Essay Skills

September 12, 2006 by  
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When trying to find out which citation style I should be using for an essay I’m doing, I saw this amusing bit of information on the school’s web page for essay advice.

It takes time to research, plan, write and then edit and re-write a paper. If there is someone in your class who boasts they wrote their essay at 2 a.m. the day before it was due and got a 7, they are either (a) excessively brilliant (i.e., not normal, and possibly in league with the devil) or (b) lying. Leave yourself plenty of time to complete all the steps.

True, the 2am start is difficult and nigh on impossible if you are actually going to research, as opposed to simply write, a paper. That said, the paper I handed in last Friday was written in less than four hours. I’m yet to discover the consequences of those actions, but I believe it’s a PB in speed essay writing. Not one I’m necessarily proud of, but a PB nonetheless.

And then you hope your professor never comes across your blog, especially if they haven’t yet marked aforementioned paper.

Stormy the Weather Dog

September 9, 2006 by  
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Editors often say they aren’t directly pressured by the media outlet’s owner about what stance should be taken on particular issues, but of course they’d say that. Here’s one example of the General Manager maybe just going a bit too far.

It’s Stormy the Weather Dog on CBS19, The Eye of East Texas. That’s right, Stormy. The Weather Dog.

It’s a heartwarming tale of poor puppy at Humane Society shelter rescued by the station’s General Manager. Now he takes pride of place alongside all the other anchors. It was the GM himself who came up with the brilliant idea of putting little Stormy on the weather team! He’ll begin appearing with Chief Meteorologist Doc Deason on November 3rd.

I imagine the conversation would have gone something like this:

GM: Weather dude! Because I consider you such a valuable member of my team, I’m assigning my pet dog to work with you. Follow his lead. Haha! Get it?

Chief Meteorologist: HA! HA! HA! HA-HA! That is immeasurably funny! Thank you sir. This is the most excellent plan I have ever had the pleasure of being subjected to. I look forward to working with your lap-dog. And, oh, his picture right next to mine on the website? Oh I get it, because we’re equals…*sob*.

Keep your eye out for Stormy’s appearance.

If the weather dog is wearing a sweater viewers will know they are in store for a cool weather forecast. If Stormy is dressed in a parka, those tuning in will know it is time to bundle up.

I bet everyone’s thanking their GM for this one. This is CBS19, The Butt of East Texas Jokes.

Stormy the Wonderful Weather Dog

It’s Superapple!

September 8, 2006 by  
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What’s that?!
Apple Patent design possibilities
Up there, in the sky!
Apple patent application possibilities

It’s a bird!
It’s a plane!
It’s an iPod!!
Or a phone!
It’s a… PDA?
Maybe an MP3 player?

Is it a camera…!?

I don’t get it.

Sorry, what is it?

It’s SUPERAPPLE!

Superapple!

MacNN has posted some of the contents of a patent filed by Apple for a “Multi-functional hand-held device”, which isn’t giving a whole lot away. It could be any one, or combination, of those things above. Impressive if they did actually manage to fit all of those features into something smaller than a brick.

Clear out of Dodge

September 8, 2006 by  
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UGANDA: When do you start thinking, “Maybe it would just be safer if I left the country?”

When you’re part of an already outlawed and persecuted minority group and then you see, along with 44 of your friends, your name, workplace and other identifying information published in the local tabloid newspaper “to show the nation how fast [your kind are] eating up society”.

Theory of ACHIEVEMENT!

September 6, 2006 by  
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It hasn’t rained much in Brisbane for the last couple of years really, what with the drought and all. That makes the rain that fell a few days ago all the better. Coupled with that, although entirely unrelated, has been the intake of copious amounts of water. While at university all day, I’ve found I’m drinking at least two litres of water a day as I refill my 600ml container.

Surely this is doing good things for my system, evidenced (in my opinion as a doctor) by the urgent need to visit the bathroom at about noon every day, and then hourly thereafter. As you may be able to imagine, this can at times be an annoyance.

Today’s story is my trip to pick up Kate from work in the city. Normally she meets me at university but, since it was pouring rain, her Knight in Shining Armour (me) raced over to whisk her away on a White Stallion (dirty 1983 Toyota Corolla).

More people drove to work to avoid getting wet, not having rained for a long time (my parent’s young pets witnessed it for the first time and completely freaked out), so the traffic was particularly bad. So bad, in fact, that I had time to do both the crossword and Sudoku while driving into the city.

Thus my theory of ACHIEVEMENT! goes something like this:

Where ‘completion of Crossword’ equals X, ‘completion of Sudoku’ equals S, and ‘time in traffic’ equals t

(X/S) – t = ACHIEVEMENT!

It was mostly an achievement for doing it in traffic. Unfortunately, there was an offsetting equation that could have ruined the whole afternoon. For reasons I won’t go into, I had to buy something to get some change. My purchase was 600 ml of coke. I made the mistake of opening it before my ‘time in traffic’ began. Thus the offsetting equation is:

(>2L(H2O)) * (0.6L(Coke)) + t = DISASTER!

Fortunately I averted DISASTER! by not drinking all of the 600ml Coke before reaching a toilet, thus nullifying the equation. It was poorly thought out, and unfortunate, that the need for an urgent hourly bathroom visit began soon after the departure on this 45 minute drive into the city.

