Monday, January 12, 2009



Monday, May 12, 2008

The money question

Your reflections and responses on the shells project have been incredibly valuable, gang. Thank you for the insights and honesty.

One small piece of background I want to correct, just for the record as it were, is the apple and oranges nature of the money vis a vis Joe and Bright Tree.

First: We had not settled on a final fee, so, although the math might work from an earlier proposal, it doesn't account for final negotiations.

More important: We could not have used that money to fund the Missourian deficit or other day to day operations costs. The Reynolds Journalism Institute grant was specifically for experiments, not operations.

Minor points, I know, but just wanted to mention it.


Friday, May 9, 2008

Invisible Fruition (i.e. we did our part, but to what ends)

After class on Wednesday I went home and slept for three hours. I wasn’t sure if it was the exhaustion I had from staying up until 2 a.m., because of the city council meeting on Monday or if it was from staying up a little later on Tuesday to finish a final paper, but I feel like the news about the shells project was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I was pretty shocked when I heared the news and I still have mixed feelings about the whole project. In many ways it helped me to reinforce some management skills I learned in London and I was really excited when I felt like things were actually going to be finished at the end of the semester. But to be quite honest after Wednesday I felt like I could have written three or four more articles, had another beer with a friend as this is my last semester, and could have taken more time to simply get a workout in or a few more hours of sleep. In my state of shock and exhaustion I simply had to sleep.
I also would like to say that I don't feel angry, I simply feel disappointed and shocked. I usually don't like getting angry because it isn't very productive, just dissapointed.

Finally, what about the whole idea of the shells project?

In terms of the whole idea about the shells project I think it is an awesome idea and in the future. I think it would be an awesome opportunity to possibly get a couple Missourian print reporting and design students, one or two Broadcast students, some convergence students, and a couple photo-j majors to colaborate on a shells project.

Was it worthwhile?

The shells project was worth it, despite my current dissapointment and frustration. I would like to have something to show an employeer or graduate school to show that I did project manage something that reached frution.
I would say that it was worthwhile as a learning experience and a practice in humility, as I often forget that I can’t control everything.

What, if anything, did you learn?

I learned that if this is the direction that news is going it is going to be a tough jugling act to move journalist in this direction.
I learned that not all projects that I work on in my lifetime will reach fruition, and sometimes for reasons out of my control.
I learned that not everyone on a team is motivated to get the work done, but I also should work on my delegating skills and trusting others.

Would you do it again?

I would do it again, but with stipulations. That is all I will say on that matter.

What would you change?

I would have divided people up into teams based on their knowledge and motivation before the project started. I think this would have been beneficial, because we could ensure that there would be smaller groups, and the individuals in those groups would be deciding on a topic/focus that was truly of their own interest.

What would you keep?

Exactly what I am taking away…enthusiasm, team work, and humility.

Almost over

This semester has gone by way too fast. I can't believe that I'm going into my last week of reporting. Like Matt, I am facing a very long week at the capitol, but I'm really exciting to see what comes out of the legislature. I've learned so much about reporting and state government and now I see everything through a new lens. I have definitely had to leave my comfort zone by being on the state government beat. Politics are very tricky. You really have to learn how to read between the lines, and dig through all the crap to get to the story.
I really appreciate having the opportunity to be in a class with reporters of such caliber. The conversations that were had in the classroom were always intriguing and really made me think outside of the box. Everyone brought something to the table and I learned from all of you. I can't wait to see where we all will end up.
The shells project was a great opportunity for me. I got to work with reporters from different backgrounds and experiences. Paul has been amazing at organizing and he has helped me out a lot through the process (Thanks). I am glad that I had the opportunity to take part in such an innovative project. I definitely had to learn a lot about Columbia, shells, and online layout. There are so many things that you have to consider when creating a shell, and I'm glad we got to explore some of the options.
For next time, I would have like to be more specific. We started off with such a huge idea, and so little time. We bit off more than we could chew, but in the end we were able to get it together. Also meet more than once a week. With everything else going on in the newsroom, it's hard to stay on task when we don't get to meet often.
I don't know if it was all worth it. I enjoyed the experience, but I would like to see what it is like once it is published. To me, it is only worth it if it is useful to the people. If it's not, then maybe we should try something else.
Thanks everyone! It's been amazing

One Final Thought

Obviously, I feel disappointed by the end of this semester. The thought of devoting this much time to something that fell through is truly disheartening but it wasn't the first time this type of thing happened to us, and I doubt it will be the last time it will happen.
I questioned several times during the semester who would take up the shells mantle when we left. It is still my question. The way I understood it, these shells will still happen, and that's good. But, with the databases that we have put together, there will need to be people behind us to keep them up, even over the summer until these go up.

