Breaking the News, or Lacking Context? Periscope and Meerkat Add Depth to Storytelling

When protests broke out in Ferguson, Mo. over the shooting of an unarmed Black teenager by a white police officer, journalists took to Twitter and other platforms to tweet and shoot video of these events.

Powerful, moving, and raw, the stream of consciousness produced by the journalists — and citizen journalists, for that matter — stirred arguably a revolution within the United States, challenging police brutality and potentially corrupt practices within policing. For some journalists, coverage of the event led them to develop a strong brand for themselves. One of these journalists is Washington Post reporter Wesley Lowery.

Outrage In Missouri Town After Police Shooting Of 18-Yr-Old Man

Lowery, who started his career at the Boston Globe where he contributed to a Pulitzer Prize-winning team for their coverage of the Boston Marathons, is a new-age journalist. With an innovative mind and quick wit for strategizing breaking news, Lowery’s Twitter profile blew up during his coverage of the protests in Ferguson, growing from about 10,000 to 100,000 followers over the span of several weeks.

One of his actions that perhaps led to such notoriety was his ability to whip out his phone and shoot video as a Ferguson police officer forced him and another journalist to leave a McDonalds, which served as their base for reporting during their visits. Lowery resisted the officer, resulting in his arrest. The Washington Post’s Executive Editor Martin D. Baron said was “wholly unwarranted and an assault on the freedom of the press to cover the news. The physical risk to Wesley himself is obvious and outrageous.”

But what if this video was shot live, and was sent directly to Twitter? When I spoke to Lowery several months after the event, he posed this question himself. As we spoke, platforms like Meerkat and Twitter’s Periscope were just coming to fruition, and, already, Lowery was ready to test this new storytelling technique. (Lowery used Periscope before it launched in its beta phase at the time of our interview.)

“I think what we can realize is how powerful live video can be and how many people will watch it,” Lowery said in the interview.

Digital disruption changes the world of journalism, the way of reporting and the platforms journalists use to tell stories — or, as Lowery says, giving voice to the voiceless. The promise and capability of live stream directly linked to popular social media platforms like Twitter brings a disruption to the already disrupted way of reporting.

Live stream isn’t anything new. But with Meerkat and Periscope, the latter being purchased for $100 million by Twitter quite recently, the ability to connect to the already established platforms like Twitter bring a strong ability to change this landscape.

“They’re going to be very powerful tools,” Lowery said. “Will it change the storytelling game the same way Twitter did? No, it will not. But, it’s another tool to tell the story better: I certainly think so.”

What are these platforms?

The rules of Meerkat are simple. Use your phone to live stream an event and the app will link it directly to Twitter. You can’t play reruns; everything is live. Periscope’s philosophy is similar, with the exception of having the ability to save these streams to your own phone for later use.

live-streaming-meerkat-periscope

Both platforms have the ability to engage with viewers, with “like” buttons and the ability to comment and receive live interaction with the videographer during a certain event. As Meerkat’s policy states, though, the platforms encourage users “be kind” while using these liberal commenting mechanisms.

And Periscope’s mission reflects the ever-growing use of citizen journalism and instant gratification. “What if you could see through the eyes of a protester in Ukraine?” Periscope’s website reads. Their statement continues: “A picture may be worth a thousand words, but live video can take you someplace and show you around.”

These statements have enticed an interested audience. Since hitting the mainstream world of Twitter in February and March, the number of users of these brands have grown significantly.  Meerkat launched earlier, and, with the help of SXSW, had its 15 minutes in the spotlight. When Periscope challenged Meerkat, the number of users dropped significantly as Periscope’s audience grew.

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As with many social media devices like Twitter and Facebook, Periscope and Meerkat don’t have primarily breaking news-orientated goals. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Kayvon Beykpour, a co-founder of Periscope, said the onset of the newly successful application is due to a culture that promotes the willingness to share personal, perhaps previously private, information with the world.

