Wrap-up blog

This blog is a final reflection on the course.

What did you like?

  • “Create a blog and use it to reflect on class topics”
    • I enjoyed this component of the class the most. Because class discussion was limited, the blogs gave me the opportunity to further explore the topics discussed in class. They inclined me to better understand and think critically over the nuances and details of broader concepts. The reflection spurred by blogs gave meaning and purpose to the concepts because they primarily focused on personal application or response.
  • Integration of media into class presentations
    • Incorporating videos into class presentations kept me engaged, alert, and responsive to the subject matter. In some cases, the video brought to life and exemplified class terms.
  • Broad overview of the fields of mass communication and computer science
    • Over the course of the semester, we studied journalism, advertising, public relations, photojournalism, graphic design and video. By exploring these specifications in these fields, I gained a better understanding of what in journalism particularly interests me.

What didn’t you like? What do you suggest?

  • Absence of discussion
    • Although there were a few class discussions (after watching an episode of Black Mirror and the James Foley documentary), the overall lack of class discussions was disappointing to me. I would have liked to have heard more of the opinions of my peers.
  • Lack of class activities
    • The class could benefit from varying the ways in which students consume information. Although the class lectures and presentations were interesting and suited my learning style, it is likely that not all the students found the material quite as interesting or share my particular learning in learning style. Incorporating class activities from time-to-time might engage more students.

Thank you Dr. Zuegner for a delightful semester! I thought that this class was wonderfully instructed; your lecture style is quite engaging, charismatic, and informative. Beyond adhering to the class objectives, you brought the entire class girl scout cookies and helped me discern my future in journalism. I look forward to taking more classes from you in the future!

Photo on 4-25-17 at 11.12 PM
Thank you Dr. Zuegner (Photo credit: Elizabeth Rudigier)
Wrap-up blog


Reflections on James Foley film

There is great Irony in the fact that Jim was so utterly restless at home after returning from Libya yet could fall asleep (his sleeping habits were compared to those of a cat by his colleagues) in the middle of a war zone. His family, friends, colleagues, and even Jim himself questioned how he could find profound peace amidst sheer chaos. I have a proposition. I, by no means, have any authority in making this assessment. This is merely how I have thought to make sense of it. I realize that as an outsider, with no relationship to Jim or any situation with much resemblance to Jim’s, this proposition has little validity; my apologies if this is remarkably inaccurate. Jim recognized his unique willingness to tell the story of those in the conflict at the expense of his own life. That willingness came with a sense of responsibility to be a steward of these stories and conduit between war zones and the Western world. He had already witnessed so much; to be at home felt like abandonment. Being a conflict journalist cultivated a sense of belonging and purpose that gave meaning and significance to Jim’s life, and who are we to be angry at him for pursuing such an end?

What is the place of photojournalism in a society where we all have cameras at our fingertips?

You can run in one of two directions with this response. One echoing the cry of Donald Winslow in “The Uncertain Future of Photojournalism.” The other heralding the optimism of Leslye Davis in “Photojournalism’s Uncertain Future? She Begs to Differ.”

David Winslow cites philosophical devaluation of photography as one of many grounds that is indicative of the inevitable decline of photojournalism. Philosophical devaluation suggests a lack of vision and a decay in the “caliber of journalism and the caliber of photography.” This philosophical devaluation is only expedited by the fact that we all have cameras at our fingertips. Furthermore, he notes the “advent of a global communications network” that does not endorse a photographer’s proper pay. Conversely, Leslye Davis understands these cameras as bringing more opportunity for each of us to “be the authors and tell our stories.” Historically, photojournalism has been inaccessible to minorities, women, and foreigners; however, phones (with their cameras, recording tools, online connections, and a constant stream of inspiration and information) give anyone the tools and resources to tell their story. There is great value in this empowerment. By employing people within their context, stories are more likely to be insightful and representative of actual reality. This belief is rooted in the sentiment conveyed by Ansel Adams in the following statement: “You don’t make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”

Going forward, what do you think will happen to photojournalism?

