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Twitter: A Microblogging Review

Twitter provides constant, accessible stream of information

By Christina Edwards

November 21, 2008

There’s no such thing as too rapid when it comes to information, at least for the three million plus users on Twitter.

Twitter is a free microblogging service that launched on the Web in 2006. Messages posted are 140 characters or less, which provides a constant stream of short informational updates. Users range from news organizations such as CNN, to bloggers and the average citizen keeping friends and family updated easily.

“With its requirement for people to squeeze their thoughts into 140 characters or less, Twitter is a perfect tool for a fast-paced, mobile society,” said Janna Anderson, director of a research project called Imagining the Internet. “Compressed information fits and it offers quick-hitting details we can apply to our lives. Most of the early adopters using Twitter to communicate today are writing on the road, from conferences, sales calls and other mobile situations in which they want to share tightly written information chunks. It first caught on at the South By Southwest media conference in Austin, Texas, just a couple of years ago. It has since been used by political campaigns, businesses and media organizations to quickly brief people on developing situation.”

As someone fairly familiar with the Internet world of information, I’ve only had a marginal experience with Twitter, having seen updates streamed on blogs. I signed up for an account and started exploring.


The Accesiblity Factor

Twitter is free and takes just a few minutes to set up. All that’s required is an email and a password, so Twitter gets automatic points for the easy sign up process. At the same time, anyone can sign up, which comes with the implications of an unfiltered “news” stream.

Posting a message is easy, too: the textbox is at the top of the page. It also counts how many characters used as you type. Simple.

Searching for news feeds to follow becomes a little more difficult. When you enter in a search term, the engine brings up every message containing the terms. The advanced search option allows you to specify whether you are searching words or conversations or places. Searching for specific users is not easily accessible.

How Informative Is It?

How informative Twitter is depends on how often a newsfeed is updated. Updates can happen constantly. I decided to “follow” the US World and News Report, BBC, and the Huffington Post. The Huffington Post, over a course of four hours, updated constantly, providing news every few minutes.

The pertinence of the information, however, is another matter entirely. Over the same four hours, the most talked about subject was the new Twilight movie—on the same day Hillary Clinton said she would accept a Secretary of State nomination.

The Format

Twitter is formatted to be unintimidating. The layout of the actual site can be chosen by the user: the choices are reminiscent of personal blogging platform Livejournal. This doesn’t have to be a stuffy, professional news atmosphere to getting information: a plus for civilian accessibility, but slightly off-putting to the professional.

The stream of news feeding on the home page is both immediate enough to appeal to those searching for constant information and comforting to those more used to Facebook status updates.

Overall

Twitter is an effective means of communicating short messages in a more than timely manner. But I’m not yet convinced that it’s the future of information: it’s shallowly informative. And currently, finding real information is like sifting through soil to find gems.

My Twitter feed, as I set up my account.

Timeline of Online Journalism

Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s, and others provide incentive for voting

Companies provide incentive to get out the vote

By Christina Edwards

November 4, 2008

Courtesy my.barackobama.com

Courtesy my.barackobama.com

This election, exercising your right to vote can earn you the right to free food and beverages.

On November 4, participating Starbucks stores offered a free 12 oz. coffee to anyone who voted. According to Kaleigh Plumb, a worker at the Burlington Square Mall store, this incentive has proved popular: business doubled throughout the day.

“We’ve had a really good turn out,” said Plumb. “I didn’t personally expect it, because we didn’t really advertise for very long. But I guess people saw it and talked about it.”

In addition to Starbucks, Ben and Jerry’s, Krispy Kreme, and Shane’s Rib Shack also offered free merchandise for election day, though these establishments did not require customers to vote first.

Shane’s Rib Shack’s election day promotion gave away orders of free chicken tenders to the first 300 customers. A manager at the Alamance Crossing store declined to speak about the decision for the promotion.

Krispy Kreme’s 85 company-owned stores gave away star shaped donuts, and encouraged its 145 franchises to do the same.

Ben and Jerry’s offered free scoops of ice cream between 5-8 p.m. to any customer at participating stores. The company also launched a Facebook event to advertise the promotion, as well as a section of their website called I Voted.

“Starbucks likes to take part in doing good things for the community and the country,” said Plumb. “Our company is very involved in everything, I think we just wanted to encourage people to go out and vote.”

