In news we trust

These days, there are a million and one places to read the news. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a traditionalist who sits down at the breakfast table with your Cheerios & the morning paper, an on-the-go reader who skims the headlines on your smartphone on the commute to work or somebody who simply flips on the TV to catch the morning or evening news – everyone has their own news consumption habits based on their lifestyle. With blogs and independent websites growing faster than ever, news consumers have a multitude of options when it comes to what, how, when and where they are reading about what’s going on in their community, country and around the world.

Newstrust is a website that takes news consumption of the twenty first century a step further. The site allows news consumers to post and rate stories they’ve read from a multitude of news websites. Users, who are required to register using their full names, can read articles and comments posted by others, post stories they’ve come across or written themselves and comment and rate other stories that have already been posted.

recently signed up for Newstrust, as I’d never heard of the site prior to the introduction Mike LaBonte gave our class on Monday afternoon. I added and rated three stories to the site – a New York Times article about cyber bullying, an LA Times story about off-shore drilling in California and a Boston.com feature about at home shopping parties.

Once you’ve registered, the site is relatively easy to navigate. I created a profile and immediately started uploading stories, reading other articles people had posted and poked around in the different news categories. Rating stories is relatively easy – it’s much more convenient if the news site you’re using has the rating toolbar built into their site, but either way, assigning numbers to stories and adding commentary is relatively easy. It is, however, tedious. Having to answer a handful of general questions about a news article, ranging from how factually accurate the story is to how relevant and well written it is, wasn’t exactly my cup of tea. I’m a busy student – I have a full course load, I work part time and when I do sit down to read the news, it isn’t necessarily to over analyze articles. And to be honest, there is so much news out there, I’d much rather be spending my time reading a second article instead of choosing whether a particular story deserves a 3.3 or a 3.7 rating. If a story I read is bad, I shrug and click to a different page. If it’s good, I post the link to my twitter account so my friends can read it as well.

While I believe Newstrust is based on a noble concept, I don’t think it will be a mainstream site any time soon. The majority of Americans barely read the news, let alone have time to rate it. The average news consumer doesn’t have time to sit down and rate every news story he or she reads and I just don’t see most Americans taking time out of their schedules to post an article to the site.

However, if a news consumer were looking for a more in depth analysis of the news, Newstrust is an excellent resource for them to utilize. And for those select few who are constantly watching, reading and breathing news coverage, Newstrust is a great site for observing what others are saying about the stories they’re reading.

As for me? I think I’ll just read the comment section.

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April 8, 2010. Tags: . Class Posts. Leave a comment.

What’s journalism without… math?

Walk into a college lecture hall filled with journalism majors and ask the students sitting in front of you to raise their hands if they hate math. I can almost guarantee you that every single hand will be raised. It’s no secret that us word folk aren’t exactly fans of those things you call numbers and equations.

What is a secret, one that Boston Globe reporter Matt Carroll has been aware of for a number of years, is that however scary math and number analysis can seem on the surface, in reality, understanding those numbers can do wonders for the average newspaper story.

“Database journalism is important and understanding Excel can give you big boost,” said Carroll, who is the brain behind the “Mass Facts” section on Boston.com. Carroll has used his number knowledge to analyze everything from the percentage of male school teachers in Massachusetts school districts to how many Dunkin Donuts each MA town really has.

Some of these numbers may seem irrelevant – who cares how many Dunkin Donuts actually exist in Weymouth, right? But when working on larger articles, especially investigative pieces, numbers can add a great deal of weight to a story.

Carroll showed our class how to use Many Eyes, a free online tool for displaying data sets. The site allows anybody to upload data sets and display them graphically in a multitude of ways. Once uploaded, these sets become public domain, but the results are visually fascinating. Check out this map, which shows the percentage of the United States work force that are employed fashion designers.  Along the same lines but displayed completely differently, here is a bubble chart that displays the number of fashion designers, by city, in the US.

“It changes your viewpoint,” explained Carroll in regards to his use of numbers. “Nobody else had these numbers. Nobody else thought to look at them.”

April 4, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Rejection, relief and more waiting

My official J Crew rejection letter

This morning, I awoke to a flat, hand addressed envelope from J Crew in my mailbox. I knew immediately that they were rejecting me, and wasn’t even going to bother opening the letter until later. Instead, my curious roommate Lyndsey ripped open the envelope and read the letter out loud. I was bummed, but eventually we both started laughing at how ridiculous the letter sounded. I wondered why the manager didn’t just call me directly, and why the company needed to send me an official rejection letter.

But to be honest, I was pretty relieved to get the letter. There are a multitude of reasons why, but the biggest is that over the past two weeks, I’ve been planning a cross-country road trip with my friend Alex. Once I’m done with classes at the end of April, I have all of May & June off with nothing to do. Alex finishes finals at UPenn the first week of May, and has a month off before he starts a summer internship in Los Angeles.

The plans for my road trip with Alex this summer!