Beykpour, who developed several apps similar to Periscope with little success, noted this as one of his challenges.

“What’s more challenging is how do you build an experience that allows that to be possible, but also allows you and me to share what we’re doing with our friends and families in such a way that it’s compelling enough for the viewer to open that push [notification] and watch and interact,” Beykpour told WSJ.

However, the personability and vulnerability these platforms create have already been criticized, as anonymous can comment on live streams inappropriate requests of the user — oftentimes asking women to perform some sort of inappropriate, sexual actions.

Will these platforms inhibit the quality of reporting?

Just as any other platform, anyone can use Periscope and Meerkat. Just as teenagers can tweet “#blessed,” so can they live-stream their lives, detailing as little or as much as possible. This new access to the human experience is enticing, as Beykpour alludes to, but isn’t the only goal or use of these mediums.

What I’m interested in is the how these platforms are used for journalists for the purpose of breaking news reporting — especially on protests and social justice movements.

The new digital landscape has already disrupted how journalists do this type of reporting. In the 1960s, while reporting on the march in Selma, Alabama, for example, journalists would take notes, conduct interviews, and phone in their stories to their editors at their respective publications. With the digital age, not only is it the expectation and standard to publish breaking news stories immediately, but journalists must also spread that news across social media with great speed.

For the news industry, Twitter serves as a platform for quick, chronological reporting and competitive breaking news. When Lowery covered the protests in Ferguson in August, he would send tweets and photos with up-to-date information. Though the news wasn’t “breaking,” necessarily, his Twitter feed served as a resource for followers of the protest to access regardless of whether or not there was a story published in the Washington Post about the events already. And Lowery relied on the feeds of other journalists in Ferguson to try to understand the larger picture of the protest outside of his limited view.

Lowery has already used Periscope for several reports on the Walter Scott shooting investigation, including a look at the area of the shooting (as detailed in this infamous video of the incident), as well as a live-stream of a vigil honoring Walter Scott.

While none of this is breaking news, the importance of covering these events is evident, and perhaps best fit for Twitter. But is Periscope the best mechanism for telling these stories?

For Lowery, he finds it incredibly helpful for these kinds of situations.

“It seems like that kind of live video — reporters should be able to do it easily — is, where it would be extremely valuable for situations like events like Ferguson and protests of the matter. It would’ve been very helpful in Boston during things like the Aaron Hernandez trial (for coverage in 2013),” Lowery told me.

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Perhaps its the ability to truly provide raw, unedited footage of these events in real time that may draw in viewers, and potential readers for the article published on the event later.

When I asked Boston Globe photojournalist and videographer Dina Rudik for her opinion on these platforms, she told me she didn’t “have enough information” to make a comment. Contrary to my initial belief, it’s possible some of the best photojournalists and videographers don’t know of these platforms. Looking at the screenshot of Lowery’s video above, it’s abundantly clear the live-stream video doesn’t produce in a high quality. For visual journalists like Rudik, who have an eye for impacting and quality visuals, could these live streams ever replace the quality pieces they produce and spend hours editing?

Ben Popper, a reporter at The Verge, noted the phenomenon of live stream in an article detailing his first experience as a viewer of the platform. During the collapse of a building in New York, Popper received a push notification from Periscope about a live-stream of the event through his Twitter app.

“Suddenly I was watching a video of the fire and smoke from a block away. No news media had arrived on the scene,” Popper wrote.

While Popper recognizes the existence of live-stream in these situations before, “this new generation of apps is about to reach a much bigger audience at a much faster pace,” he writes.

And it’s true. For journalists, citizen journalists, and all users, alike, Periscope and Meerkat offer the possibility of on the scene footage linked to an already build audience. But perhaps this kind of reporting and storytelling lacks “real information,” Popper notes.

With tweets, journalists can provide more insight and verified, credible reporting. And this trust is accelerated in published material in media outlets. But the raw footage these mediums provide is intriguing, and for a large audience, it can change the game of storytelling.