Ben and Jerry’s “I Voted” Site

Starbucks Election Day Ad.

Categories: News, Uncategorized Tags:

International students blend cultures from different societies

by Christina Edwards

October 14, 2008

Elon University is nationally recognized for the number of students it sends abroad each year. But for some Elon students, an international experience was just part of growing up. Seniors Chika Kusakawa and Jordan Mohr were both born outside of the United States, and have successfully blended both cultures.

Kusakawa was born in Japan and moved to California when she was 5 years old because of her father’s job. As a child, she had to learn to balance both the Japanese and American cultures.

“I attended Japanese language school for about six or seven hours on the weekends, so my weekends were cut short, which I hated,” Kusakawa said. “But I am now very appreciative of that since I have the ability to communicate easily with all of my family, relatives and friends. Growing up in two languages was a norm for me. I wonder what it’s like to know only one language.”

Mohr also speaks more than one language — he knows four. He was born in Germany and lived in Germany, Singapore, Guatemala and Mexico before moving to Greensboro, N.C., when he was 12.

“[We spoke] English usually,” he said of his family. “But for the first two or three years of my life, I learned Bahasa-Indonesian when I lived in Singapore. When I was a kid growing up in Weinheim, I naturally was taught German. As I moved to Guatemala and Mexico, I learned Spanish.”

In addition to being multilingual, both students have taken advantage of the cultures and traditions of more than one society.

“New Year’s is such a large holiday in Japan, we celebrate with a traditional meal every day for three days straight,” Kusakawa said. “But we still do the countdown and the party hats on New Year’s Eve. There are also children’s days in Japan, which we used to celebrate. [We] also celebrated Thanksgiving. It was fun celebrating the traditions of both cultures throughout the year.”

But having a multi-national identity wasn’t always easy for the students.

“There have been times when people hear me speaking Japanese and assume I don’t understand English,” Kusakawa said. “I feel judged. Or they speak slower or down to me. But once I start speaking English, they realize that I understand them perfectly fine. It’s fun to see their reaction.”

For Mohr, the stereotyping surpassed borders.

“My dad once told me as I was being pushed in the stroller I’d randomly sing the Indonesian national anthem,” he said. “Sure enough, the locals would do a double take as they saw this brown-haired, blue-eyed Caucasian kid sing in Bahasa.”

Such experiences shaped his younger years, but Mohr has no regrets.

“I should say that my childhood was vastly different,” said Mohr. “I understand that not many young Americans have the chance to see the world. I highly recommend that seeing the land of your ancestors gives you tremendous appreciation for who you are.”

Kuskawa said she believes her experiences have been somewhat universal.

“I never felt lost or overwhelmed in one culture over the other,” Kusakawa said. “I always knew where I was from and have always been proud of that. I’ve had times when I felt like I stuck out of the crowd, but I think everyone has those moments in life.”

Categories: Features, Uncategorized

Kay Hagan Runs for Senate Seat in High Stress Campaign

In Kay Hagan’s race against Elizabeth Dole, gender is the only thing that isn’t an issue

By Christina Edwards

     Sarah Palin, move over.

     This election cycle has the possibility of a historical outcome for women in politics with the Republican vice presidential nominee. But in NC, history has already been made: this year’s race for US Senate is the first with female candidates on both sides.

     “This is the first time we’ve had two women running, no matter what, NC will have a woman in the senate, we’ve had a woman there. But I’m going to win,” said current NC state senator Kay Hagan, the Democratic nominee.

     Hagan is running against incumbent Republican US Senator Elizabeth Dole. Dole, who was elected to the US Senate in 2002, was NC’s first female senator.

     “I’ve watched her in the Senate, and she’s been ineffective. So I thought why not take her on?” said Hagan of her decision to run for Senate.

     As a child, Hagan’s first brush with politics came while helping her uncle, US Senator and Florida Governor Lawton Chiles and watching her father serve as mayor as Lakeland, Florida.  Currently, Hagan is serving her fifth term in the NC senate and has been named one of the state’s top ten most effective senators three terms in a row.