Overall, the result of these equations was a slim ACHIEVEMENT!

Steve Irwin in pictures

September 6, 2006 by  
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I’ve created a gallery of Steve Irwin pictures from my time at Australia Zoo, but can’t get it to show properly right now.

Instead, here are some thumbnails, from which you should be able to link to and view the larger pics… oh, and Harry Connick Jr too, since he was there.

UPDATE: It seems, since my upgrade to WordPress 2.0.4, that my gallery is working properly now! Instead of each individual picture showing in this post, you can view them in the gallery here.

Crocodile Hunter

September 4, 2006 by  
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Steve Irwin has died as a result of stingray barb through the chest at about noon today. Nasty.

The picture of me in the sidebar is at the Australia Zoo after we’d seen Steve cheat death with a massive crocodile.

He was certainly an entertainer.

Future Journalism

September 1, 2006 by  
Filed under Media, News

There were two pieces in The Australian’s Media section yesterday (August 31) on the death of newspapers and, by extension, journalism.
One was an article reprinted from The Economist (which appeared there August 24) on the demise of print newspapers, the other a response by Mark Day titled ‘Journalism’s Shaky Future’ (or ‘Future of journalism strikes at the depths’, if you turn the page in the print edition).

I probably shouldn’t start this post with the most pedantic of all my points, but I will, since it was in the second paragraph of the Mark Day piece and I think, while it is a simple mistake, could be the basis of a misunderstanding about what the internet actually does or is.

Type the words “death of newspapers” into the Google search engine and you’ll get 52.7 million references.

No, you won’t. You’ll get a much less impressive 26,800 references. Often when people refer to the number of Google hits as an indicator of popularity or pervasiveness, they have forgotten to put the quotations around the search. 26,800 is the number of Google results on the phrase, “death of newspapers”. The search is made a phrase by the presence of the quotation marks around it. Without them, 61.1 million is, by my search, the number of Google hits you’ll get on the three unrelated words death, of, and newspapers. A small point but if you’re going to quote anything, be they results, numbers, or interviewee’s words, get them right. That’s basic journalism, is it not?

I’ve been guilty of getting quotes wrong in the past (with as-yet-unknown consequences for my employability in the future as a journalist – in the News Empire specifically, but possibly elsewhere), but a seasoned journalist should be expected to get it right. As an aside, the phrase “death of journalism” yields 13,600 results in Google, the three unrelated words death, of and journalism, a whopping 33.9 million results.

Now I’ve got that out of the way, let’s move on.

Mark Day pointed out that, while at the PANPA Conference there was much talk of readers and advertisers moving to the internet,

there has been precious little talk about the kind of journalism emerging from the internet age: soft, easy, cheap, shared and, increasingly, packaged to feed our needs for self-assurance and gossip.

Mark Day is right, but misguided. Soft news, gossip and the like are increasingly pervasive and disturbingly so, but it is by no means simply an ‘online’ trend. Even The Australian has been guilty of it, running half-page pictures of Kid Rock and Pamela Lee-Anderson(-Rock?) in their world news section, for example. From memory there were several items during a single week, including the one just mentioned, that made me wonder why I was reading gossip magazine material in the world news section of a publication I respect.

Yes, the internet might foster the uptake of this ‘pop-news’, but newspapers should be careful about throwing stones. Far be it from me to call out, “Admit defeat! Newspapers are dead!” They’re not, but as I said two weeks ago, they must adapt.

One of the key points in Mark Day’s “death of journalism” piece is his reference to the ‘flow-on’ effect of the profit squeeze on newspapers.

If newspapers can no longer afford to underwrite the best journalism, it has a flow-on effect. Breakfast radio […] would be lost without the stories produced by newspapers.
[…]
[As would] evening television news services [… and] internet news services.

Internet news services shouldn’t be experiencing a flow-on effect from newspapers, they should be the primary source. This is because they are not separate entities. Internet news services are, in the main, traditional media outlets cutting and pasting onto a web page the same information they have already themselves presented elsewhere. So it will make not a bit of difference whether you read the articles I linked to above in print, or online – they are the same.

What this comes down to is an issue of timeliness. Why did Mark Day’s response to the Economist article take a full seven days to be printed? Was it held back from both the internet and any print editions of the paper in that time period just so it could appear in the Media section on Thursday morning? There is no good reason for news outlets not to break stories on their internet service first, and let the newspaper experience the flow-on effect.

The majority of people who read news online get it from a major traditional media outlet – the websites belonging to newspapers and TV and radio stations – not an alternative media source. As such, denigrating the serious online news the majority of people read is denigrating the same traditional news Mark Day is defending. It is backward to think of the internet presence of a newspaper as simply a ‘flow-on’ of the print edition. It shouldn’t be about cutting and pasting a story onto the internet, it should be about thinking outside of the traditional news cycle ‘box’, and also breaking news outside of it.

The question of when news will go online should be of no particular concern. That it has already started the migration, and continues to do so, is no reason for journalists to fear a downgrade in quality. Admittedly there may be fewer jobs, but not less quality, because attracting consumers is not simply a matter of pandering to populist trash. Consumers know what they want, and it will still be good copy and informative news. They just might not want the Wealth, Business, Sport, National, International, Healthy Living, Cars, Employment, Racing Guide and, dare I say it, Media liftouts to go with it.

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