A lack of context

Tony Collings, a University of Michigan Communications Studies professor and former reporter for CNN, isn’t sold on the use of Periscope or Meerkat for journalists and non-journalists, alike.

Having done reporting in several foreign countries during conflicts, protests, and potentially dangerous environments in the 1970s and 1980s, Collings found his perspective as a journalist as a key to ensuring the ability to minimize harms for readers, and, for CNN, viewers.

The level of trust in citizen journalists and non-journalists with reporting should be limited, Collings said. Though he said a benefit to these platforms is their ability to provide another source of information to the public, Collings noted it can be difficult to decipher what’s news and what could be a hoax.

“The obvious problem is you’re mixing journalists with non-journalists,” Collings said. “That’s a huge problem because a non-journalist doesn’t necessarily know what’s important, not important…they can’t give you the context.”

Collings, who teaches several courses at the University including “Ethics in Journalism” and “Foreign News Reporting,” said the live-streams can be misleading and ambiguous if used either from a trained journalist or an ordinary citizen. The limited view of an iPhone’s lens does not compare to that of a camera crew from CNN, he added.

“If (an event is) that important, then we would go there with our own camera,” Collings.

Collings’ comments reflect the concerns of Popper, as he was unable to fully understand the context of the New York City building collapse due to the lack of reporting involved in the live stream.

Just like all prominent social media platforms, Periscope and Meerkat cannot simply become the main story telling technique used by journalists. It’s easy for tweets and live streams to lack context. Of course, published pieces of content from credible media outlets should hold more weight than a tweet or live stream of an event. But, with social media and other mechanisms disrupting the news industry, it’s difficult to tell whether or not this disrupting can be good for credibility, accountability, and simply telling the truth for news consumers.

Despite any flaws in Periscope and Meerkat in its design and use by journalists and others, these applications are disrupting the already disrupted world of journalism.

Innovation, it seems, is a permanent fixture as journalism continues to change, and these changes seem to affect breaking news reporting and protest coverage more than ever. These areas are valuable for media outlets, and for prominent journalists, to learn and adapt to.

Though not ideal for traditional journalists and potentially alarming for the credibility of news organizations, the use of Periscope and Meerkat provides another outlet for journalists to do what they should every day. And that’s to give a voice to the voiceless.

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As social media changes coverage of protests, Lowery leads the charge

Wesley Lowery was in a local McDonald’s in Ferguson, Mo. when he was arrested. After asking Lowery to leave the establishment without defined reason, a Ferguson Police Officer, frustrated in Lowery’s slow departure, slammed Lowery against a soda machine, putting him in cuffs.

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Meanwhile, during this process, Lowery, a reporter for The Washington Post, pulled out his phone and immediately shot video.

“By that point, I trained myself to try as often as possible to show people rather than tell people what happened,” Lowery told me in an interview seven months after the incident.

And that he did. The video, published above his recount of the arrest on the Washington Post’s website, blew up online, arguably changing the way journalists interact with sources, protests, and events around them while reporting in the field.

Despite entering the professional realm of journalism several years ago, Lowery has made a name for himself by using these modern storytelling techniques. Before joining the Post, Lowery graduated from Ohio University, where he served as the Editor in Chief of the campus paper The Post. He eventually interned at The Boston Globe, where he was hired full time and contributed to the 2014 Pulitzer Prize winning Breaking News team for their coverage of Boston Marathon bombing.

In Ferguson, Lowery’s quick thinking and attention to his Twitter followers not only allowed him to update the crowds in real-time, but also provided a timeline for himself as he compiled his reporting and produced stories from Ferguson. In an interview with me, Lowery said the use of Twitter for video, photo, and written updates has changed reporting drastically — and has made the process more transparent.

“I can tweet things that I can see happening: those little observations, those little things of color, those details, are things that I can’t exactly fit in my notebook,” he said.

Screenshot from Wesley Lowery's Twitter.

