Monday, April 22, 2013

Online Newspaper

     I have been charged with the task of creating ideas for an engaging online newspaper page. Since this is the case, I looked at three different local online papers –The Ottawa Herald, The Lawrence Journal World, and The Kansas City Star—in order to decide what I would and would not use.
First and foremost, I looked at The Ottawa Herald because it is the most local. I really didn’t like the setup that they provided on their website. It was very busy and lacked a lot of organization that would have made it easier to navigate. While I did like the concept of the scrolling picture at the top, I thought that perhaps it moved too quickly, and that adding another scrolling picture at the bottom was a bit too much. Furthermore, there were a lot of widgets, but not a lot of content aside from the scrolling pictures. It was frustrating that not all of the stories were available to people who were not subscribers and the colors were extremely dull.
    Then, I moved up a notch and checked out The Lawrence Journal World. This news site, in my opinion was better than The Herald’s, but that didn’t prevent it from having issues all its own. I appreciated that the Journal World had a more box-y setup. Everything seemed in line rather than spread around the entire page, and the colors at least were a little brighter. All of the links on the front page to stories, while helpful, were a bit of sensory overload. I felt like it could have been toned down. Then there was the issue of the featured story. Really? You’re going to give your feature space away to nail art? Surely there are more important things in the world and even in Douglas County.
     Finally, there was The Kansas City Star which I thought did the best job of all. It was very well organized, and although there was a lot going on, the portions that may have caused overload were at the very bottom. I also thought that it was good that the stories each had descriptions so that you didn’t have to select the entire story if you decided that it wasn’t something that you wanted to read. I appreciated how organized their tabs were and the fact that you could see the entire week’s forecast just by rolling over the weather tab.
    If I were making an online edition of a paper, I would be sure to add big, colorful pictures that pertained to something relevant going on. I would make sure that my top story is interesting and that I had edited it well. Furthermore, I would definitely add a weather app like the one on the Star, and I would add other widgets as well. Some ideas I had were an instant score update for the school’s teams and a twitter feed widget. I would also make sure that there were links to twitter, facebook, and other social media from the site. I would make sure that tabs were simple and easy to navigate.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Mothering parents: A traumatic event becomes a rite of passage

