing invites everyone to do it, thus gaurenteeing better chances for results.

Howe went over the pros and cons of crowdsourcing in a journalistic sense: The pros are, more people can help get the job (or reporting) done. If you (the journalist) invites an audience to participate, they most likely will take up the opportunity to share what they have to say, or get their message out there. Crowdsourcing can facilitate discussion or debate on a subject, can help locate and find sources, as well as provide tips, clues or background information. Crowdsourcing can help journalists locate trends throughout communities, without actually traveling to these communities, thus making reporting easier.

However, the cons of crowdsourcing are that there is the possibility others, or audience members whom you have outsourced information or questions to, taking over your story or perhaps getting information out first. Crowdsourcing can help increase pressure or competition for journalists, as well as turn an ordinary citizen into a journalist.

How also discussed the topic of Twitter, and how that is also a means of crowdsourcing: Someone can post a tip, a fact or bit of information, and another person who sees this post may be able to take it and run with it. He also recognized the way Twitter is changing the way many people get their news, and even gave us a few suggestions on who to follow to better find newsworthy information.

To learn more about crowdsourcing, or just more about Howe in general, take a look at his blog–it seems all the great journalists have one these days!


Socially Awkward Fits Niche College Market

This week I thought I’d share a fun (to some, hilarious) project with you that my friend from high school has been working on.

Ricky Ryan and Blake Rice, both undergraduate students at Rowan University, have teamed up to create Socially Awkward, a new television show that parodies everything from the ups and downs of college life, to Morgan Freeman movies, to bodily fluids (yes, bodily fluids).

Socially Awkward, which consists of 30-minute episodes (really only 20 minutes, but 30 with commercials), has premiered only on the Rowan Television Network (RTN) to date, but many “teasers” have been posted on the Socially Awkward YouTube channel as well as their Facebook page.

In their teasers and sketches, you can watch Ryan and Rice pose as newscasters on Socially Awkward News to explain the “new craze” also known as “grinding” that is taking over college campuses. You can also watch “Bodily Fluids,” an Alcoholics Anonymous-like meeting where all the different bodily fluids in human-form (Blood, Tears, Phlegm, Earwax, Feces and even Semen), gather together to discus “orders of the day,” like Phlegm’s concern that people are “spitting him out” all the time. Thier newest teaser, about two campus security officers who think they’re real police officers (completing their official personas with mustaches and Boston accents), reminded me of the two goofy cops from Superbad–with an awkward twist.

Lef to Right: Ricky Ryan and Blake Rice of Socially Awkward

I think the themes they deal with are really relatable–and hilarious–to college students across campuses everywhere, and I think Rice and Ryan may have found a niche market that has been unexplored. Sure, Saturday Night Live is full of improvisational skits and awkward role-playing, but SociallyAwkward is for college students, made by college students. The humor is gross, crude, and just plain weird at times, but that’s what keeps it interesting. While their niche may change after Rice and Ryan graduate from Rowan, for now these guys are right where they should be.

Although Rice and Ricky may not be traditional entrepreneurs, they are exploring a new idea, creating a new genre of television, using social media to promote themselves, and making a whole lot of people laugh in the process. I’m excited to see what else they come up with, and hope you check out their YouTube channel to see their other sketches and previews, too.


Cheap Eating on Mission Hill

Penguin Pizza on Mission Hill, commonly called Penguin by Northeastern students, is your typical pizza-and-beer college joint, and looks just like one should: There are American and Irish flags lining the walls, beer signs evenly distributed throughout the restaurant and even a string of Christmas lights around the bar area. The lighting is a bit dim, the tables are pretty close together (leaving waitresses asking you to ‘scoot in’ every so often), and maybe 60 people–that might even be stretching it–can fit inside before it reaches capacity.

The pizza (there are 19 kinds) is greasy, delicious and affordable, and there are also appetizer, wrap, sandwich and pasta options. The beer and cider menu takes up a front and back page, and includes Blue Moon, Wachusett Blueberry, Magners Irish Cider and more.

Penguin

I arrived at Penguin around 6:45pm on Saturday evening with five friends. We were seated right away, which I was pretty excited (and relieved!) about, since I’ve seen Penguin reach capacity a few times, risking a long wait, or even getting turned away!

FYI, we were carded at the door: During the evenings, Penguin is a 21+ venue (it doubles as a bar). Don’t get too upset, though. You can always get take out instead–they deliver!

Jaclyn Fletcher deciding what her order will be!

Our table ordered a round of waters (free!), three beers (priced at $5 each), one large three-tomato pizza ($13.99), two slices of plain cheese ($3 each) and two slices of margarita pizza ($3 each). The bill ended up being a total of $42.81, and we all walked away with full stomachs. I paid $11 for my beer and pizza, and my friend Jaclyn (who didn’t order a beer) was able to pay for her meal, tip and tax with just $5.

Three Tomato Pizza

Made with cheese, arugula basil pesto sauce, and three different sized tomatoes, the three-tomato pizza really hit the spot. Two slices (decently sized) were almost more than enough for me. The Blue Moon may have helped fill me up since I don’t usually drink beer with dinner.

$5 Blue Moon

The service was pretty quick, despite the growing crowd. Right away we were asked what beverages we wanted, got them quickly, and then waited about 10 to 15 minutes for our food. The margarita and plain slices were nearly twice the size of our tomato pizza slices, but luckily, my friends who ordered them were hungry.

