Translating definitions

The following blog post appears on my “Media and the Environment” class blog. I’ve posted it on my blog to share some of what I’ve been learning this semester.

Recently while eating at Angler’s in Lawrence, I saw something on the menu I hadn’t noticed before.

On the back side of the menu, it was noted at the bottom that the restaurant was a sustainable seafood restaurant. I pointed it out to my boyfriend, feeling better about our decision to eat there, but I also wanted to know more about exactly what that meant. Below the headline, there was some information that kind of explained what the term “sustainable seafood” meant, but the two short paragraphs on the menu didn’t really inform me completely.

Since then, I’ve checked out their Web site to see exactly what the restaurant meant by their sustainable seafood statement. They give some good explanations as to what they mean by sustainable seafood, but I wonder how the term translates to other restaurants and to those restaurants’ consumers.

The term “sustainability” has been thrown into a lot of media coverage about environmental or political issues. Often the word is defined as a balance between people, planet and profit. But I think it’s interesting that the word at one point didn’t include anything about the environment.

I looked up “sustainablility” in the Oxford English Dictionary through the KU Libraries Web site and found that up until December 2001, no definitions included anything about the environment. The definitions before 2001 did include descriptions of maintenance and the ability to be upheld or stand alone, which I am realizing is essential for others to understand in order to apply it to the environment.

I agree that it’s important to include the planet in the discussion when people take on sustainable projects or talk about making things more sustainable, but I’m not so sure that sustainability — the word itself — fully encompasses the aspect of the environment within its definition. It is nice to have a go-to word that can be used when discussing green or environmental issues, but I don’t think a single word cannot possibly sum up the planet, profit or people.

Instead of just labeling some project or item as “sustainable,” I believe meaningful discussions and definite definitions should be given to the public. Honestly, I don’t have a great answer as to who should give that definition, but I see more news outlets and blogs who are trying to offer some guidance. But of course, there’s always the question of who, if anyone, will actually take the time to educate themselves? My hope is that the term won’t try to define or take on too many aspects, and I hope more people begin to understand that research should be done in order to truly have a meaningful discussion about the environment and the food we get from it.

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Getting a trend to stick

The following blog post appears on my “Media and the Environment” class blog. I’ve posted it on my blog to share some of what I’ve been learning this semester.

Trends are a funny concept to consider.

No one person makes any explicit rules or regulations, yet trends can occur locally, nationally, sometimes even internationally.

I know I jumped on the bandwagon when everyone started to claim to eat organically or eat organic food. To be honest, I don’t know if I could even give the correct definition of “organic.” I know some of the major points — no antibiotics, no herbicides — but I have never really taken the time to do my part when it comes to learning about organic foods. USDA organic label? I’ll take it.

Oh, good. Only 17,500 entries to consider.

It seems as though I’m currently succumbing to another food trend: eating local. After watching Food Inc. for the first time, I couldn’t stop telling my boyfriend things like, “We really should think about where we eat out more,” or “I’ve really got to start looking at what I buy at the grocery store and where that food’s coming from.”

The piece of this puzzle that remains to be solved is if I will really, truly learn about this trend and be able to define what “local” means.

Luckily, our focus in “Media and the Environment” is food, and I’ll have numerous opportunities to read material on local food systems and what being a locavore might really mean. But I’m still worried about how others might react to this food trend.

Of course, the public supporting a local food system would be fantastic. But if uneducated individuals account for the majority of this new trend, no local food system can be upheld in Lawrence.
The local economy-boosting aspect of local food systems excites me, but also concerns me. The obvious upside is that it would make convincing others to beginning a strong local food system easier. The downside: the economy won’t always be terrible, believe it or not, so will people continue to care about the economic benefits even years after a recession?

Fortunately, my guess and my hope is that people will notice how beneficial eating locally can be and will want to work to maintain a system. But education and involvement are key to ensuring this.

As a community, Lawrence needs a strong and easy-to-grasp definition of “local.” “Localvore” on the LJWorld.com can be a great beginning to tools that can educate people in Lawrence and in Douglas County. The blogs provide an easy way to get people talking about the possibilities of eating local in Lawrence, which I think is the best way to generate interest. The newly-formed Douglas County Food Policy Council provides helpful resources on a local food system as well.