                Every time someone gets in a car, boards a plane or hops on motorcycle, they put their lives at risk. However, it’s not until an accident happens that we really give this much thought. This was the case with my parents’ motorcycle accident.
                My grandpa died of cancer in 2005 and my dad bought his 1989 Kawasaki motorcycle from my grandma the next year. After taking a lot of motorcycle training courses, my dad began to take the motorcycle out on joy rides. When he became comfortable enough, he began taking my mom or brother or me out with him. After a while, my parents became so comfortable riding the motorcycle that it became a regular date night for them when the weather was warm. They would take one of a few smaller highways through the country in the evenings when my dad got off work and routinely stop for food.
                One particular night in April of my senior year of high school, I decided to catch a movie with a friend. The movie theater that we usually go to sold out of tickets before we could get there, so we decided to head up to a movie theater out of town. While we were waiting for the movie to start, we walked around a nearby strip mall. Twenty minutes before the movie began, I received a phone call from my brother, Andrew.
                “Mom and Dad were in a motorcycle accident,” he sputtered. “Dad butt dialed me as they were falling and I don’t know if they’re going to make it.”
                Panicked, I dragged my friend by the hand and we ran from the store. I told my brother to hold on and that I would drive home to get him. In the meantime, we would both call the local hospitals to see if anyone had any information.
                My friend drove my car for me because I was shaking and in no state to get behind the wheel. I called my grandma to tell her what had happened and to ask her what to do. She remained calm but decided to call the police department to find out where they were.
                When we arrived at my house, we discovered that my brother had been contacted by the off-duty paramedic that happened to be the first person to drive by. He got my brother’s number from the recent contacts in my dad’s phone and told him that my parents were really beat up, but that they didn’t have much more information. He told my brother that they would be taken to Olathe Medical Center.
                Next, we called my grandma back to tell her what we had discovered. When we got in touch with her, she explained to us that she had been in contact with the police and that my mom would be taken to Overland Park Regional Hospital, while my dad would be taken to the University of Kansas Hospital. Needless to say, we were a little confused.
                In the meantime, my panic led me to contact my fiancĂ© (boyfriend at the time) and his mom started doing calling around to see what she could find out. Finally, after much calling and stress, everyone came back with the same information—they were headed to the emergency room at the Overland Park Regional Hospital because they specialized in trauma treatment, which my mom needed, and my dad refused to be separated from her. When Andrew, my friend and I arrived, we were ushered into a waiting room, and shortly after, my boyfriend, his parents and my friend’s parents all arrived for moral support. Tension grew as we waited for information.
                Finally, a nurse came out to talk to me, since I was 18 and biologically related to my parents. She pulled me out of the room and told me that my parents had hit a deer going about 50 miles per hour down the highway on their motorcycle. Neither was in critical condition, and my mom only had severe road burn, but my dad had some bad injuries.
                I was given all of my parents’ possessions: watches, phones, wedding rings, their ripped up clothes in bags. Then, I was given forms to sign and allowed to see my parents. To this day, the sight of my parents in that emergency room still haunts me. Both parents were covered in scrapes and bruises and my dad was in so much pain that he could barely speak. After making sure that they were okay, I was sent back to the waiting room and reported my findings. I called my grandma to let her know that my parents were going to be okay, and then we waited. And waited. And waited.
                Finally, three hours later, my mom was released to go home with lots of bandages. Although I refused to leave my dad in the state that he was in, I was eventually convinced that my mother needed me to help her hobble out to my car and buckle up. My friends and their families headed home to bed and Andrew and I were left to one of the weirder experiences in our lives: mothering our mother.
                After changing bandages, administering pain medication and tucking my mom in, I shut her bedroom door behind me and lost all emotional control. I had been strong the whole evening, and I finally felt safe to cry. I didn’t need to be the strong one anymore. I didn’t need to pretend that I hadn’t almost lost my parents way too soon.
                I took the next day off work. My dad was released from the hospital on large amounts of pain medication and crutches. He had messed up a tendon in his knee and it was so swollen that he appeared to have a bandage under his pants although he did not. He spent a few days healing, and then in his usual fashion, returned to work far too soon.
Two years later, my dad has just begun running again for the first time. The only present reminder of the crash is his pinky finger that refuses to straighten out. He would have it amputated if he weren’t so cheap.  My mom’s wounds healed over the course of a couple of months. All that are left are her scars and a fear of driving in the dark.
Two years later, I’m still learning to get over the whole thing. All of the statistics from the accident say my parents should have died. They were going fast, their bike spun off after they were hit by a deer, which is not the smallest of creatures. They rolled, but their bike didn’t end up on top of them. My dad was wearing a brand new motorcycle jacket that he had received as a gift the month before. If he hadn’t been wearing it, he would have severely punctured his lungs. The first person on the scene was an off-duty paramedic. The blessings were abundant.
It was in those moments that I learned a great deal about the real world. On a typical Friday night when everyone my age was wondering about trivial things like the upcoming summer break and finding a date to prom, I was on the verge of losing two of the most important people in my life. In those few hours, I learned the value of family as I nursed my parents’ wounds; I gained an appreciation for all of the times my parents had nursed me back to health over the course of my lifetime.  Most of all, I was reminded never to take life for granted because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed. The most I can do is thank God that my parents got to go to my graduation, to move me into college and to talk me through my first few weeks away from home. The most I can do is to ask God to allow them to be there for my wedding, the birth of my children, for birthday parties and milestones and to savor every minute.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

An Analysis of News based on the Pope

This week, I looked at the issues pertaining to the Pope’s resignation in order to analyze three different approaches to the story. The starting point was a story written in the Ottawa Herald entitled “Pope’s unusual exit providing lessons on faith, papal transition”. This entire story is written from the viewpoint of Sacred Heart, a private school in Ottawa. Although they did a nice job of presenting the local aspect of the story, I felt that in comparison to the other sources that I looked at, they really missed a lot of facts.