     Hagan cites her three now adult children, Jeanette, Tilden, and Carrie, as a major reason for her political involvement. At a Women for Obama rally in Greensboro September 18, Hagan opened the event by telling the crowd that her daughters were the reason why she believed pay equity and healthcare were such important issues in the election, stressing the importance of the women’s vote on these issues.

     “I think women vote on the issues rather than parties, so of course that’s important to reach,” Hagan said.

    Once on stage, Michelle Obama thanked Hagan for speaking, emphasizing the importance of the tight senatorial race to Washington politics in general.

 

     “We can’t forget what’s going on in these local races because [Obama’s] going to need some help when he gets to the White House,” said Obama.

     Much like the presidential race, the already close, crucial race has become even more analyzed in recent weeks as the financial crisis comes to the forefront.

     “We need to lift debt burden on the next generation. We need to include financial literarcy in high schools. We need to strengthen up start up tax deduction and fight for energy independence,” said Hagan to a group of small business owners at a roundtable in Greensboro September 29. “We need to invest in American success.”

     In response the gas shortage that hit the state in the aftermath of Hurricane Gustav, Hagan stated that she felt the system handled the crisis well.

      “I thought that Governor Easley handled the situation as well as possible, calling for more supplies quickly. People need to not hit the panic button. And we’ve got to be sure our refineries are up to speed,” Hagan said.

     The Dole campaign disagrees.     

     “I shudder to think what she’s going to do in Washington if she thinks that was well handled. You’ll be hard pressed to find anyone in the state that thinks it was well handled,” said Dan McLagan, spokesman for the Dole campaign.

     As result of this race being so close and coming at such an economically crucially time, both sides have been trading negative attacks. A Dole advertisement labeled Hagan “Fibber Kay,” likening her to a yapping dog. Hagan’s campaign has released the 92 Days, 92 Ways email campaign, detailing ways Dole is wrong for the state.

     “Her campaign has been one of the most negative and vicious we’ve seen in NC, and even nationally,” said McLagan who says Hagan’s campaign has spent nearly 20 million in negative advertisements. “She’s done nothing to tell voters who she is.”

     Hagan, of course, disagrees.

    “Trust me, I will be back here,” Hagan said to business owners in Greensboro. “We need somebody to go to work for us.”

 

 

Elon Students to Participate in CBS Voting Poll

by Christina Edwards

October 5, 2008

According to an email sent on October 5 by Smith Jackson, Vice President for Student Life and Dean of Students at Elon University, approximately 3000 students will recieve an email invitation to participate in the CBS News Youth Vote Poll.

The poll is conducted by Cornell University’s Survey Research Institute and will survey students in four swing states in the presidential election. The survey will cover opinions on candidates, level of engagement, and politics in the age of the internet.

Survey results will be broadcast on the CBS Evening News with Katie Couric, as well as broadcast in the October 27 issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education, and posted online at cbsnews.com, chronicle.com and uwire.com.

Journalistic Analysis: Crime and Courts

crime-and-courts

Mental Evalutation Ordered for Mom Accused of Killing Girls
Washington Post
Keith L. Alexander

This piece expands upon the trial of a women held in a D.C. jail and accused of the murders of her four daughters. This article informs that a mental evaluation has been order in the process of the trial after her attorneys reported that she has refused to discuss an insanity plea with them. While the piece is written fairly straight forwardly in order to just inform and keep the audience updated, but some of the quotations and descriptors used draw insight into the case and add dimension to the case. The piece also centrally explores questions on city protection of children and looks into the whys of the crime in a relatively short article.
The piece juxtaposes the attorneys push for her to take an insanity with her reluctance to, using descriptors of her rolling her eyes when it was suggested. The quote used was equally compelling. “He’s trying to push the insanity plea,” Jacks said. “I’d rather plead not guilty. Period. Straight out.” The second part in particular gives off an edge of stubbornness with the short, one word sentences and finality of the words, giving the reading insight into the convicted woman.

