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On the TechCrunch issue

1.      Conflict of interests

After news about his creation of CrunchFund—a venture capital fund to invest in tech companies—broke out, TechCrunch founder Michael Arrington has been denying that he’s a journalist (technically, he is a journalist since he and his team break news). These days, he prefers to be called a blogger and a venture capitalist. Arrington must draw a line between his personal intentions as a businessman and his public obligation as a journalist, simply because mixing the inevitably results to creating…

2.      Apparent biases

What about small companies that are relying on TechCrunch for media mileage? Tough luck, I guess. Now that TechCrunch is under the umbrella of AOL and Arrington has become a full-time VC, it’s only expected that TechCrunch will tread carefully around Crunchfund-ed companies. Why would you write negative reviews about something you’ve invested loads of money in? Even with all TechCrunch’s defenses about editorial independence from Arrignton’s new project, it just doesn’t add up.

3.      Fast, but furious?

“Information is all that matters,” wrote TechCrunch writer MG Siegler in response to everyone who’s been dissing Arrington’s latest outburst. Siegler asserted that TechCrunch employs a “fast and furious” work process—one that is deviant from traditional journalism practices (that’s why they break the most number of tech stories). But really, at the end of the day, what matters is the team’s dedication to serve its readers reliable and unbiased information. 

Don’t ever pull a Stephen Glass

Stephen Glass’ attempt to cover his misgivings as a reporter struck me as oddly audacious. It was definitely bold of him to write about “real” things that never happened. Bold, yes, but stupid.

Because making up stories, no matter how fun it can be, is a mortal sin in journalism.

What should journalists and would-be journalists learn from Stephen Glass? First, that no matter how boring news at the moment may seem, it’s never an option to make things up just to have something exciting to write about.

It’s a reporter’s job to make relevant stories interesting to the public without resorting to sensationalism. But writers easily get lured by the huge market for entertaining stories. This is all the more true in online journalism, where audiences’ attention spans are much more fickle than those of print.

Hence, a big challenge every reporter faces is keeping in mind that there’s a world of difference between the wants and the needs of his audience. A much bigger challenge is writing about the latter as truthfully as he can.

Second, the fact that journalists are the so-called “watchdogs of society” doesn’t warrant that they don’t need to be watched as well. In online journalism, where information is relayed as fast as possible, a deliberate process of fact-checking is very crucial indeed. I do think that this is where professionalism between reporters and their editors really comes in to play. An editor must be wary of the trust he endows his reporters. 

Third, that a journalist should constantly remind himself of his social obligation.  The internet fosters a writing environment which promises an easy means of fame, seemingly absolute freedom, and an opportunity to create an impressive persona for oneself. 

However, a good journalist is like Gandhi. Simply because he doesn’t take advantage of the things mentioned above; he puts the needs of the public ahead of his own. In Stephen Glass’ case, the prospect of fame and having the power to influence influential people distracted him from observing one of the most basic tenets of journalism—that everything he publishes in the name of his profession is entitled to the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth.

Most important lesson learned? Don’t ever pull a Stephen Glass. 

Old school confidential

The first thing that comes to mind when I hear the word media is television. But if I say that TV is the medium that has created the biggest impact in my life, I’d be lying. The mound of books on my bedside table is enough to contest that.

And if the stack of literature beside my bed isn’t enough to illustrate how much of a bookworm I am, take a look inside my closet. Inside my bag. In our living room cabinet. Under my mattress. On the coffee table downstairs. In bookshelves and non-bookshelves.

Better yet, go with me to the mall. I’ll drag you to the bookstore then leave you to endure the agony of watching a girl who couldn’t tear herself away from browsing dusty shelves and scanning book titles. That is, if you don’t love books as much as she does.

My love affair with books began with a thirty-peso copy of “The Princess and the Pea.” Inside its pink hardbound cover were fifteen pages of much-too-large text and beautiful watercolor pictures. I remember leafing through it with the fiery fervor of a four-year-old who had just learned how to read. 

If I were to read the book now, I could probably finish it in five minutes. But reading it then felt like hours; hours that bristled with the promise of an eternity of books and a lifetime of literature.

So that’s exactly what I’m doing: fulfilling the promise by buying books, letting them pile up around the house, and then reading them whenever I can.

And here I am, dreaming of writing my own books someday, so other people would include them in their own haphazard libraries.

The popularity of e-readers today might have most people branding books as “old school”, but I profess to forever be loyal to the classic paperback (and when I become rich enough to sustain my book-buying habit, to the elegant hardbound.)

