The question at the end of the headline

“…They don’t believe that they are able to tell the truth without a question mark.” – Jon Lovett

I started my liberal indoctrination listening to Pod Save America a few months ago.

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Reviewing HST and the 2016 and 1972 campaign trails

Freak power, or something.
Freak power, or something.

For years Hunter S. Thompson fans have told me how great “Fear and Loathing: On the Campaign Trail ‘72” is. With the presidential campaign in full swing I figured it would be a great read, but after finally finishing it, I am totally disappointed.

I’ve never been “heavily” into politics, but I assumed by picking up the book maybe I’d get a better sense for the topic. Maybe I’d get a better sense of HST himself. Maybe I got both. But in any case, the book was a total snooze, which sucks because I love HST.

I actually bought the book in 2010 while in Iraq. When I wasn’t bumping down a dirt road in Salah al-Din province I was reading packages of books that I purchased on Amazon. Since then I had been pulling “Campaign Trail” off the shelf, reading the opening chapter’s description of the Pennsylvania Turnpike and thumbing through Ralph Steadman’s erratic illustrations, only to tuck the book back on the shelf again.

This is a frequent issue for books I’m told I need to read, but have no serious interest in. (It took me years before I had the guts to finish “Lord Jim.”)

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‘The Last Magazine’ a corporate drama about journalism

9/10

Danger looming, the momentum building up, an epic fall approaches. The knives are unsheathed, incisors sharpened, and enemies and targets of his scorn in the past are making phone calls, remarks on television, coming out of the media landscape, electronic specters with Rolodexes and grudges and access to editors, nudging the story along.

“The Last Magazine” has certainly made me reexamine my role in journalism. As a growing journalist and writer, the novel has been a bit of a wakeup call. I love the pressure of the newsroom, but this book has made me wonder: is it worth it?

Michael Hasting’s novel, which he claims is pure fiction, is a corporate drama about the death of conventional journalism and the rise of the Internet, as seen through a young intern’s eyes (plus a lot of sex and a lot of substance abuse). In the story we read about two journalists: veteran foreign correspondent and addict A.E. Peoria and the intern, Hasting’s himself, as they build their careers at a publication simply dubbed The Magazine.

The novel contrasts the life of Peoria with the elitist society of big league editors and publishers at The Magazine. As The Magazine’s editors scramble for top positions and salaries they leave Peoria to fend for himself. His only rock is his career, and it’s slipping.  Meanwhile the new journalism – the “now journalism” – erupts in the blogosphere. The very foundation of journalism – paper – begins to shift to the digitized world.

Ten years after Hasting’s story finishes I find myself in a time where web content and “now” media are the dominant media. For me, journalism is one way to pursue a career as a writer. Though the job market may be bleak, “The Last Magazine” is a reminder that the opportunities go beyond The Magazine. Not to mention the story is raunchy, smutty, cynical, humorous and very well written.

If you’re pursuing a career as a writer I would highly recommend giving it a read.

Blogging: Be bold, but be smart.

The Internet is a godless environment. It is an enigma. Wikipedia, in its infinite wisdom, tells us: 

It is a network of networks that consists of millions of private, public, academic, business, and government networks, of local to global scope, that are linked by a broad array of electronic, wireless and optical networking technologies. The Internet carries an extensive range of information resources and services, such as the inter-linked hypertext documents of the World Wide Web (WWW), the infrastructure to support email, and peer-to-peer networks.

Blogging is the same way. What the hell is a blog anyway? People are reluctant to define it, or to make any rules about it. And so am I, but there needs to be some guideline. While working at the Western Washington University’s student run newspaper The Western Front, I’ve developed some points to consider for keeping up a good blog and keeping it ethical. 

The following is a from a manual I created for The Western Front’s blogging guidelines: 

Seven Guidelines for Blogging

1.    Choose a topic

Clearly define the subject you wish to discuss by narrowing your focus. Instead of “local news,” try “local weather,” or “winter weather in —.” Choose at least three tags or key words/phrases for the blog.

2.    Define your voice and personality

What is your writing style? Sarcastic? Humorous? Optimistic? If this is a news blog, avoid using first-person descriptions (unless you were an active participant in the news). Be critical of your writing style.