The Menu

Other items on the menu include pasta options that range from $6.99 (Pasta All’aglio e Olio–spaghetti with olive oil, basil, and garlic) to $10.99 (Shrimp Scampi). The wraps are all $6.99 (Chicken Caesar Wrap, Chicken Pesto Wrap, ect), except for the higher priced (by one dollar) Veggie Wrap. Subs and panini sandwiches, which are all served with fries, are also all priced at $7.99 (Meatball Sub, Chicken Pesto Panini, ect), except for the BBQ Pulled Pork Sandwich and Philly Cheese Steak Sub ($8.99).

Inside Penguin

As I said, Penguin is your typical college bar and pizza joint, and this was really reflected throughout the people inside–it was mostly young adults out for a beer (or a few) and a slice of pizza (or a few) with their friends. My sister Tara, who is 24, was visiting for the weekend, so she had no problem fitting in!

Beer signs everywhere, even the ceiling!

Penguin is located on 735 Huntingon Ave in Boston, Mass. Credit cards are accepted, but there is a $10 minimum, so bring cash if you’re just grabbing one thing! It is wheelchair accessible, however, I’m not sure where there would actually be room for a wheelchair inside–it’s pretty crowded in there! Penguin is open Monday to Friday from 11am to 1am, and on Saturdays and Sundays from 12pm to 1am. You can reach Penguin at (617) 277-9200 or at their website.


Designing Entrepreneurship

Last week I interviewed Jennifer Chen, a fashion entrepreneur at Northeastern, for an feature article that came out in the Huntington News.

Jennifer Chen Wearing One of Her Original Designs, Photo Credit to Iggy Barskov

Chen has designed and created her own business, “Expression by Jennifer Chen,” a multi-faceted business that aims to cater to all aspects of the fashion industry, like coaching models, fashion design and event planning. Chen will showcase her newest designs (from her line, ‘Becoming Me’) at the 3rd annual Unity Fashion Show on March 25, held in the Curry Student Center Ballroom.

Chen explained how her experience in classes as business major with a dual concentration in marketing and accounting and on co op helped her develop and market her line and brand. However, she doesn’t design clothes just for the money, and she doesn’t want to make a career out of fashion design: She does it because she has a passion for art.

In our interview, she said. “Through ‘Expression by Jennifer Chen,’ my goal is to show the public there’s still an artistry in fashion. There’s still a craft in fashion, there’s still an element to it that makes it a form of art.”

Yet Chen is still, in her own unique way, an entrepreneur. She is using her own experiences to create something new and different, as well as making a name for herself. While she may not want to become a professional fashion designer, she has created, and is sustaining, her own business, all while she is still attending school. Check out the article here.


Maps > Words?

In class we discussed the topic of maps as journalism, looking into several maps and mapping tools online that share a story or information via maps rather than words. I think maps are an important tool journalists can use to show information, such as numbers or statistics, in an uncomplicated way. Since maps are visual, people can see all of the information at once and decipher it in their own way. Plus, they can be interactive, allowing viewers to participate in their own way, making it more engaging than just reading a news story.

One map that I thought wars really interesting and powerful to see was this map of the damage from the Japanese earthquake. Compiled from information from the Japanese Ministry of Internal Affairs, this map is interactive, and allows viewers to see four categories: Dead or Missing, Buildings Destroyed, Photos and Nuclear Power Plants. Instead of presenting this information as a news story, I think putting it on a map is a good way for viewers to get a comprehensive grasp on the information. Areas are divided and marked by red circles varying in size, and when the mouse is run over these circles, the number of dead and missing persons comes up in a little pop-up box. I think it is really powerful to see just how many people died and are missing in each area, and the way the map displays this showing different geographic regions breaks it up for the audience and makes it a bit more understandable. Instead of just saying, “This is how many people died,” the map is a bit more personal, showing the regions that lost the most people and totaling how many people are still missing from that area.

Another map we looked at is the Recovery Status Map that details the business cycle across the U.S. States can be in one of four categories, marked by different colors: In Recession, At Risk, Recovering or Expanding. Thankfully, it seems that most states fall into the recovery zone (marked by blue). However, it’s a little scary and unsettling that my home state, New Jersey, is still in red (in recession). The category “at risk” worries me a little, as there quite a few states that are marked in orange, or the “at risk” color: Montana, Idaho, Utah, ect. However, the term “at risk” also confused me… what does that mean? So I clicked on Montana for more details: “Montana’s recovery has all but stalled as private sector hiring is elusive and housing remains weak. This soft patch is not unlike the slowing in the national economy and has not changed the contours of the forecast, however.”

My favorite site that we looked at that used maps was SeeClickFix.com, a participatory website that allows individuals to post problems, such as pot holes, fallen trees, or plowing issues (really, any issue they have with their town) on the site, in hopes that they will be seen, and taken into consideration by town officials (and eventually, hopefully, get fixed).  I really like the dynamic aspect of the site where individuals mark exactly where the problem is on the map, clearly identifying what is wrong and what needs to be fixed. That way, there is no question or confusion about how to fix the problem, it can (and should) be dealt with immediately. Here is one example of a problem in Weston, CT: A tree is ready to fall over a roadway. By posting this issue, lives could potentially be saved and a big problem could be avoided. However, when people start complaining about stupid things, this site can be abused.