Old school or not, I like to believe that books—the ones made of paper and ink—are here to stay. For as long as there are curious little four-year-olds who want to read fairy tales, I’m really hoping that they will. 

Sample youth blog content

It’s Kind of a Funny Story: A book review

“I didn’t wanna wake up…Life is a nightmare,” says Craig Gilner, the fifteen-year-old depressed protagonist of Ned Vizzini’s 2006 novel.

Young adult writer Ned Vizzini, who experienced being admitted to a psychiatric ward himself, crafts a funny and touching tale of a young man’s pursuit of happiness—aptly naming his book It’s Kind of a Funny Story.

In today’s fast-paced, success-obsessed society, many teenagers will find themselves relating to the overly ambitious Craig, who becomes depressed when schoolwork at his advanced public high school becomes too much to handle.

Imagine sacrificing your social life by carrying around flashcards to study for a gruelling entrance exam (UPCAT, anyone?). Imagine your best friend getting a perfect score on the said exam without lifting a finger. Imagine your long-time crush falling for your best friend instead of you. Imagine not being able to eat or sleep because you worry about 4 hours of homework every night. Imagine becoming a Nobody in the future because everyone else seems so much smarter than you are.  

Alas! Mental breakdown.

One day, the already clinically depressed Craig decides to put an end to all his misery by jumping off the Brooklyn Bridge. His suicide plan takes an unexpected turn when, out of luck, he comes across the number for the Suicide Hotline.

His snappy decision to save his life starts his whirlwind adventure at Six North, a psychiatric ward for adults.

The motley crew of patients Craig meets help him realize that no matter how crazy and hopeless life may seem, there will always be something—or someone—worth living for.

While a depressed teenager in a psych ward isn’t exactly your run-of-the-mill young adult novel, young people the world over will see themselves in Craig, who struggles to find out where he wants to be in life.

In his rough yet amusing path to recovery, Craig unexpectedly discovers friendship, love, strength, and most of all, the will to live and keep living.

The book was adapted into a 2010 film by Focus Features. It stars Kier Gilchrist, Emma Roberts, and Zach Galifianakis.  

___________________________________________________________________

High school nostalgia

What I can’t understand is how much I wanted to get to college when I was a high school senior. But now that I carry around an ID proving that I’m already in my third year of college, I want to relive my high school experience.

It’s funny how you only realize how great things are when they’re no longer there. And they don’t have to be big, life-affirming things, either. I miss the simple things.

I miss wearing a school uniform, following a dress code, and thinking how bad-ass it is to have nail polished toes. I miss the morning assemblies where most kids lip-synch the school hymn and the national anthem.

I miss giving the teachers funny nicknames. I miss the early-morning rush of everyone doing their homework together because nobody bothered doing it the night before. I miss never being late for class. I miss field trip bus rides.

I miss watching my classmates’ ad-libbed skits. I miss hanging out at the nearby McDonald’s with my classmates every Friday night. I miss eating bad canteen food, exchanging jokes, gossiping when class is over, telling stories when the teacher’s out—all with my friends.

The list goes on.

So if you’re reading this right now and you happen to be a student wishing to fast-forward to your high school graduation, stop. There wouldn’t be a lot of high school movies if high school isn’t all that great. Trust me.  

 I asked some friends what they miss most about high school.  Here are their answers:

My friends and the things we do either for acads or just for fun. —Ivan, 17

I miss how much free time and sleep I used to have in high school. I miss how carefree it used to be. —Keisha, 18

Seeing my friends in school everyday. Sabayang pagbigkas, plays and intrams. —Ello, 19

I miss when teachers call my name. Tapos sasabihin nila: “Mr.Piedad, step out! Now!” Hahaha! —Kenneth 19 

Friends. —Howell, 17

Pagiging naive —Myco, 19 :)

What I miss about high school is being with my friends almost everyday. Plus, classes can be suspended when there’s a typhoon unlike when you’re already working. Haha.  —Achies, 22 

Yung chill na life. —Jemela, 18 

Friends! —Issa, 17. :D

Pagtambay at pagkukwentuhan after class hanggang gumabi na. Haha! —Jenina, 20

I miss everything—friends, carefree days, having high grades without even studying, a lot! - Cj, 21

Classmates, and the way teachers treat their students which is way too different from college. —Mark, 18

Yung hindi kailangan mag-aral weeks before the exam at mataas pa rin ang nakukuha. Kahit magcram (a day before the exam) okay pa rin. —Louis, 18,

Being able to see my friends EVERY DAY of the week. –Ela, 20.