I learned valuable information after reading the “Localvore” blogs and from the DCFPC, and I’m proud of myself for already being more informed on the next food trend. Now it’s just a matter of educating others.

— Lauren Cunningham

Deconstructing blissful ignorance

The following blog post appears on my “Media and the Environment” class blog. I’ve posted it on my blog to share some of what I’ve been learning this semester.

I’ve recently become addicted to Mad Men. The show, set in the 1960s, depicts the lives of people in the advertising industry in New York City, including the family life of the main characters, which as a modern day viewer can show some past flaws that now seem ridiculous.

I can’t help but chuckle when I see pregnant characters on the show reach for a cocktail or smoke a cigarette in nearly every scene. Obviously, we, as a society, know now that alcohol and tobacco can have serious, harmful side effects for pregnant women, but in that time period, they were oblivious to those. Imagine their reactions when studies came out proving the awful side effects their actions.

Well, after reading reactions to Twinkie, Deconstructed, I experienced what I imagine was the same type of revelation that those characters in Mad Men would have had. Of course, the degree of revelation would probably be different, but the same kind of realization after ignorance occurred with me.

I’d like to give myself some credit and say that even before reading about Twinkie, Deconstructed I figured that Twinkies weren’t healthy and definitely weren’t natural — in the way they look and taste — and therefore, probably weren’t made with natural ingredients. But like most other consumers, I was ignorant to all of the harmful ingredients in Twinkies and more importantly, where those ingredients come from. If more consumers knew about the off-shore food additives that appear in most foods they eat, I think they would be more inclined to eat natural, local-grown foods.

It’s amazing to me that even in 2010, we still don’t know everything about the food we eat, but we’ve learned all about the negative components of things as alcohol or cigarettes that aren’t consumed everyday. The Twinkie was made in 1930, and I don’t know if the same ingredients were in that version compared to today’s version, but I’m sure there were some overlapping ingredients.

As the popular saying goes, ignorance is bliss, but what happens when that ignorance evolves into problems that have major consequences? If people are happier being oblivious to what they’re eating, than knowing about unnatural substances, then those same people should realize the eventual health issues they might encounter.

Consumers should realize that they might have to pay more for healthier, natural foods and that to find those kind of foods might require some education. Reading about Twinkie, Deconstructed can be a start to realizing that ignorance toward what we’re putting in our bodies isn’t so blissful.

— Lauren Cunningham

A response to Kevin Marsh: Different doesn’t mean worse

In Death of the Story Kevin Marsh writes simply and with a tone of cynicism, “The story is dead.”

Dead? Really?

After reading this, I wondered what it was that I had been studying for the past three and a half years in the William Allen White School of Journalism. Without “the story,” what am I to do with my knowledge of how to set up quotes or write a nut graf? More importantly, what now will I do with my editing skills? Sure, someone can correct grammar and usage mistakes on bad Web sites or other media of the sort, but what will I now do with my abilities to craft information in a way that an audience can understand it.

Fortunately, Marsh’s idea of the dead story is dead wrong.

His main argument lies within three main points he makes in the article. First, he concludes that journalists have stretched and distorted “the story” in ways that make it no longer helpful to an audience. He seems perturbed that journalists are no longer the only ones who can “spot stories.”

My question to Marsh regarding that statement: Why is this a bad thing? Yes, this does mean a more citizen-journalism-like approach to storytelling, but journalism should not be an exclusive entity.

Journalists might cringe at the phrase “citizen journalism,” but if used correctly and in the appropriate context, a deeper and better-rounded story can be told with more viewpoints. It’s easy to imagine how easily a story could write itself with accounts from as many people as possible. Of course, though, with that method comes the task of wading through relevant and factual information. Anyone can easily post information online about his or her personal experiences or thoughts on current events, etc., but a true journalist will be able to determine which of those posts are meaningful and relevant in the scheme of news.

In his article, Marsh even states that the story is “the journalistic creation that grew out of narrative accounts of the world.” And still he tries to say that “the story” is dead.

Well, what Marsh needs to realize is that it most definitely is not dead, but rather it is different. Telling “the story” is a mutual effort. Marsh only talks of journalism as a one-way line of communication — we the journalists tell the stories, and you, the audience, take it in. But without some consideration of an audience’s input, a story cannot be well written. Technology can allow news sources to gain more feedback through comments on Web sites, Twitter, YouTube or iReport. By injecting “the story” with more stories, the reading experience is not only personalized for each reader, but it is also enriched.