I honestly have no clue. But, I do think that it will continue to be an important component of journalism. We would all be wise to take Leslye Davis’s advice: “…things are always going to be changing. Change with them.” We can all find comfort in knowing that “there are always going to be stories to tell. Maybe right now more than ever before.”

My personal Nikon n55 camera

PR and advertising in a digital age

As a disclaimer, I have no background or footing in public relations. Although I find this talk by Richard Edelman, the CEO of a leading PR firm, to be interesting, I have no basis with which to compare it to what PR has traditionally been. Edelman notes the rapid advancement and challenge of “storytelling at the speed of now.” Even though PR is operating at an unparalleled pace, it must not compromise the quality of its storytelling and abandon its “journalistic mindset.” By espousing a primarily visual approach, these firms can both show and tell stories from a rational and emotional style. Edelman outline the evolution of media, client-roles, and PR agency. With the emergence of content reception on social media and other sharable formats, the boundaries between editor, advertiser, and marketer are blurring: “Editorial is starting to be delivered in ways that borrow what marketers do well, while advertising is starting to embody some of what journalists do well.” Clients are increasingly demanding that brands and corporations concern themselves with “key societal needs,” thereby cementing a level of trust in doing the right thing and fostering shared value. While still adhering to the common goal of communication in providing “information that moves people to action,” PR firms have to seek out and cultivate great ideas from a holistic perspective. They firm strives to create a “living brand” that is purposeful, attuned, participatory, and social by design. Edelman ventures to predict what is new and upcoming in PR. He foresees the diversification of talent within firms to grow. For his own firm, he is hopeful in the collaboration between “developers, analysts, and planners” and people with “journalistic skills and creativity.” Future employers ought to be familiar, optimally fluid, with “SEO, social media community management, digital advertising, content strategy, photography/videography, design, and analytics.” Lastly, Edelman encourages us to break through the framework of conventional wisdom by digesting new ideas with an open mind.

The article “12 Industry Leaders’ Insights on Advertising in 2016” lends an interesting perspective with which to examine advertising. Marketing professionals predict the direction of advertising in 2016. These 12 industry leaders overlapped in their responses, especially in the realms of storytelling, honesty/authenticity, reaching people and creativity repeatedly

  • Storytelling:
    • Karen Zuckerman: “more and more about content, with a focus on storytelling”
    • Richard Wilde: “infusion of honesty, humor and humane dialogue coupled with meaningful storyteller”
    • Tom Bernardin: “at the heart of good content is a good story”
  • Honesty:
    • Tom Bernardin: “Consumers today are also demanding more transparency, more authenticity, and more purpose-driven work from brands”
    • Melissa Rosenthal: “content will need to be increasingly honest, relatable and contextually relevant in order to help shift perceptions”
  • Creativity:
    • Tom Bernardin: “…most powerful opportunities: creativity”
    • Gideon Amichay: “Since all creative tools have been democratized, creative leadership is needed more than ever”
    • Max Lenderman: “creativity, therefore, needs to be malleable, ever-moving and multidisciplinary… stand for something more than just their creativity”
    • Melissa Rosenthal: “…there will be an increased emphasis on data to help drive creative decisions”
  • Reaching people:
    • Karen Zuckerman: “Video is becoming increasingly important and powerful because of the ways it can be integrated into social platforms”
    • Colin Drummond: “Almost strangely out-of-fashion resurgence of the most powerful medium we’ve had in the last 50 years: TV”

      Visual representation of creativity 
PR and advertising in a digital age

Response to assigned Sugg readings

As a disclaimer, I apologize that this particular blog reads more like a diary than an academic assignment and raises much more speculation than firm, tidy answers. I am well aware that the deadline for this assignment passed 5 days ago. Over the past week, I’ve read this story multiple times and scrolled though the photo slideshow capturing moments of R.J.’s final weeks even more. For some reason, I just have not been able to willingly tackle this blog. I wanted to take the time to truly reflect on and appreciate its content, so that I could contribute meaningful insight, but, as the week drug on, nothing hit me. Yet, perhaps the point is not for me to concoct an earth-shattering revelation about the article, but for the article to reveal itself in such a way that prompts discernment and contemplation through subtle realizations. That being said, I set out to answer the questions raised in the prompt: Are Diana Sugg and the photographer vultures? How does this compare to what you generally think about reporters?

