A Poignant Picture Essay of My Year in J School

It’s the last week of classes and, as a grad student,  I am naturally experiencing the constant urge to pluck every hair from my head. Additonally, I only have ONE chocolate left in my rabbit-shaped box of delightful Fererro hazelnut chocolate balls. Serious times, y’all.

Anyway, I am procrastinating writing my several ridiculously long papers by writing this eloquent blog post. And since I don’t exactly feel like glazing your eyes over with the usual text overload I have decided to put up a fun picture post. Yay picture posts!

Katie’s Life in Grad School: Phase One

This is me in August stepping onto Alabama’s campus and preparing to start my epic journalism journey and the proud owner of my OWN bathroom.

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LET’S DO THIS!!!

This is me at the end of the fall term.

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Oh Oh OH Stayin alive stayin alive

This is me at some undefined point during the spring semester.

Frustrated Business Woman

I picked Journalism?!! JOURNALISM??!!!!?

This is me whenever I get a blog post compliment.

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This is probably how I look and sound to my roommate when I walk into our apartment after class.

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This is me when I check my bank account balance weekly.

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This is me when someone asks me what am I planning to do when I graduate.

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This is me when a professor confirms I have a future as a writer.

elation

This is going to be me for the next 2 weeks before I move to Anniston, Alabama for the summer.

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And finally, where I imagine myself in 5 years, obviously.

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The Magic of the Magic City: One Southern Writer’s Story

Growing up within the flowery walls of Vestavia Hills, I was lost in a strange suburbia land and very much removed from the bright lights of downtown Birmingham. I remember as I neared high school graduation, I had the nagging feeling that I needed to flee the state. For me, this place symbolized synthetic beauty queens and preppy football kings. In the mirror, I saw nothing more than a frizzy-haired, converse-wearing teen that sulked in the back bleacher at pep rallys. This is not to say I didn’t receive a good education and I’m so thankful for my parents’ decision to put me in the school system. But as an awkward teen searching for an identity beyond my mushroom mop, I just could never find it in the stiff, hair-sprayed Vestavia bubble.

After spending my college years in South Carolina and another volunteer year in New Orleans, I landed right back in my parents’ basement, once again a suburbian but this time with a little more life experience. Working two minimum wage jobs didn’t exactly bolster a strong foundation of self-worth, but I now know that is was simply part of the process of highs and lows that happen on all of our journeys to somewhere.

As August creeps closer and closer on the calendar, I recognize that it’s time to decide where I will live while proudly clenching that Master’s degree and hoping someone sees me as a useful little worker bee. For the longest time, I pushed Birmingham away, vowing I wouldn’t stay here and that the city couldn’t offer me whatever I needed to attain fulfillment.

But now I’m starting to see the city itself has more to offer than my angsty teenage self once thought. Restauarants and businessses are sprouting up like fresh flowers in the springtime. The food trucks are rolling and big names in music seem to be shuffling through the streets at a steady pace. This past Wednesday marked the opening game of the Birmingham Barons in their new downtown megastructure. As I decide if I want to stay, I feel the tug of the Magic City strengthen its grip on me.

There is something special about the South. You can feel it in the thick, humid air that soaks your face, hear it in the sweet sounds of chords plucked on an acoustic guitar, and taste it in the melty hot BBQ. You can also read it in the words written by authors who have made a home here and see the good, the bad and the real. I would love to be known as a “southern writer.” To me, it is an honor that speaks more than any fancy award ever could.  So as I slowly lay the bricks of my future, one small rectangle at a time, I think I see Vulcan raising his torch a little higher for me.

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KT

Not Your Grandma’s Journalism: A Grim Look at Economics from a Doe-Eyed J Schooler

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In the first chapter of The Vanishing Newspaper, Philip Meyer states, “the best way to ensure the future of newspapers would have been to conserve their influence and pay the costs of the radical experimentation needed to learn what new media forms would be viable.”  I agree with Meyer’s statement but am also acutely aware that preserving influence in this new age of radical experimentation is easier said than done. Meyer asserts that while new technology does allow for a faster, cheaper, more durable product, it also leads to a confused audience lost in the land of sensory overload.

A central question that has formed in my mind: Can journalism still deliver a quality product using today’s electronic channels that is relevant, meaningful and profitable? There may not be a clear answer but possible solutions lie in the models and strategies outlined in Meyer’s The Vanishing Newspaper.

Meyer examines the societal influence model, which serves to provide an economic rationale for journalists’ fulfillment of civic duty. Through the investment of quality resources, publications are able to produce a quality product. This product either creates trust or strengthens already present trust and leads to increased readership, more advertisement opportunities and ultimately, the golden egg of profit. This model proposed by Knight Ridder’s Hal Jurgensmeyer is a logical business strategy but does not account for increased trust leading to monopoly and also neglects the reality that many newspapers no longer have the funds to increase resources.

Therefore, we transition into the goose and the golden egg scenario Meyer describes in the second chapter of The Vanishing Newspaper.  Meyer offers two models for newspaper owners. The first one is the harvest model, which focuses on short-term investments that have immediate rewards but future concealed costs. The second one is the nurturing model, which encourages owners to accept this new reality of competition and change and focus on improving their products to fit the electronic delivery market.

As the New York Times and more localized publications place their news behind pay walls, there is the concern that journalists will let quality suffer due to the fact that electronic distribution is produced at no variable cost. However, I believe in the future success of the entrepreneurs that view this change as an opportunity instead of a threat and are willing to take current risks and settle for rewards that may not happen for several years. I personally think journalists should accept that news is no longer a linear relationship and look for unique, creative ways to deliver news in this ecosystem of opportunity.

In the chapter titled “Saving Journalism” as well as in the 2013 State of the Media reports, it is clear that journalists have reasons to be optimistic but should know that the hard numbers don’t lie. Meyer points out that entrepreneurial risk takers need more than an income as compensation for their efforts. They need their news product to have value and meaning.  This balance of profit and public journalism is really put to the test on the Internet where, as Meyer puts it, there are “low costs and anyone can play.”

In “Newspapers: Stabilizing, But Still Threatened,” it is evident that while the new pay wall system seems to be working okay at the moment, it does not take away from the ugly reality that downsizing and cutbacks are covering the industry like an outbreak of weeds. Digital advertising does not seem to be making up for the loss of print advertisement, which implies a long lasting game of catch-up is set to happen over the next decade.

In looking at the television side, viewership and advertising are at low levels, which suggest that the Internet is consuming this form of media in the same way it did with print. An important factor in this digital shift is clearly the increased use of mobile devices to consume news. Not only are journalists going to face the pressures and difficulties of switching to electronic delivery in general, they will also have to acquire the in-depth skill sets that ensure readers can consume the news on phones and tablets. From an optimistic standpoint, I believe this need allows for more job opportunities for those who can master social media and other components that come with this digital shift.

The major concern always seems to rotate back to gaining profit without loss of trust. I appreciate Philip Meyer’s reference to Henry Ford’s sentiment that profit will be a natural byproduct of a well-performed service to society. I hope this sentiment will hold true as more and more doe-eyed journalists are hurled into this tumultuous digital era.