One of my favorite journalist blogs is 10,000words.net started by Mark S. Luckie. Luckie is an online/ multimedia journalist who understands and respects the changing face of journalism. Unlike Marsh, he embraces the change through using multimedia. He often posts tongue-in-cheek entries that poke fun at the mindset of those against the changing industry.

Perhaps the most relevant and sarcastic passage from one of his posts on using multimedia: “The hundreds of voices on a website can’t compare to the two quality experts in a print or broadcast story.” With what comes across as a sarcastic comment with Luckie, Marsh would say with sincerity.

Marsh’s second main argument deals with the mistrust generated from this lack of “the story.” The way in which Marsh structures his first and second arguments give his message a voice that screams, “This isn’t the way we used to write stories. What are all of you non-journalists doing giving input to what I’m writing? Let me do it. I’m the journalist here.”

I agree with Marsh that the term “journalism” has been used to describe things that it hasn’t before. But that’s OK. Though different or frightening to some, it is not a bad thing. It is merely a phase in the evolution of journalism.

The most bothersome aspect of Marsh’s argument on the new face of journalism is his problem with consumers being able to now get the news when they want and how they want: “The more I find out about how our former audiences are getting their news now that they don’t have to rely on us journalists, the more convinced I become that our invention, ‘the story,’ and all that goes with it is dead.”

I guess I missed the problem with that. Do others really think this is a problem?

By personalizing the way in which someone views information, it is better retained. Consider it: If someone can visit a site that allows him or her to input certain information that might be different for someone else, each person’s outcome would be unique. Because of that exclusiveness, a consumer is given more of a reason to remember whatever was just read.

Marsh does mention the Poynter Instititute Eye Track Studies, citing that in fact people do read less on Web sites. However, he fails to mention the other half of that notion. A news consumer must have something to latch onto to stay on that site, specifically a story — “the story.”

Every part of journalism, from the graphics to the break boxes to the maps to the Flash interactives to the actual pieces themselves tell a story, and that story sticks with and draws in a reader if properly done.

In the realm of journalists, I assume that Marsh falls in the end of the spectrum that includes older journalists. Marsh acknowledges the Web in some parts of his article, but never in a good light until the end when he suggests that we should all adjust to the changing times.

But with his attitude that journalists can only be the gatekeepers to information, Marsh distinguishes himself from the prevailing journalists. He begrudgingly admits that we journalists must deal with the dead story and move on to gathering information to put on some Web site.

Though I do agree that journalism is in an important transitional phase right now, I do not agree that the story is dead. I think that the message is one that is common to older journalists who are more set in their ways and have seen drastic changes in the profession.

Those changes have occurred. I’m not denying that. But why is it that whenever there is change at any level the worst is automatically assumed to have happened?

On 10,000words.net, Luckie has a section in which he collects others’ opinions on the death of journalism, some sarcastic and some accurate. It seems as though most negative views on journalism now come out of fear.

Journalism cannot be exclusive anymore. If the majority of people simply weighing in on an issue ever threatens the story, it is a journalist’s job to pull back the reins of integrity and objectivity.

But to simply deny the spread of journalism in whatever form it comes in is to kill ‘the story’ — the who, what, where, when, why accurate and skillful structure of language  — right then and there.

Welcome

Hello again, and welcome to my revamped blog site.

For those who have not visited before, let me explain how I treat my site.

This front page is where I’ll be blogging (when I have time). The posts dated before this one are from this past summer when I was in New York City for an internship. I blogged from time-to-time about my experience — mostly it was a way for me to let my friends and family know what I was up to and what I was thinking.

The posts that come after this will be my other blogs. They will most likely pertain to journalism, but because I’m interested in a variety of things, you might find an occasional food, art or dance blog. What can I say? I like too many things.

I hope to use this site as a host for not only for my thoughts on journalism but also as way in which to show my journalistic skills and passion for certain topics. I have a lot to build onto on this site, but I’ll get there. Here’s a start.

Thanks for reading.

Slacker

I have been such a slacker on this blog.

Sorry- I’m trying to remember to blog more, but I always seem to forget because I’ve been doing so many things. Many of my friends have informed me that Ryan is much better at blogging than me. But hey, I might be better if I only had photos to put on a blog. 🙂 (I mean that in the best way possible, Ryan.)