We’ve been hypothetically plotting this trip for a few years, but now we both have the time off to actually make it happen. Alex’s mom offered to let us drive her car, so we would start the trip in LA and end in Boston. I can’t stop thinking about the trip, and I’ve spent hours making maps, googling cities and adding to the itinerary and budget sheet Alex and I have created.

So what does this have to do with J Crew? If they had offered me the job, I would have been tempted to take it, meaning I would be forced to be in Boston all of May & June to work. While my bank account would be much happier with me making money (although lets be honest, I’d probably spend my whole pay check on their clothes anyways) rather than spending it, just the idea of my road trip dream going out the window makes me cringe. Really, the rejection is a good thing, especially since once I start a full time co-op in July I’m not going to want to be working retail on the weekends. I am bummed, because J Crew seems like an awesome company to work for, but I think my stint in retail is over, at least for now.

On the topic of jobs, I got a very disappointing email from my co-op advisor today, saying that the Globe won’t be making calls about second interviews until the end of next week. On that front, the waiting game continues.

April 1, 2010. Tags: , , , , , , . Uncategorized. 10 comments.

Blackstone and Franklin Square

Although warm, sunny days are few and far between during the school year in Boston, on those days when it is nice enough to shed your winter gear most Northeastern students flock to the benches, quads and green spaces all over Northeastern’s campus. If you love to soak up the sun but want to avoid the crowd of Northeastern students, there are plenty of other green spaces to take advantage of in Boston.

One of those spaces is Blackstone & Franklin Square in the South End of Boston. Located at 380 Shawmut Avenue, just a mile from campus, this cute park is a great place to come, spread a blanket and relax with your friends, significant other or even just on your own.

The park doesn’t have any official hours as it’s not gated, but I’d suggest taking advantage of the sun in the mid to late afternoon, when lots of local South Enders bring their dogs or take walks in the area. The park, which is handicap accessible, is nestled right in the residential area of the neighborhood so it isn’t disturbed by too much outside noise or traffic.

March 28, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

Jeans for sale!

So this is kind of shameless plugging, but I recently went through my denim collection and had a sad realization that I am no longer a size zero, meaning that half of my jeans no longer fit me. I’ve got a ton of great denim that I have to get rid of, but it seems a shame to dump it all in a goodwill bag. Instead, I’m hoping to try and sell some of the pairs! I’ve never sold clothing over the internet, so I’m curious as to how successful this will be. So far, I’ve listed 8 pairs on craigslist, and I’m hoping some interested girls will contact me!

I’ve got 4 pairs of AE jeans, two skinny styles & two bootcut/flare styles, all in size 0.

I have two pairs of Lucky Brand jeans, both bootcut styles, one in size 0/25 and another in size 4/27.

And the best for last, I have a pair of dark bootcut Hudson jeans & a pair of dark straight True Religion jeans, both in size 0/25.

Please email me if you are interested at kossman.r@gmail.com. I’d be happy to send you extra pictures of any detailing on the jeans, and have people come over and try some of the pairs on. Prices for each pair are listed on the ads, but I may be willing to knock down the cost if you say you’re a loyal blog reader 😉 Be sure to pass the word on if you know anybody who may be interested!

March 26, 2010. Uncategorized. 4 comments.

Mapping as a journalism tool

As we approach the end of the first decade of the 21st century, it’s no secret that journalism is changing drastically. With the internet playing a major role in how, and when, consumers get their news, newspapers, magazines and even tabloids are being forced to change the way they report the news.

Part of that change means incorporating visuals into our reporting, whether that be images, video, audio or in many cases, maps. Especially in the political relm, maps can play a huge role in helping readers understand stories.

In class this week, we took a look at some of the maps featured on websites today. My favorite was a set of maps reflecting the 2008 election results. As you can see, the creator plotted the electoral and popular votes on the maps. He then manipulated the maps based on population – showing readers that even though in traditional maps, most of the country looks like it voted Republican, in fact the majority of the population voted Democrat. The great thing about these maps is how unique they are, and the way they put a different spin on journalism mapping.

To me, maps like this one, put together by the AP, are virtually useless, and demonstrate the wrong way to use maps in journalism. Having a visual of where each story the AP is covering is based does absolutely nothing for me – if the location of the story is important, it should be well represented in the article.

Utilizing a map the way the Boston Globe did in plotting different Farmers Market locations, however, is incredibly useful. Being able to pull up a map and see where exactly the Farmers Markets are, getting directions and reading about each location is practical, helpful and a great way to include a visual in the story.

March 26, 2010. Tags: , . Class Posts. Leave a comment.

My prayers have been answered!

It looks like the Forever21 gods finally heard my prayers — rumor has it they’re opening a location on Newbury Street! Anybody who reads this blog knows of my Forever21 obsession, so this new location will definitely be horrible for my wallet and fabulous for my closet. I commented on the post to try and figure out if anybody has an idea as to when the store will be opening, but I may have to head down there myself and do some detective work!

March 24, 2010. Uncategorized. Leave a comment.

J Crew interview update!