Bullet Felt like a ‘Sledgehammer’
Washington Post
Christopher Davenport

This piece details the shooting of an Alexandria police officer during a “routine” traffic stop. The writer uses descriptive language and a chronological direct telling of the event in storytelling style, making it more compelling and easier to read. It also played heavily on the human aspect by focusing on the shot officer and speaking to him and his family. A lot of the event was told through his words. The story also took a secondary focus on the police force, with focus on the bulletproof vests and the closing quote with the officer saying “I can’t wait to return to work.” This takes the story beyond the dry informing on a crime.
The story opens abruptly with “The bullet hit him in the chest, right over his heart, and it felt like being belted “with a sledgehammer.” This is a very affecting, intriguing lead, rather than a clear cut who, what, when, where, why. This is a very vivid description as well. The description the driver is similarly intriguing. I also really liked that the sentence structure itself was interesting, with the one word questions set off by commas. The technicalities of the writing made the piece itself a lot more interesting that just a textbook retelling of the information.

DNA Technology Moves Forward
Washington Post
Matt Zapotosky

This article is focused on the development of new Touch DNA technology, which uses skin cells shed on objects to match DNA, and the way it’s propelled crime investigation. The author creates a narrow focus point of interest by using a specific case to describe the new technology, a twelve years unsolved rape case. It also focuses on the proponent of the new technology at the Maryland State Police, Shelly Progovitz, threading her through the story as a citizen taking action to better the system, providing another human aspect for the reader to latch onto.
The technical structure of this piece is also very interesting; the other threads single sentence paragraphs into the piece on occasion, which provide a larger impact in the middle of all of the large blocks of storytelling and information.
The author also interweaves numerical fact, such as the cost of the technology, with the anecdotal sections, providing balance.

Humboldt Park Man Shot to Death Outside His Home
Chicago Tribune
Carlos Sadovi

This article reports the murder of Gregory Jones outside of his home on Saturday. The piece opens up to reader interest, starting with a clear image of the man lying “dying in the street” and telling his fiancé that he knew the people who shot him. The article informs early on that Jones died before telling his fiancé the name of the person who did it, but this opening provides initial interest in the case. By opening this way, the reader gets invested in the victim and the victims family and therefore are more likely to care about the details of the case.
This article also does a good job of balancing numerical statistics with the human aspect. The story interweaves this specific crime with a crime trend of homicide rates in Chicago on the rise and uses statistics, but does a good job of making sure the statistics mean something to the reader.

Many Stark Contrasts as Simpson is Convicted
New York Times
Steve Friess

This piece reports on the O.J. Simpson trial in recent weeks, specifically focusing on the contrasts between the trial now and the trial over 14 years ago. The writer uses imagery of fans outside of the courthouse in comparison to the mostly empty press tents to provide a more vivid impact. The article focuses on both the lack of public interest and the change in demeanor and confidence level in Simpson.

Categories: Uncategorized

Elon Survey on Vice Presidential Debate

Elon Survey Finds Vice Presidential Debates to Lean in Biden’s Favor, Palin Exceeds Expectations.

By Christina Edwards

October 3, 2008

debateAs Election day draws nearer with only 31 days left in the campaign, Gov. Sarah Palin and Sen. Joseph Biden met in the televised vice presidential debate Thursday night. Most post-debate comments from pundits found the debate to be fairly even, with a slight favor to Biden.

An informal survey of 230 Elon students, faculty, and staff found that 37 percent of the people surveyed thought Biden won the debate.  The survey was conducted by 18 students in a Reporting course who gathered a convenience sample, polling Elon individuals in person, by phone and online between 10:50 and 11:30 a.m. Friday.

“While I think both did very well, Biden comes off as more knowledgable,” said Pamela Moffitt of Elon’s Multicultural Center.

Most expert analysts found Biden to provide more specific responses while Palin’s spirited responses likely provided viewer appeal to Sen. John McCain’s target Republican base.

“I don’t know that I would say anyone really won. I thought they both did well. I think Palin did better than a lot of people had expected her to, based on the press leading up to it,” said Mallory Anderson, director of the Center for Leadership. “I think they both skirted the issues a lot. Biden responded to what people were interested in and did a good job of representing his campaign, and Palin did a good job in countering that.”

Palin, who has served one term as Governor of Alaska, has had her experience called into question particularly after a recent shaky interview with Katie Couric. 23 percent surveyed said they believed Palin won the debate, with another 12 percent saying she tied with Biden.
“I think Palin did better than a lot of people had expected her to, based on the press leading up to it,” said Anderson.

“I think they both did really well. They both explained their policies well and defended them well,” said Alexa Battey, senior.

28% surveyed either did not watch the debates or wished not to respond.