Are Dianna Sugg and the photographer vultures?

Who am I to call declare someone a vulture? By what standards is someone considered a vulture? Is there a clearly defined border separating an effective investigative reporter and a vulture? Are vultures defined by the intentions of pursuing a specific story, the means in which they acquire information for their story or purely by the results of a story’s publication? Is it ever necessary or justified for a reporter/journalist to become a vulture in order to access certain information? I really have no authority on making this judgement; however, for the sake of taking a position, I don’t think Dianna Sugg or her photographer were vultures. By virtue of her consciousness of her propensity to become a vulture in this situation, Sugg informed many of her decisions around avoiding vulture-like behavior. As evidenced by the overwhelming number of quotes, some of which are offered below, this was something she clearly grappled over.

  • “What if we hurt him? What if he didn’t want it?”
  • “How much had I taken advantage of R.J. and his family?”
  • “Would the story hurt his already devastated mother?”
  • “How much would it really matter?”
  • “I couldn’t help crying, couldn’t help asking myself if R.J. was suffering too much”
  • “I could hear the rapid, harsh click of Monica’s shutter, the scratch of my pen across the pages of my notebook.”Placeholder Image
  • “Deep down, I worried that, to achieve that good, R.J. and his mother might pay a price.”
  • “Maybe this just wasn’t a newspaper story. Maybe, in my ambition, I had gone too far.”

This was a long, incredibly complex reporting process. How does that compare to what you generally think reporters do? 

For the purposes of answering this question, I provide quotes that exemplify themes that demonstrate how the reporting process presented here deviates from the commonly held perception of reporters/journalists:

Responsibility: Sugg places a tremendous amount of responsibility to bear the emotional burden that she is able to withstand in order to tell a story accurately and compassionately.

  • “I held onto the words of Poynter’s Chip Scanlan: Mine your own emotional territory. Do the stories only you can do. If I could only do a few stories, they should be the ones that were calling me.”

Purpose informed by compassion and empathy: Sugg finds her purpose in harnessing her compassion and empathy to bring about social change and societal and individual betterment.

  • “Over time, I saw how these stories opened up taboos and brought healing. I got a glimpse of my power to do good in this world, and it emboldened me.”
  • “But then I did what is always the best policy: I followed my heart.”

Humility: Sugg acknowledges that her “flimsy words” are inadequate to explain the reality of what she experienced, and, therefore, uses direct quotations from the character’s themselves and realizes that she can only do the best of her abilities.

  • “I realized the things I was witnessing were more powerful than my flimsy words could ever capture.”
  • “I have no other words for that moment, except the ones of R.J. himself.”
  • “I needed to find the thing that would save my story and was so busy trying to get it right, that I couldn’t see I would never get it right. I could only do my best.”

Perseverance: Sugg’s willingness to be so involved and dedicated emotionally and physically in this story is a rarity in the realm of journalism

  • “I knew the big secret in journalism, that we often give up too soon.”

To view these articles that this blog is based on click on the following links: Angels and Ghosts: Anatomy of a Story and The Most Difficult Journey


Response to assigned Sugg readings

Blur: printing press and television

The series of transformations described in Blur function as a collective body to narrate the story of communication through time up to this point. It is really difficult to isolate only two of the transformations as being of paramount importance. Do I select one of the earlier transformations as it served as a stepping stone for transformations to come? Do I choose a more recent transformation that has seemingly more impact on my personal life? Should I create a systematic calculation that considers factors from each of the transformations and select the two transformations that receive the highest scores?

By way of review, Blur notes distinct transformations in communication.