OK anyway, I’m still doing well in NYC. I’m slowly running out of money, which was to be expected but is still no fun either way. Nevertheless, I just want to make sure that I’m doing everything I can be while I’m here. Which reminds me, I need to try to find more journalism-y lectures while here! Ryan and I have already gone to listen to a NY Times multimedia producer give a lecture at B&H. That was awesome.

What to do, what to do

The most recent highlights of my time here: Bryant Park (every Monday for free movies), Museum of Natural History, Upright Citizens Brigade Theatre (we saw an improv show there- Mo Rocca, Bobby Moynihan, and John Lutz were some of the comedians there),  Metropolitan Museum of Art, Coney Island/Hudson River for the 4th, American Ballet Theatre’s Romeo and Juliet, etc. You can check out my Facebook album that has photos I’ve taken so far while here.

Work it

Work is still going well. Today I went to a News Practices & Standards session where I learned about policies and such. Basically, I’m not allowed to blog in detail about what I’m doing before it is published/broadcasted. But I will say that I’m working more on original stuff that I’ve written, recorded and started to edit.

I went to an intern meeting yesterday, too, where a group of us could meet with HR interns and speak candidly about our internships. There I found out how lucky I’ve been with NBC Mobile. I can actually get my hands on whatever really- editing, writing, shooting- and do what I want with footage I find. Some people in this HR session definitely didn’t sound like they were too happy with what they were doing. Thank goodness I’m actually getting to spend valuable time on projects.

I just can’t believe I have like three weeks left at NBC and in New York! It feels like there’s still so much to do in the city before I go.

I am excited for Mom and Dad to come the weekend before my birthday! And hopefully Leah and Justin can come, too. Then Sachi and Michelle are here, and then I’m basically home. Yikes!

New York state of mind

I think I better understand the general New Yorker’s state of mind. Everyone here is just busy. Plain and simple. There are millions of people here with millions of schedules and probably billions of things to worry about. I get it.

But sometimes, I just want to shake some of the people I see on the street here and say, “You’re in New York City! You can do whatever you want to do tonight!” I just think that so many natives here are so busy and so cynical that they don’t always appreciate the amazing city in which they live.

It’s so easy to get tense and upset about the littlest things here. I catch myself becoming a bit tense at times over dumb things like slow walkers or the grammar of people on the streets, so I can’t even imagine the kind of tension that New Yorkers have.

But then again, I find myself asking if they even have tension. New Yorkers, in general, seem to be so oblivious to their surroundings that even a man in a costume shouting absurdities down the street wouldn’t faze them. So it could be that no one cares enough about the people around them or surroundings to have that much tension here.

Like I said, I’m only beginning to somewhat understand the mindset here. I don’t think I get it. And wouldn’t be able to until I live here for a good year. But who knows if that will ever happen.

I love New York, but I do miss my family and friends back in Kansas. Hope all is well with everyone reading this.

Much, much love.

Broadway Banter

Since coming to NYC, I’ve heard a lot of funny conversations- as you can imagine. Of course, everything I hear is out of context, so it’s even funnier than what it should be.

Inspired by the University Daily Kansan’s Wescoe Wit, I’ve decided to do my own version: Broadway Banter.

Overheard on 7/10/09

NBC security guard: “Yeah man. Next time there’s somebody in the street, you just gotta hit ’em.”

Overheard on 7/3/09

Woman (to another woman): “Yeah, Mount Vernon’s dead.”

Girl (with group of friends): “Man, I don’t even care how much trouble I get in. This was a good day!”

Overheard on 6/29/09

Guy (to another guy in a parked van): “We’ve got two things in this world: our word and our nuts.”

Overheard on 6/27/09

Woman (taking about an elderly woman with a cane to another woman): “She needs to hurry up! I don’t know what her problem is. She doesn’t need that cane or walk that slow when no one’s around! It’s all a show…”  [blogger’s note: This comment was overheard in Pennsylvania, not New York. The blogger just thought it’d be a nice inclusion.]

Overheard sometime in June

Guy (to another guy): “Yeah, it was like that time you found $20,000 in that trash bag…”

Homeless guy: “You got $10,000?” (Hey, it’s worth a shot, right?)