In the end, I learned several skills I didn't know I had. I feel that I have learned that I work well with others, and my work with some of the younger reporters during the semester, I feel I can get the most out of people, which is nice. I have had the opportunity to work on my own and with others this semester, and I learned a great deal of patience.
With hindsight, it is easy to say that the shells took away from our work with the editors. I think that is true. But at the same time, the work we did on shells and the things we learned from it are important.
I am not upset that I was able to do this. And I might do it again, but I feel that the one on one work we do with our editors is important and what most of us sign up for this class. Another class should be set up to work on shells and keep up with them.
Just my opinion.

Final Blog Post

While a lot of people are winding down, I will probably have the most difficult week of reporting in the semester in the upcoming week. Like college students, state legislators wait until the last possible moment to get anything done, and our finals week happens to coincide with their last week of the General Assembly. So I will be spending a lot of time in Jefferson City this upcoming week as everything winds to a close, often staying in the Capitol until late at night. This semester has probably been the most difficult for me since I've been at school, between juggling about 15-20 hours a week reporting, 15 hours a week at a job that pays me, and a full workload of five classes. I enjoyed our Wednesday course a lot, though I started to get dicey toward the end of the semester. Reporting in Jeff City was pretty enjoyable, aside from a 2 week stretch in which I didn't get nearly as much accomplished as I should have.

As for the Shells project, I'm working on an end-of-General-Assembly environmental piece that should go along with a lot of the other end-of-General-Assembly things I'll be doing the next week. Hopefully, when the project does go up, that will be able to replace my billtracker.

Was the shells project worthwhile- Like many others have said, I think making the shells project into its own course might be the best course of action from this point forward. Recruiting a group of web developers, reporters and editors and having them work together would be an interesting experiment and one that might be preferable to paying a company like Bright Tree and leaving the project in their hands. I think anyone in the Advanced Reporting Class is going to have enough on their table to begin with, and adding a huge undertaking like this, in addition to our regular beat, has high burn-out potential. After all, we're getting 3 credit hours.

What did I learn- I learned a pretty good deal about the energy process in the General Assembly in doing my profiles and bill tracker. One of the most interesting things I learned was that while most people have a positive reaction to Green issues, there are a lot of things that go into alternative energy, and it's not as savory as a lot of people think.

Would I do it again- I can't honestly say. I will probably not look into reporting as a career path and tend to have a lot more passion for the political process than journalism. I can say that reporting on things other than politics is pretty excruciating for me and I've never had a lot of passion for it. I've gained a lot of good experience in Jeff City in the two semesters I was down there, so I can't say for certain I wouldn't do it again this semester. But it was a lot to put on our table for a career that I'm now pretty certain I'm not going to go into.

What would I change- I would have liked to work on a topic that I was more knowledgable about, and I'd have liked for there to be a clear message on how much time we should spend on the shells in comparison with our regular beats. If I had a choice between doing something for my beat and doing something for the shells, I'd likely pick my beat just about every time. It's nothing against the shells project, I just have more passion for and a lot more invested in my original beat.

What would I keep- The class discussions were very good and I feel as if we had a great group of reporters. Tom is a great teacher and someone I have a lot of respect for, and I'm glad I had the opportunity to get in the Columbia newsroom a bit more this year. The shells projects was a great idea, but one that's difficult to accomplish with a small amount of reporters with virtually no free time.


So, at the end of my last week in Advanced Reporting I have to admit that it's been a very rewarding, and also a very disheartening, experience.
The announcement that Joe would not be unable to finish the project was a big blow. I have, we have, spent so much time investing work into this project that the end result feels fruitless.
I want to echo Audrey Spalding when I say that I hope this experience leads to a more productive future. She voiced most, if not all, of my concerns so I won't bother to repeat them.
So on to the web shell questions:
Was it worthwhile? The experience of working in a team to produce a news product is, I feel, always worthwhile.
Could the aim of the project been a bit more narrow? Is the idea of a web shell still too broad? I'm not sure. But, it's something to consider.
What, if anything, did you learn? I learned how to meet deadlines on a team. Paul was an excellent team manager and the discussions that we had about how to present the project taught me more about the possibilities of the web.
What would you change? I would hire student programmers, or incorporate a computer sciences class into the project.
The idea of the Missourian spending money when it is already at a deficient of more than $1.5 million a year is disheartening.
What would you keep? I'd definitely keep the class discussions. They were the basis for ideas I'm planning on carrying with me.
They taught me how to navigate a large project.