Another issue that I found with the local presentation of the story was that they didn’t offer up a whole lot of information for why the Pope is resigning, besides what he has state (that he is ill). This presents issues because that, in addition to the fact that the article appears somewhat one-sided because only the administrators at Sacred Heart were interviewed, leads to questioning of their information. They didn’t really cover any of the scandal or issues surrounding the whole ordeal. The main take was that the Pope’s resignation will provide a learning experience for the students as the next Pope is chosen.

The second article I read was on the Washington Post’s website and covered the article from a national and international level. It is entitled “Pope Benedict XVI to resign, citing age and waning energy” and discusses many of the different reasons for the Pope’s resignation, in addition to some of the details of his Papacy. Although this clearly lacked the local angle, I found it to be much more informative about what really is going on. It explained the issues with one of the Pope’s butler who has been telling people that there have been scandals, and also further discusses the Pope’s failing health, citing it as a legitimate reason for the Pope’s resignation.

The last article was entitled “‘Constant Drumbeat’ Sped the Pope’s Exit” and was found on the New York Times’ website. It was fairly similar to the take that the Washington Post took—it focused on detail and gave more reasons than just failing health for his resignation. I liked this article the most because I felt that it offered the most detail without being biased or trying to tell readers exactly what happened. It had all of the details about scandals that the previous article did, but also added in information about another sex scandal that was caused by a Reverend in Mexico that the Pope seemed to ignore initially, as well as his struggle to relate with Islam. However, they also provided the view that the Catholic Church view’s the Pope’s resignation as an act of humility.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Journalism's Responsibility to the Public

Immediately upon considering journalism's responsibility to the public, I thought of the recent Sandy Hook media coverage. There have been rumors of conspiracy theories floating around the United States, and whether you buy into it or not, it is obvious that the media's lack of attention to their reporting is at least partially to blame.

In my opinion, journalism's responsibility to the public is, first and foremost, not to be sloppy. There is no reason why Adam Lanza's brother should have been initially reported as the shooter. There's no reason why guns should have been reported as being used that were actually located in Lanza's trunk. The media needs to do their research.

On the same thought process, my parents were in an accident a few years ago when a deer ran in front of a motorcycle. Three different newspapers and one online documentation reported the story entirely differently. One article said that they were going 40 miles an hour down the highway. Another said that they were going 55. Additionally, two different highways were reported as the scene of the accident in two different sources. And, in one article, my parents had been released from the hospital and in another, my dad was in critical condition.

All of these differences were reported in four stories that were only one small paragraph long. In reality, my parents were going 50 mph down Highway 68 when a deer ran in front of them. Although my mother was severely traumatized and my dad injured his knee and finger, neither were in critical condition. My mother was released that night and my dad stayed over night, but only so the hospital could administer strong pain medication.

What happened? The story was so simple-- all they needed was a police report. If the media struggles so much with a simple story, how can we trust them to report the big things?
I say all of this to make the point that, in my opinion, the media's responsibility to the public is to get the story right, the first time. Journalism is these people's occupation. Other bosses in other fields would never accept such sloppy work.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013


My goal for this semester is to learn more about grammar so that I can become a better writer. I believe that it takes a lot of effort on the side of picky grammar rules in order to appear to be a competent and qualified writer in any field. Although I don't want to go into journalism directly, I know that everything else that I want to do will take excellent writing skills.

My public education before college was fantastic, but the one thing that I felt it lacked was a focus on grammar. I have the natural understanding of linguistics that I can tell when something sounds incorrect within a sentence, but I have no idea why. Ultimately, by the end of this course, I would love to be able to know why I'm editing papers/articles/etc. in the ways that I am. I want to be able to identify the elements of the sentence structure and analyze what went wrong. Having a strong understanding of the written English language will help me be able to sell myself as a job candidate after I graduate.