  • The written word established “permanence, complexity, and mobility” to communication
  • The printing press made it possible to produce writings and literature in mass quantities
  • The telegraph allowed for the rapid dispersal of news and information over long distances
  • The radio even further advanced the speed of information flow allowing for the public to know of events within minutes of their occurrence; the radio also was a conduit for national cohesion and unity
  • The television permitted the public to engage another sense into the method we digest news/information: sight
  • Digital technology granted people unprecedented access to information and news on their own time

The first transformation that I highlight is the advent of the printing press. What distinguished the printing press from other transformations was the evolution in thought that accompanied that transformation in communication. Around 1450, Johannes Gutenberg invented the printing press. Prior to his invention, all written forms had to be copied by hand and were incredibly expensive to purchase, exclusive only to the rich. However, with the printing press, large quantities of literature could be produced and were accessible to a wider audience. This kick-started a sudden increase in both writing and reading, and literacy rates skyrocketed. As a result, there was a rise in empirical thought. People were more critical and reflective of their surroundings and sought explanations for what they saw. People were able to take ownership of their own thoughts and beliefs; no longer did they have to rely on an outside source of established authority to feed them information. They could interpret and analyze text. Additionally, the printing press catapulted the field of journalism into existence and promoted the concept of public opinion. Furthermore, this spread of information encouraged the notion that people could be self-governing: they could participate in democracy.

The second transformation that I have selected is the arrival of the television. Although this transformation might not hold as much significance or impact as the printing press, I chose it because this allowed people to see the news. It offered another medium to form opinion and incorporated the sense of sight into the way in which we consume information. The television had the capacity to unify in a way unlike any other of its communication predecessors. The New York Times even has an entire section dedicated to Television.

Although I chose the emergence of the printing press and the television as the two most important transformations in communication, it is critical to examine how each of the aforementioned transformations contribute to the development of communication and how it got us to where we are today.

Placeholder Image
digital technology as newest transformation in technology. (photo credit: wordpress)


Blur: printing press and television

World of (Dis)Connections

Before all else, it is important to note the breach between the extraordinary promise of an online social world and the current landscape of our online social world. The online social world is endowed with remarkable potential. As Jenna Wortham notes in her article, social media can be used as a platform to better understand one another, thereby, expanding our worldviews and empathy for one another. Using the online social world, ideas and information are reached and shared more often than at any other point in history. Over and above that, the online social world has the capacity to forge a world of connections.

However, the online social world that we are familiar with bears little resemblance to this ideal. Rather than growing in understanding, we are affirmed in our narrow-mindedness by likeminded people, and the beliefs of those that we don’t agree with remain unseen. Such happenings occur with the aid of an algorithm that considers your browser history and online contacts to display what it thinks will be pleasing to you. In our pursuit of knowledge, remarkable and well-founded ideas are buried and obscured in ideas with no basis in thought and information lacking in credibility. Another hindrance in our quest for knowledge online is featured in the documentary “Citizenfour.” In brief, “Citizenfour” tells the story of Edward Snowden, a brilliant man who forgoes his successful career and comfortable lifestyle by becoming a whistleblower on the NSA in order to make the American public aware of its blatant lies and invasive operations that compromise the privacy of the American public. One justifies his (what some people believe to be) treasonous acts with the hope that one day Americans can freely search and pursue knowledge without the fear of being monitored online: the unrestricted exploration of curiosities and interests. Moreover, contrary to constructing a world of connections, we are building a world of disconnections and misconceptions perpetuated by online profiles that give way to unrealistic perceptions and expectations.

Due to my lack of social media, I do not have much personal experience to draw from to assess the benefits and drawbacks of a life and relationships lived online. However, I read a collection of short essays written by Meghan Daum compiled in “My Misspent Youth” that I will use as my source into this unfamiliar world. In her essay “On the Fringes of the Physical World,” Daum speaks of her encounter with a particular relationship fashioned online. Daum was contacted through email by a man with the username PFSlider who was a big fan of her writing. Although Daum didn’t usually respond to emails of this nature, this one seemed different. A correspondence began and quickly blossomed into flirtation and eventual relationship. She explained their online setting as “a neat little space in which [they] were both safe to express the panic and intrigue of [their] mutual affection” (17). However, she was lulled into “the false comforts of the cyberspace persona” as an “avenue for remoteness” (19), and, therefore, when PFSlider flew to New York to see Daum, “the physical world invaded [their] space” (20). It was clear that they were utterly incompatible. She eloquently explains the role that the medium of email had on their relationship in the following quotation:

My Misspent Youth by Meghan Daum (Photo credit: Elizabeth Rudigier)

“E-mail had become an electronic epistle, a yearned-for rule book. The black and white of the type, the welcome respite from the distractions of smells and weather and other people, had in effect allowed us to be vulnerable and passionate enough to actually care about something. It allowed us to do what was necessary to experience love. It was not the Internet that contributed to our remote, fragmented lives. The problem was life itself” (27-28).

This is just one of many opinions on relationships lived online; this particular relationship did not sustain in the physical world, but that is not to say that all online relationships will have the same fate.

World of (Dis)Connections

Navigating this Digital World

In this post, I am merely responding to remarks and questions I found noteworthy from this week’s readings and prompt

“They [digital technologies] are so much a part of our everyday lives that we often don’t think about them.”

I do not completely agree with this statement. Digital technologies are undoubtedly a part of our everyday lives. We have unprecedented access and exposure to these technologies. Our lifestyles have become seemingly dependent on their proper functioning. However, I question the merit of the second part of the statement: We often don’t think about them. Because most of us still have a space to distance and disentangle ourselves from technology’s reach, we still think about them. We maintain a basis for comparison in their presence and absence. It may be that digital technologies’ absence frightens us. Such an absence would disrupt our patterns of living and force major changes. Somewhere deep within our brains we consider this hypothetical situation a possible reality, so we remain grateful for its continued proper functioning and in fear and awareness of its possible removal. Personally, I continue to marvel at the fact that I carry around a super computer in my pocket. And even (especially in a daydreaming-conducive environment such as lounged on a sofa in front window on a sunny day thereby allowing you to assume the position of a sunbathing cat) I wonder what the pioneers of computers would think about it. It is interesting to consider how future generations will think (or not think) about digital technologies as they are becoming increasingly used and introduced at a young age

Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the amount of messages and email?

Being an introvert and someone who has an aversion to being tied to schedules and obligations, I am easily overwhelmed by all of this social stimulation. Introversion is commonly substituted with shyness, yet they mean two different things. When I write “introvert,” I draw from a definition given by Susan Cain in her TedTalk: “introverts feel at their most alive and their most switched-on and their most capable when they’re in quieter, more low-key environments.” I am “most switched-on” when my technology is switched off. The constant bombardment of messages and email disrupts the low-key environment that I love and in which I operate best. Typically partnered with these messages and emails are commitments to be at a certain place at a certain time to do a certain task for a certain purpose. Swiftly, your schedule (over)fills with these activities/events that rise to paramount importance in order to meet an obligation you feel as though you must uphold. Before you know it, your schedule is fueling a dangerous cycle that places your identity in how much you can accomplish rather than in the content of your character. Your life becomes increasingly busier and complex trying to affirm your identity in the number of events that you do. When you finally have to a second to catch your breath, all you want is to return to a place of simplicity.

Do you sometimes feel as if you aren’t in the moment but busy figuring out what everyone else is doing or busy trying to capture a photo?

I intentionally do not own any social media accounts in part because I know that I would waste my time figuring out what everyone else is doing

My sisters and I doing one “cool, meaningful” thing among an infinite number of possibilities. (Photo credit: Elizabeth Rudigier)

(and subsequently comparing by own circumstances to theirs). Doing so would lower engagement in whatever it was that I was doing, taking away
from a potentially awesome, genuine experience. However, adopting a posture of “JOMO” (Joy of missing out) would extinguish the need to figure out what everyone else is doing. JOMO grasps the reality that there is a “limitless number of cool or meaningful things we’re not doing” and releases us from the suffocating impulse to compare. May we revel in how extraordinarily lucky are we to live in a place where this is the case.



Navigating this Digital World