I miss the times where me and my friends hang out together because we have the same breaks and class time. –Grace, 18 

I think being on top in the class and my Language Professor who gave me 99 as my final grade.—Mac, 20 something

The people! :PThat you had an excuse to be stupid. –Reez, 20

 

I miss those dismissal times, when my friends and I wouldn’t go home immediately. Instead, we’d bond and loiter around the school grounds, then stalk our crushes, and feel “kilig” together as a barkada. :)—Cheska,18

Real friends that you could talk to about anything. —Gabriel, 20

My high school friends who I got to see EVERYDAY. College = super busy sched. —Sarah, 19

My classmates. –Sitty, 18

School activities and programs. –Joy, 19

I MISS THE LIGHT WORKLOAD PLEASE PO! —Louisexy, 17

I miss spending Friday afternoons with my friends talking about nonsense. –Jeff, 35

Roleplaying! – Kim, 19

What i miss about highschool? Hmm.. Passing the quizzes without studying. Endless fun with friends. –Julie, 19

I miss the security i felt :) I knew everyone in high school, it was such a small community and i felt like i was friends with everyone. –Hannah, 18

What are young people looking for in a blog or website?

In determining which topics interest today’s Filipino youth, specifically those aged 15-24, we must first consider whom of these young people spend the most time on the web. We must assume then, that young blog readers are those who come from middle and upper-middle class backgrounds with easy internet access and those who are currently enrolled in school or are newly part of the workforce.

Design. Contrary to what most web designers think, young people are not drawn toward overly designed, complicated-looking websites.  Like adults, they also look for clean and simple designs that do not use small fonts. What makes them different from adults is that they have less patience for reading text, since they already have to do a lot of reading in school. This is the reason why they prefer web articles that are easy to scan and use pictures to illustrate concepts.[i]

 Although young readers want image-laden articles, web designers should be careful of weighing down a page with too many pictures because young web users want pages to load quickly.

Interactivity. Interactivity is one of the things that teenagers and young people primarily look for in a website, according to Nielsen Norman Group researchers.[ii]Rather than just sitting and reading, young people want to do things while they are online.

 Web elements that appeal to them include: online quizzes. forms for providing feedback or asking questions, online voting, games, platforms that allow sharing pictures or stories, message boards, forums for offering and receiving advice, features for creating a website or otherwise adding content.

Content. This 2009 graph shows how young adults consume their time on the internet:[iii]

   

A study asserts that young people use the internet for the following: school assignments, hobbies or other special interests, entertainment (including music and games), news, learning about health issues that they’re too embarrassed to talk about, and e-commerce.[iv]

 

With these in mind, here are three topics which I think young Filipinos would like to see in a youth-oriented blog or website. I cited several blogs and websites that would serve as models for my own youth blog.

1.)  POP CULTURE

Books, movies, TV. Young people today live in a deeply media-saturated environment. Big companies continually produce books, movies, and television shows especially made for a young audience. The content of an ideal youth blog, I suppose, should talk about what young people consider as the latest must-reads and must-sees.

With synopses and trailersTeen Hollywood  is the young entertainment buff’s go-to website for new films and TV shows. The site contains the latest entertainment news and celebrity gossip. Also, Teen Hollywood’s sister site—Teen Music—offers music reviews, photos, and interviews.

 

 Aside from weekly reviews of books, shows, or movies, a youth blog should also welcome recommendations from the readers themselves. Webzine TeenInk.com allows readers to register to their website so they can post their own book, movie, and music reviews. Other readers may, in turn, comment on and discuss the contributed articles.


 Music. Music plays a central role in the life of the modern young adult, especially in the digital age. Today, most people are interested to learn about music that would go into their MP3 players.

Rating, reviewing, and recommending music, I think, would not satisfy their need for music. A music-oriented youth blog should have a list of show dates, like Last.fm to keep readers updated on gigs and concerts.

Playlists containing new, must-hear songs can guarantee a good response from blog readers who are also avid music fans.

A good pop culture website that almost has all of the above is MTV.com.

Trends. Young people are greatly interested to learn about the latest trends: food, fashion, new places to visit, etc. I think what’s really crucial in writing about trends is providing interesting pictures. It also helps if the writer vividly describes the food or the place that he or she is writing about. 

 Spot.ph, although not exclusively a youth website, caters to the need of young urbanites to get updated on what’s happening in the local music, dining, and entertainment scene.

 Not just a fashion blog, CollegeFashion.net also provides articles discussing young women’s common problems. This blog usually has “look-for-less” articles and feature stories about the lives of ordinary college students. I think that the content of a youth blog should be relatable as much as possible.