Lowery and other journalists in Ferguson in August 2014 used the McDonalds as a base where they could produce written content for their respective media outlets. Because of Twitter, Lowery told me, each of their reports were more nuanced and complete, since the medium provided a timeline of events from their own accounts and from others’.

I first followed Lowery on Twitter when he was a reporter at the Boston Globe and had under 5,000 followers. After moving to the Post and tweeting wildly in Ferguson, his followers increased to over 110,000. According to a piece in The Washington Post detailing how the use of Twitter in reporting in Ferguson provided a constant stream of narrative, the number of mentions at Lowery increased exponentially.

Screenshot from The Washington Post's website.

Screenshot from The Washington Post’s website.

In our interview, Lowery noted how citizen journalism contributed largely to the narrative of Ferguson at the time. He referred to his relationship with Antonio French, a widely known citizen journalist during the protests in August and beyond, and other journalists as they were able to report on different areas, moments, and events together in a collaborative dialogue.

And Lowery is thankful for those who show up to report — even if they’re citizen journalists. The journalist made headlines several months ago when he ridiculed MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough, who suggested Lowery should have complied with the Ferguson Police Officer before he was arrested.

“I have little patience for talking heads. This is too important. This is a community in the United States of America, where we’re seeing it on fire, they are on fire, this community is on edge, there is so much happening here and instead of getting more reporters on the ground we have people like Joe Scarborough who are running their mouths and have no idea what they’re talking about,” Lowery said in an interview with CNN.

In our interview, Lowery emphasized the importance of giving a voice to the voiceless– a mantra for many journalists. With the platform of a national media outlet, Lowery’s goal is to do so, which would thus create a more well-informed community.

“Telling stories is very important; they can evoke emotion in a way no other thing can,” Lowery said.

As the mediums for storytelling are changing, Lowery is constantly adapting. His most recently used social media tools are Meerkat, a live-streaming tool which launched last week, and Twitter’s version of that tool, which has only launched a beta version so far.

As he emphasized in a TED Talk last week which examined how social media has changed journalism and his interview with me, journalists should always stay curious. As new storytelling platforms emerge and the media landscape develops, so should the reporter — just as he’s done.

“Chart your own path. The field changes so quickly; there’s no playbook to becoming a journalist,” Lowery told me. “You have to chart your own path, but be willing to try different things.”

Feminist Coming Out Day

Vine: The new Twitter of social justice movements

The impact of Twitter in sparking social movements is widely well-known. Using hashtags to develop social movements — think #BlackLivesMatter — create instant communities and conversations — ones that, perhaps, would never have happened without this social media tool.

But Twitter’s now commonplace. It’s expected. It thrived and transformed social movements in Egypt, Iran, and with #OccupyWallStreet, among other initiatives across the world. But one particular social media tool made waves this past summer and throughout the year in Ferguson, Mo. as protestors, citizens, and journalists reported the events that unfolded. This tool is Vine — a social media application that allows users to create short loops of video.

In Ferguson, this platform allowed viewers from all over the world to watch protests and videos as they were happening. Twitter has the world’s need for instant information down by now, but it lacked the video capabilities at the time to enhance the narratives the platform could tell. And, during protests in Ferguson, Mo., Vine filled that spot.

Throughout the protests, which took place largely in August 2014 and are still continuing today, journalists and citizens used Vine to show the events in real time. Most notably, Antonio French, the alderman of the 21st ward of Ferguson and notable citizen journalist, took Vines of different protests and marches.

This Vine from mid-August 2014 received 136,592 loops — meaning it was played that many times.

But as French’s fame rose with his status as the premiere citizen journalist for the events in Ferguson, his Vines specifically received more recognition. In late November, French took this powerful Vine of Michael Brown’s mother as she spoke to media:

This particular Vine received 1,550,672 loops as of Wednesday evening. And that’s extraordinary.

