Hopefully what I’m learning isn’t completely irrelevant

Someone brought up in class the other day that they thought the skills being taught in UNC’s Journalism School will be outdated soon after students graduate. Their argument was that technology is changing so quickly that many of the skills used today won’t be tomorrow.

Being in the school, it’s easy to see where this train of thought comes from. I know people who learned how to edit video on Final Cut, and, by their next video editing class, the school had switched to Premiere. I’m no expert, but I think it’s safe to assume that other technologies in fields like graphic design and web design are changing, and will continue changing, as well. So, many of the technical skills that are taught may not apply for very long.

Someone brought up a counterargument that resonated with me. The technical skills aren’t what matters. The meat of what we are learning is how to think. And, while that could change with time too, I still think a lot of what we learn will continue to be valuable. Knowing how to interview, write, and think critically are skills that will continue to be sought by employers. And, if my generation has proven one thing, we can adapt to changing technology.

Why credibility is falling

A 2012 study from the Pew Research Center revealed that average positive believability for major news organizations was at fifty-six percent, and it has been dropping for at least ten years. Assuming the trend has continued, it more than likely is even lower now.

How trusted a news source is also is affected by the consumer’s political views. Local news television and Fox News predictably rated higher among republicans. Whereas MSNBC rated higher among democrats. the New York Times also rated higher among democrats than republicans, but its overall positive believability has dropped.

I can’t say I know for sure why credibility is declining, but I have an idea. Media has become so big that many people view media companies as establishments. Criticisms that include phrases like “mainstream media” or “corporate media” are commonplace. A lot of people no longer view media companies as companies that serve to hold those in power in check. Instead, they view media companies as the ones in power, with nothing to check them.

I think a major contributing factor to this is the politicization of news media. Networks like Fox and MSNBC deliberately picking sides takes away from the idea of impartial journalism. It is normal for media companies to have a political slant, so consumers assume that almost all of them do.

NPR’s podcast success

NPR doubled its podcast revenue last year and apparently is on track to do it again this year. Podcasting is hitting a sweet spot with more and more advertisers and listeners hopping on board. NPR is near the front of the wave, and specific tactics are helping them.

NPR has revamped their podcast library to make it extremely user friendly. Before, NPR’s site contained hundreds of podcasts organized in what seemed to be no particular order. I remember going to the site to look for listening material for a trip, and I just gave up because it was so frustrating. Now, the site is clean and neatly organized. It even gives you podcasts originating from your local station.

NPR has done a great job in making accessing this content easy for the listener, and they say it has grown their audience. They also launched a campaign sometime last year where hosts of NPR shows would promote listening to NPR podcasts.

This audience growth has led to a growth in advertising revenue. Podcast revenue is the fastest growing category for NPR, but still it isn’t near the top. But, as radio listeners fade, podcasts are only going to become more popular. Maybe one day we will see National Public Podcasts.

Reporters aren’t valuable to extremist groups anymore

Gary Pruitt, CEO of the Associated Press, said this week that it should be a war crime to kill or take a journalist hostage. Sixty-one journalists were killed in 2014 while working. The CEO said that international laws should be updated to specifically protect journalists. This might not truly make much of a difference, but he hoped it would raise awareness about how journalists should be treated.

Pruitt said that journalists are being targeted during conflict more than ever because they are no longer needed to get messages out. Social media has made it possible for extremist groups like ISIS to communicate their message without using journalists as middlemen.

Another reason why journalists could be targeted more and more is their vulnerability. Killing a reporter will result in coverage because of the ruthlessness of the killing, and the industries own interest.

Sixty-one journalists killed in a year is a horrific number. I would have never guessed it was that high. If I was a media executive I would have a hard time sending reporters into violent areas. Especially if I knew they would be a particular target. But, if fewer reporters go into these areas, the news coming out of them is controlled by the perpetrators of violence.This makes it all the more important that journalists are afforded all protection that they can be.

FCC censorship is archaic and pointless

We’ve all heard about the seven dirty words and the other limitations placed on network TV. Back in the day, when people actually used public airwaves to access these stations, it made sense to censor the content. Anyone could access it for free as long as they had a TV.

This meant that it would be hard to keep small children from watching inappropriate content if such content was aired, and i think that was a good reason. But now everyone gets network TV through their cable subscription. If you have a cable provider, your kid can see “inappropriate” content anytime they turn on the TV. So limiting networks makes no real sense.

Watching the Emmys, it seems like almost every show that wins is from a cable network. I’m not sure if it is because they have more freedom with what they can show, or because they often have different models than major networks. But regardless, they aren’t on the same playing field.

Regulating what major networks can show is an outdated concept. Networks should be able to show what they want, and, if they want to stay “clean,” they can censor themselves.

Is Facebook taking over everything?

A recently leaked screenshot has revealed that Facebook is developing, or considering developing, a phone application. Mashable speculates that the application would help users screen calls by providing information, and block calls from numbers that are commonly blocked numbers.

As it is described now, I’m just not sure what incentive I would have to get this. As a college student, I don’t really need call screening. I barely ever get a call from someone I don’t know, and when I do, I don’t mind hanging up on one telemarketer a month.

One possible use for the app would be to make calls using wifi. This could potentially be useful when talking to someone overseas, but not much else.

Facebook’s motivation for developing this app is obvious. If they can insert themselves into making phone calls, they are that much more integrated into their users lives. But they are going to have to come up with something more productive to get me to buy in. I see no reason to let Facebook handle my calls just so the caller’s Facebook profile pops up with the ring, and not their phone contact information. Facebook can take over most of my communication, but only if they earn it.

Yes CBS

The NCAA tournament is available for streaming, for free, on my phone. And, once again, the month of March has become the least productive part of my year.

CBS has made a habit out of making all of the games readily available. This isn’t the first year they’ve done it, and I hope it’s not the last. They have done something that I think most media companies are striving to do. CBS has figured out exactly what college basketball viewers want, and has devised a way to give it to them.

The NCAA tournament is hard to watch because of the large amount of games being played in the first few rounds. They have to play throughout the day, which means I can’t watch them on my TV at home. So, CBS created a great, easy to use, streaming website. It’s easy to choose which game I want to watch, and they are all free. And, if I don’t have access to my computer, I can simply download the app and watch on my phone.

I’m always amazed at how convenient and simple this process is each year. But when I think about it, it makes sense why CBS would put such effort into making its content available online for free.

For these first couple rounds, so many of the games are during work hours. CBS has to either accept poor ratings, or gain advertising dollars from online content. It’s an easy decision.