Keep your writing style consistent. If the blog is a group project, make sure the tone, voice and styles are agreed upon.

3.    How will the blog supplement you or your organization?

If you’re writing a news blog, the posts should be relatable to your organization’s audience. If you’re writing a personal blog, your posts should develop your niche as a writer. Consistently update the blog at least once a week.

4.    Communicate with audience

Respond to comments on your blog or messages in your social media feed. Avoid responding when feedback is negative or offensive. Apply the Golden Rule.

5.    Link to other sites

Writing a blog does not require interviewing people in person, but you should be able to attribute your information with links to other credible websites. Remember, linking to other websites is a form of endorsement.

6.    Be transparent

Reveal any bias or conflicts of interest in your blog. Discuss how you discover information when appropriate.

7.    Follow the rules of good journalism

Adhere to the standards of NPR’s Ethics Handbook for social media guidelines and the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics.

BLOGGERS CODE OF ETHICS

Accuracy

As a blogger you assume the role of a journalist. You are responsible for writing accurately. Social media and blogging can be abused by spreading misinformation or information that is false. The rules of grammar and AP style still apply.

Accountability

Portray yourself a professional manner. Don’t behave any differently (or questionably) than you would in person. Be prepared to stand behind your claims if they are challenged.

Be informal and be inclusive, but be critical of your style, tone and voice. Remain as impartial as possible, but utilize your independence as a blogger.

Respect the community’s standards. Consider any possible legal (libelous) implications when writing.

Honesty

Assume that your audience is always watching. Anything you write or say online is on the record (though this works both ways). Be transparent about any biases and disclose any conflicts of interest.

Corrections

Update blogs as soon as possible when corrections are needed.

Practice good journalism

Whether you are professionally employed or not, always practice good journalism when blogging. Adhere to the standards of the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics and NPR’s Ethics Handbook for social media guidelines.

Report the truth, act independently, never plagiarize, always attribute, strive for accuracy and minimize harm.

Notes

This is to be taken with a grain of salt. Blogging, especially in a journalistic environment, is meant to break the rules. Be bold, but be smart. 

The code and the guidelines I created are a culmination of research from several different resources, such as: 

I highly recommend checking out each of these links. They provided me with excellent information and were great resources for defining my own philosophy on blogging and social media use. 

Journalists and Guns

There are so many political affiliations that come up whenever the word “gun” is mentioned.

I’ve been writing a story about the availability of ammunition in Whatcom County, Wash., lately, and it’s damn near impossible to get around the topic of guns, gun owners, the Second Amendment or crime, and still tell the whole story.

It’s a matter of pros and cons. That’s what most gun moderates will say. It’s about balancing personal safety, tradition and sports with the thousands of gun-related deaths each year.

It’s not hard to find moderate people. Most of the people I’ve spoken with are sensible gun owners. Even if their opinions differ, most of the gun owners I’ve talked to shy away from the whole “right-wing” thing anyway.

But it’s interesting talking to them as a journalist. Somewhere, somehow, journalism became synonymous with liberalism. While 8/10 people I’ve spoken to for this story have been willing to talk to me – knowing that I am a journalist – all of them have regarded me with a slight degree of suspicion.

My questions are basically only about ammunition, but it doesn’t stop gun owners from telling me about their guns, the right to own guns and the fear of having them taken away.Ownership and rights aren’t something I’ve really pursued while reporting, but the fact that gun owners are so adamant about these things tells me that they feel misrepresented.

I don’t like being categorized as a liberal, but I’ve found myself just going with it anyway. The people who think I’m a communist walk away, while those who assume I’m a liberal express deep political concerns.

I sort of like it. I get stronger emotions from my interviews when people assume I have an agenda – and I don’t.

That said, most of the people in Whatcom County have been open and trusting with me, and I do appreciate that. As a journalist, I suppose there really is no way around that suspicion. I always want to be liked by people. That’s one reason why I like being a journalist. Blame it on low self-esteem.

But I have to take not being liked. Sometimes I have bite my lip and accept my perception as a deviant or suspect. It’s no fun, but I think having a strong self perception makes for a good reporter.

Anyway, the ammo story turned out really interesting. I will post it when I can.