Schuneman Symposium 2012: Laura Flanders inspires young journalists with new media possibilities

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Laura Flanders speaks at the Ohio University Schuneman Symposium on Wednesday. Flanders discussed the changes in media. (Photo Credit – Nicole H. Germano)

As part of the Schuneman Symposium, journalist, author and gritTV founder Laura Flanders spoke about the evolving media landscape on Wednesday afternoon.

Ironically, Flanders introduced her discussion of traditional and new media by reading a Mary Oliver poem from her smart phone – an epitome of the juxtaposition between old and the new.

In her discussion, “Seeing is Sharing: Breaking News vs. New Media,” Flanders spoke about her reasons for becoming a journalist, the changes occurring within the media and the possibilities for the future of the field.

Journalism appealed to Flanders because she said it allowed her to “cram as much life into a few decade period I could.” Inspired by the idea that at least two sides to every story exist, she has spent her career sharing such stories and traveling the world.

Ohio University junior studying broadcast journalism, Tanya Parker tweeted from the symposium that Flanders “sounds just like me! Reaffirms my desire to follow journalism!”

Parker attended the symposium not for class, but for the opportunity to meet the journalists presenting and to learn from them. Flanders work is similar to what Parker hopes to do.

“She was basically calling all the shots in her own career, travelling all over the world and living the new media dream. I loved everything she talked about and how excited she was about her own life, and it just made me want to jump into my journalistic career right away,” said Parker.

Throughout her career, Flanders has watched the consolidation and conglomeration of media. She said that the focus of journalism has changed from serving democracy to serving the bottom line.

Despite changes in journalism, the field today shares one important characteristic with journalism of the past: it delivers the public to each other. Although the ways people share new is evolving, sharing stories still lies at the heart of journalism.

The E.W. Scripps School of Journalism, with the support of alumni Smith and Pat Schuneman, hosted the annual Schuneman Sympoisum Tuesday and Wednesday. The event, “Impact: Words and Pictures that Matter,” brought photographer Paul Frusco (BFA ’57); two-time Pulitzer Prize winner Clarence Page (BSJ ’69); Civil Rights leader and Rainbow PUSH Coalition founder Rev. Jesse Jackson; and Flanders to the Ohio University Campus discuss how journalism has shaped social movements. All presentations were free and open to the public.

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Laura Flanders introduced the audience at the Schuneman Symposium to gritTV. Flanders founded gritTV in 2008. (Photo Credit – Nicole H. Germano)

Critique 2

Normally, The New York Times multimedia coverage impresses me with rich, well-developed packages. Yet, Laurie Goodstein’s “Catholic Bishops Urge Campaign for Religious Freedom” left me asking for more.

As usual, the article contained an interactive chunk, allowing readers to share the story across media. The interaction stopped there. The story presented neither video nor photos nor related articles. Although several links were included, they did not appear until the sixth paragraph.

I doubt many readers made it that far.

I understand that video and photos are not available for every story. Photos may not exist for breaking news, and video may not apply to all topics. But, art makes stories come alive. “Catholic Bishops Urge Campaign for Religious Freedom” was dead.

Goodstein covered the Roman Catholic Church’s petition to 2012 presidential candidates for religious freedom.

I find it very hard to believe that no related photos exist. Goodstein certainly didn’t break the story before a photographer could secure the photo. In fact, the nation’s Roman Catholic bishops asserted their request after “more than half a year” of controversy, drawn to light by the health reform act’s implications for the Church.

Somewhere exists a related photo. Perhaps one of the Roman Catholic bishops quoted in the article, or of the Catholic employees potentially affected by the stipulations in the health reform, or even of a major Catholic holiday (did one not just pass?). I’m disappointed The New York Times didn’t find it.

Critique 1

The ever-changing media landscape has continued to evolve as James Murdoch resigned as chairman of BSkyB, a British satellite broadcaster partly owned by the News Corporation.

An article published on April 3 explained Murdoch’s decision. In July 2011, scandal emerged about News Corporation-owned British newspaper’s investigating tactics. According to the article, Murdoch resigned to protect BSkyB from the allegations surrounding News Corporation.

The article proceeded to discuss Murdoch’s resignation, the effects on News Corporation, as well as the events leading to and potentially stemming from the resignation.

As readers scroll through reporter John F. Burns story, The New York Times compliments the story with interactive elements.  Immediately beneath the headline, a large photo introduces the story. Next to the opening paragraphs, readers have a toolbar allowing them to share the article through multiple media outlets including Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn.

The New York Times gives readers several opportunities to comment on the article – in initial toolbar, further down the page and at the end of the article. About a day after publication, the article earned 93 comments.

To the left of the article, The New York Times invites readers to connect on Twitter and suggests related materials. Links within the article connect readers with related articles that provide important background material.

The story also includes a video, one I found relatively disappointing. The one minute and 40 second video contains a series of photographs with a narration and extensive quote voice over. Yet, in that short time, photographs were repeated. Rather than provide additional information, the video repeated information included in the report.