The value of citizen journalism rose during the protests in Ferguson, and so did the use of Vine. In this article by The Guardian, Dan Gillmor lauds French and journalists Wesley Lowery of The Washington Post and Ryan Reilly of The Huffington Post for documenting these events — especially as they were taken into custody. Lowery responded to the potential arrest by taking out his phone and shooting video.

“But the videos, blog posts, tweets, and photos from French and others on the ground have complemented the work of the traditional journalists on the scene – and have reminded us of what is becoming a civic duty in today’s America.” — The Guardian

So, according to The Guardian, shooting video of the actions around us is a civic duty. That’s pretty powerful.

And The Guardian wasn’t the only organization to recognize Vine’s impact in Ferguson. The International Business Times wrote French’s vines “have been especially illuminating to social media users who may wonder from the pictures and videos if they are looking at America or the Middle East.” Photos and written descriptions provided by Twitter still had a lasting impact, but perhaps seeing the events in motion and in real time provided a new view outlook for social media users.

By using this tool as a citizen or a reporter in social justice movements, others may gain a better understanding of the emotion and drive behind protests and calls to action. And perhaps this builds support — or opposition — to these events even more than they would without the platform of Vine.

What Vine does which other platforms can’t is give the viewer snippets of real action in real time. To accommodate with this perhaps threatening competition, Twitter recently launched the ability to shoot video on the app and post directly to it. Just like Vine, but now on Twitter. If that decision means anything, it suggests the strong, worldwide impact of Vine. And for activists, journalists, and regular citizens, alike, it provided a more honest, raw, and realistic view of the events in Ferguson than any other platform could provide in real time.

Jon Stewart’s take on Ferguson

In August 2014, Jon Stewart tackled the shooting of Michael Brown. The event sparked a movement and the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter, creating a conversation about racial profiling and immoral practices by police officers.

Stewart heavily criticizes Fox News’ clear bias in their reporting as Fox tries to turn the focus on “Black-on-Black” violence in Chicago — to which Stewart refutes their concerns with several citations of policies in place and events addressing the issue:

“You being ignorant of those attempts doesn’t mean the issue itself is being ignored, in the same way that when it snows where you live doesn’t mean the world’s getting hotter.”

Fox News claims to be a legitimate news source but, in the words of my Communication Studies Professor Tony Collings, “Fox News is Republican propaganda.” And Stewart knows that well.

Stewart doesn’t identify himself as a journalist, yet he directly refutes and disproves ever “fact” presented by Fox News in their attempt at coverage of the shooting. What Stewart can do that differs from journalists is this:

“I guarantee you that every person of color in this country has faced an indignity from the ridiculous to the grotesque to the sometimes fatal, I’m gonna say, in the last couple hours, because of their skin color.

As a comedian, Stewart has free reign to mock, but he does so intelligently. Though I rarely expect to find investigative reporting — or strong reporting at all — from a satirical news show, I was impressed with the work Stewart and his crew did as they identified several telling statistics of Ferguson, emphasizing their point further.

"You've got to be fucking kidding me."

“You’ve got to be fucking kidding me.”

Since Stewart announced his departure from The Daily Show a few weeks ago, numerous articles have surfaced noting his trustworthiness. And I’d have to agree. I can’t count on Stewart to present a strong liberal lens to the news that I can trust strongly. I don’t view him as a reporter, but rather a columnist, if I were to translate his role to that of a journalist’s.

Just like a columnist, Stewart can effectively interpret the most important news and tell it in a way to guide  his viewers — and that’s incredibly valuable.

(As a side note, I was featured on a correspondent of The Daily Show in July! Check it out here.)

Analyzing NBC Nightly News

I’m fairly aware of the controversy surrounding Brian Williams and his departure — err, suspension— from his post at the Nightly News at NBC. To be blunt, the whole situation reminded me that broadcast news exists.  Though I rarely watch broadcast news — I believe it’s often sensationalized and can take events out of context too easily — I’ve always been a fan of Williams.