I posted last week about my job search with J Crew, and I realize now that I never updated about the interview! Since I’m supposed to hear back from them some time this week, I figured I’d let you in on the experience thus far.

I headed over to Copley in the pouring rain last Monday afternoon and managed to make it there only slightly soggy. I was wearing my grey leggings, a long, navy blue J Crew argyle cardigan & my newly found pearls (I raided my old jewelry when I was home over spring break & found three strands of pearls I’d gotten as a teen and totally forgot about – score!).  I was also rocking my bright yellow target rainboots. I was there incredibly early, so I spent some time checking out their spring collection and wandering the store. I immediately noticed how many sales associates they had working at one time – I counted at least seven or eight just in the front of the store, and it was a Monday!

I met with Erica, the hiring manager, who gave me lots of great information about the store, dress code, what it’s like to work for J Crew and we talked about me, my fashion sense, my availability and my past retail experience. I think the conversation went well, and she informed me that she’d be calling me in a week to ten days to let me know if I had been picked for a second interview. I’ve never interviewed for a retail job that did second interviews, and to be honest I was pretty shocked – I didn’t know the process was so selective! She said they had a lot of applications, which I definitely do not doubt, and that she’d be in touch.

I’m hoping I hear back soon – although I’d be pretty surprised if I didn’t get a second interview, I guess with that many applicants you really never know. If it doesn’t work out I won’t be heartbroken, although I think working there would be great experienced and I know I’d have tons of fun helping and dressing customers at the store.

Anyways, I’ll be sure to keep you guys posted when I do hear back!

March 23, 2010. Tags: , , . Fashion. Leave a comment.

Final project proposal

For my final multimedia project, I plan on profiling three Boston fashion bloggers who have used their blogs to explore their love for style and fashion.

I’d like to sit down with these bloggers and speak with them about how they got started blogging and what inspires them to write. I’d like to ask how long they’ve been blogging, how many hits their blogs receive a day, if they make any profit or  if their blog has led to other writing or fashion opportunities. I’d like to ask if they consider blogging part of their career or just their hobby, and what the most rewarding thing about keeping a their blog has been. I’d also like to ask if they utilize any social media, and if they feel it has helped get the word out about their blog.

So far, I have been in touch with Sarah MacManus (www.shopsarahmac.com) and she has agreed to let me interview her for my project. I have also emailed Kara Weymouth (www.thebostonista.com) and Martini (www.beyondbostonchic.com) in hopes that they will speak with me as well.

I’m hoping to interview all three women on camera, at the very least recording the audio of our conversations. In addition, I’d like to photograph them to profile their personal style, and how that reflects the writing on their blog.

March 21, 2010. Class Posts. Leave a comment.

Twitter coverage of St. Patrick’s Day

As part two of our Twitter lesson, we were asked to cover an event via Twitter. I chose to document my celebration of St. Patrick’s Day on Boylston Street in Boston last night, and sent a number of tweets about my experience.

The scene outside the Pour House last night

I left campus after class at around 8:30 pm, met up with friends and began the walk to Boylston from Northeastern’s campus. On the way I noticed the Prudential Center lit up in green for the holiday and snapped a quick photo. Upon arrival at Pour House I realized just how chaotic the scene actually was, and decided  to take a picture of all the people wearing green lined up outside trying to get into the bars. After about a 15 minute wait, we finally made it into the Pour House, where we somehow managed to snag a table in the back room. I decided to order a Magners and homemade mac & cheese for dinner, which I also documented with a photo. All my friends were drinking green beer, but I decided to skip the food coloring. In retrospect, I probably should have snagged a picture of that too! The front area of the bar was pretty full and there were people waiting in line to get downstairs but the back room where we were sitting wasn’t too packed. Other friends managed to brave the lines to get into the bar and meet us, but another friend reported that she was unsure she would get in because the line outside was so long, so I decided to share that fact as well.  At about midnight I decided to call it a night and catch the bus home – after all, I had to be at work bright & early the next morning.

As somebody who has been using Twitter for a while, I don’t usually send more than one or two tweets about a single event. In my coverage, I was just hoping to report what I was seeing since I knew lots of people were probably curious as to what the bar scene, specifically Boylston Street, looked like last night.

One huge benefit of covering a story on Twitter is how quickly updates & pictures are sent and received. Using Uber Twitter on my Blackberry is incredibly easy – all I need to do is open the application, snap a picture, type a few words and click send. The updates can then be received immediately – if I had Twitter friends who were on Boylston Street looking to get into the bars, they were able to read my posts about how long the lines were and head elsewhere instead.

One of the negatives of covering an event solely via Twitter is the limited character count. When you have lots to report on, you end up posting seven or eight tweets at a time, which can sometimes be obnoxious to your followers. I felt kind of silly posting numerous updates about my night, and wondered how many people were rolling their eyes at my tweets. Regardless, I had a good time and was glad I got to share it with the Twitter world!

March 18, 2010. Tags: , . Class Posts. Leave a comment.

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