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Weak Reporting

11 December 2013

“I read the news today, oh boy,
About a luck man who made the grade.
 And though the news was rather sad,
 Well, I just had to laugh…”

I know you are completing the lyrics to the Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” in your mind right now…. BUT….

…suddenly this post decays into a recitation of Twitter and/or Facebook comments about the man who “blew his mind out in a car” and “didn’t notice that the lights had changed” that I simply use to fill space. It doesn’t maintain a strong voice. It degrades into weak reporting. The reporter reveals a weak voice, pads the article with comments culled from Internet posts (often set diametrically to give alternative viewpoints), and gives into the pressures of deadline.

Instead of taking the opportunity to contact people — people within the community within the geographic location involved with subject of the article — the reporter peruses Twitter, Facebook, or some other online multiverse and allows someone else’s comment to become the voice of the reporter. A good reporter can weave others’ responses to interview questions into an article and not lose the his or her voice. A weak reporter allows his or her voice to be supplanted by the posted comments of the Internet multiverse.

It is happening more and more often. I am sure you have read the news recently and said, “Oh boy… this article goes no where.” News agencies should demand more of reporters. Readers should demand more of reporters. Reporters should demand more of themselves. Very simply, if the reporter resorts to reciting online social comments, he or she has not dug deep enough. The reporter has not done his or her job.

The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life” was largely written by John Lennon as he culled headlines from the news of the day. There’s more depth to “A Day in the Life” (which in my opinion is the Beatles’ magnum opus) than to the shallow, cynical comments of the relatively anonymous online post. Had Lennon simply recited the news AND the news been comprised of online comments, we might have read that a crowd of online anonimati was “not really sure if it was the singer Lorde.”

And who knows where a slow news day would have taken that one.

Awakenings

4 June 2012

For the last year and a half, I have been working at Illinois Central College.  The first six months there, I worked as a desktop technician.  I applied for an open network technician position and have been working in that position for a year now.  It has been a great place to work.

My wife graduated with honors from nursing school in December and now works on an OB floor at local hospital.

What we’ve learned is to struggle through and you will achieve good, if not great, things.  It takes hard work and perseverance.

Outside of work, I have been writing some fiction and a couple of screenplays.  I am nearing a release of a few short stories.  They will be sold individually and as a collection in different ebook formats.  More stories will follow, perhaps even a novel or two.  In addition, I will be pitching a couple of screenplays.  My hope is the earnings will help me pay for college.  I want to return to college to earn an elementary school teaching certificate, so I can teach junior high mathematics and computers.

As for this blog, I will resume posting articles on Linux and software when family and time permits.  Life is full of awakenings on paths we choose as well as on paths we do not choose.  Recent paths continue to lead me away from technology, computers, software and operating systems.  And this is the journey with my family that I am enjoying most.

Using Google Docs Optical Character Recognition

18 December 2010

From 1991 through 1996, I wrote on a Brother word processor that was comprised of an electronic typewriter attached to a monitor.  The monitor displayed amber characters and it was great.  Edits could be made on the screen without needing to be corrected on the paper.  My resume and cover letters were stored on one diskette.  I had a database for mail mergers on another diskette.  It did well for my job search then, but the main reason I had the word processor was to write fiction.  I filed two file cabinet drawers with fiction and submitted one short story.  It was published and later nominated for an Illinois Arts Council Award.  Then life and work interrupted and I let that dream slip away. Read more…

Formatting Monsters

18 December 2010

If you use OpenOffice, I’m sure you’ve encountered formatting monsters when dealing with files saved in Microsoft Office‘s proprietary formats.  And more often than not, you become the monster as you wrestle with the formatting to try to return the document to its well-structured condition.  Then you press save and hope the other party sees a well-structured document when he/she opens it.  But what is often revealed is Frankenstein.  The body parts are still there, but the stitching and proportioning will make it appear you are still flunking Monster Making 101. Read more…

Being drastically underemployed

8 September 2010

For much of the last 12 years, I have worked IT jobs.  For all of the last three months, I have made pizzas for minimum wage.

Every time I drive off for work, I struggle with hope.  I do this for my family.  I do not do this for me.  I can honestly understand why men abandoned their families during the Great Depression.  It is much more than humbling.  For the sense of self worth, it is humiliating.  Granted there have been times I have come to better appreciate the struggles of others who have long worked such jobs.  The struggle is in knowing that I have done better and can do better, but for the troubling economic times.

I hope my underemployment soon changes for the better, for I am very near the end of this.

Linux switch

5 September 2009

I have used Ubuntu Linux for years.  I enjoy using Ubuntu, but the problem I have had lately is that my hardware has aged.  My desktop runs on an AMD Duron CPU.  My laptop runs on an Intel Atom CPU.  My next desktop will likely run with an Intel Atom.  I do not have a need to be cutting edge.  I simply have a need to be able to work from my computer… writing, surfing, emailing.  Nothing more.

Ubuntu worked well for years, but I am tired of it not working after a fresh install or breaking after an upgrade.  On the desktop, it is usually due to my NVidia video card.  I do not have the time or patience to track down fixes.

Debian, on the other hand, works.  I may spend time upfront configuring a few things, but I find it works and updates/upgrades smoothly.

So I contemplate switching from Ubuntu to Debian…  Am I alone in this consideration?

Finishing a screenplay

4 September 2009

I finished the major draft of my spec script and began eliminating unnecessary scenes, compacting it, and fixing a few ambiguities in the story.  I estimate 20 hours of work left until I can comfortably let it be read.

The problem is finding the time.  I lost my IT job, which helped me finish the story.  But put a severe financial strain on my family.  So I really need a job.  Really need a job.  I submit applications and resumes almost daily.  My location is not a hot bed for IT jobs and in this economy it really sucks.

But how is it I don’t have time to write when I am out of work?  My wife is working full-time toward a bachelor’s degree in nursing and working part-time on the weekends as a CNA at a nursing home.  We have four children.  The youngest three are four-years-old, almost three-years-old, and 17-months-old.  Interruptions never seem to cease.  At their ages, they do not understand Dad is at work.  They see that I am at home… with them!

So I write when I can.  When I don’t have time to write, I carry around index cards and jot down ideas when they come or most often, when I resolve a scene transition or a stubborn scene.  I have written scenes on index cards.  I have also done late night and all night writing sessions.  Whatever it takes.  Writing is my profession.  It just does not pay the bills yet.  I forgo some sleep, but hey… I still function well enough that the kids know I am awake.  Like me sleeping would prevent them anyway.

John August had a recent post on writing.  I agree fully with his views.  To be a writer, be professional and write.  It is that simple.

After years of ignoring my need to write, I now know it is what I have to do.  There was a void in my life not being filled by earning paychecks doing jobs that seemed to suck the life out of me.  Writing fills it.

What bothers me is that my family is now financially caught in this creative gamble that is a spec script.  It may end up breaking my family.  I am willing to drudge through more IT work.  But I am more than willing to go to the edge for my craft.

When I take that next step, I hope my family has climbed upon my back.  I am taking that step for them.

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