 2.)  ISSUES

Current events. Teens and young adults, a study shows, are not interested in news. Though a big percentage of online news readers are composed of young adults, updating themselves on news isn’t on top of their list of priorities. However, we can say that young people become interested in the news when a particular occurrence—for example, a rise in the price of gadgets or the suspension of classes—directly concerns them.

Even if journalism doesn’t appeal to the typical young adult, there are websites especially created for young people. An example is Read the Tattoo an online news website created by teenagers in 1994. The site showcases journalism pieces written by teens for teens.

  

Channel One News is also a news website for teens:

 

Relationships and sex. While it is true that what interests teenagers greatly depends on their level of maturity, their economic background, and their physical environment, they are generally curious and interested to learn about relationships and sex. Popular among youth websites and print magazines are pages devoted to dating, friendship, and peer pressure.

Problems. Because they are experiencing a transition phase so to speak, young people are interested to learn about sensitive issues such as teen pregnancy, cyber-bullying, social and academic pressure, among others.

gURL.com, a website where young women can discuss personal issues, has an advice column which lets the blog’s subscribers ask for advice. gURL has a page for relationship and sex issues as well.

I want readers to share personal stories and experiences about the things most young people go through. They can be funny and serious real-life stories.

Normally, young people will find comfort in knowing that they’re not alone in experiencing problems. Forums allow them to openly talk about these issues and to offer each other helpful advice.

Spankmag.com has forums catering to both light-hearted and serious issues.

 

3.       CREATIVITY

According to a study about teenagers’ use of digital media, young people use the internet to “geek out.”[v]

The ability to engage with media and technology in an intense, autonomous, and interest-driven way is a unique feature of today’s media environment. Particularly for kids with newer technology and high-speed Internet at home, the Internet can provide access to an immense amount of information related to their particular interests, and it can support various forms of “geeking out”—an intense commitment to or engagement with media or technology, often one particular media property, genre, or type of technology. Geeking out involves learning to navigate esoteric domains of knowledge and practice and participating in communities that traffic in these forms of expertise. It is a mode of learning that is peer-driven, but focused on gaining deep knowledge and expertise in specific areas of interest.

 In my own youth-oriented blog, I want to let readers showcase their art online. I want to provide them an outlet for their creativity. And in doing so, I hope they will eventually step out into the real world to show people what they’re good at.

In these websites (though they are not exclusively designed for teens only), young people are allowed to share their own work with other subscribers

Deviantart.com is a popular online art community.

 Stachemagazine.com is the website of Stache, a local digital magazine put up by college students. The site also has music and fashion pages. The site is also open for art collaborations and submissions.

ScenariosUSA features short films created by aspiring young filmmakers. These films usually delve into problems commonly faced by young people.

In writing for a youth-oriented blog, I think it would be best to keep the tone as conversational as possible. Sentences should be short. It wouldn’t hurt to use slang (or whatever language is “in” these days), too. 

ZOOMING IN ON CHANNEL ONE

Though I think that the websites I mentioned above would do great as models for a youth-oriented blog, what I consider to be the best among them is ChannelOne.comIt exemplifies most of the things I, as a young person myself, want to see in a youth website.

Even if it’s chiefly a news site, ChannelOne balances the serious news articles with entertaining and interesting content—quizzes, polls, book and movie reviews, games, and music recommendations. Students may find the site’s tips on studying and dealing with school very helpful. The site also has a page devoted to articles about health and school matters.

Readers can sign up so they can share content, upload videos, and comment on other readers’ posts. ChannelOne has “interactivity” all covered.

In terms of design, ChannelOne uses a simple, easy-to-navigate layout. Advertisements, most of which are aptly targeted to a young audience, are minimal. The way they are placed on each page isn’t distracting either.  

Keeping updated on ChannelOne’s posts is easy because readers can subscribe to the site via Facebook and Twitter.

All in all, what I really like about this site is how the content is packaged. It introduces teens to significant issues without sounding dull or preachy. I think we need start having more local websites that really cater what young adults need and want to see.Young Filipinos might find it hard to relate to foreign youth websites since they address issues that are more attuned to Western culture. A blog or website following ChannelOne’s format would be a good way to begin. 


[i] http://www.useit.com/alertbox/teenagers.html

[ii] http://www.wired.com/culture/lifestyle/news/2005/02/66514

[iii] http://www.techpin.com/cool-websites-for-teenagers/

 [iv] http://www.useit.com/alertbox/teenagers.html

[v] http://digitalyouth.ischool.berkeley.edu/files/report/digitalyouth-WhitePaper.pdf

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