Charles Sykes/NBC

Charles Sykes/NBC

Because of this, I decided to tune into the Nightly News’ Feb. 23 broadcast, with Lester Holt in William’s vacated spot. Realizing I had no means to watch cable news, I checked out NBC’s website, where they have full episodes of the night’s broadcast. (Which, for a millennial like me, was great.) Here’s what the show covered:

1. Terror Group Calls for Lone-Wolf Attacks at Mall (2:40)

This story continues on one trending throughout the week. Al Shabab, a Somali terrorist group responsible for the attacks on the Westgate Mall in Nairobi, Kenya, threatened western malls in a recent video. The correspondent expands on their coverage earlier, updating it with a White House comment calling the video “propaganda.”

2. Homeland Security Shutdown Looms Amid Terror Threats (1:33)

3. Nightmare Winter Conditions Drag on for Much of U.S. (3:10)

Yes, it’s cold. And especially snowy in Boston. Despite this obvious fact, the Nightly News expanded upon this, taking the story to Texas, where the state is struggling to adjust to the inclimate conditions.

4. New Hope for Kids Who Suffer from Peanut Allergies (0:30)

5. Kayla Mueller Family: U.S. ‘Waited Too Long’ To Rescue Hostages (4:33)

Noted as an NBC exclusive, Savannah Guthrie sits down with Mueller’s family and Holt sits down with her after clip is shown.

6. Outdated 911 Technology May Put Callers at Risk

NBC News Investigation partnered with Gannett and found that 60 percent of 911 calls can’t be located immediately. The presentation was fairly dramatic, but understandably so. It’s a much-needed story.

7. Single Mom of Four Claims $188 Million of Powerball Jackpot (:30)

8. Remembering Iwo Jima 70 Years Later (:30)

9. Academy Award Speeches Turn Political (2:02)

Focus on Academy Awards not necessarily on the who won, but rather the political preoccupations and soap box-esque speeches presented by the winners. Additionally, it touched on the lack of diversity represented in the nominees.

Screenshot from NBC website

Screenshot from NBC website

Overall, I believe the Nightly News presented a well-rounded broadcast. My one qualm — aside from my bias against broadcast news — was the order of stories were presented in. Since no breaking news was presented in this broadcast, I found it strange the network didn’t do more to promote their exclusive stories even more so by jumping them to the number one and two slot.

While the terrorist threats against U.S. and other countries’ malls were incredibly important to cover, viewers may already know about them. Though the well-prepared, packaged content was informative, it did not tell my anything I couldn’t look up on Twitter or any other media outlet’s site. Now, an exclusive on a lack of 911 technology? That’s something I would’ve enjoyed learning earlier in the broadcast.

Though broadcast news is often sensationalized to gain and keep viewers interested (just watch the 911 callers clip above), networks must also realize the niche markets they exist in. I’m still interested in their uniquely packaged content, but why not promote something original and investigative, rather than regurgitated news from an already 24/7 news cycle?

Data journalism: Revolutionary, or clickbait?

Data journalism has certainly opened a host of doors for journalism. Blogs and sites like FiveThirtyEight by Nate Silver and The Upshot by The New York Times have revolutionized how we not only produce content as journalists, but how our audience consumes them.

I found a considerably poignant graphic by The Upshot demonstrating this phenomenon. Titled “Where Are the Hardest Places to Live in the U.S.?”, the article examines each county within the U.S. on six main points:

  1. Education
  2. Median household income
  3. Unemployment rate
  4. Disability rate
  5. Life expectancy & obesity

And here’s the result:

Screenshot from The Upshot

Screenshot from The Upshot. Orange means “doing worse,” and blue means “doing better.”

The map is incredibly user friendly, and much more interactive than anything in print could ever be. If you hover over each county, an image will pop up with a detailed description of the stats collected from that individual county.

Screenshot from The Upshot

Screenshot from The Upshot

The story goes on to include a list of the top 10 counties in the country they deem as “the hardest to live in,” along with a photo gallery of to compliment the story. The photo gallery is expected if this were simply a traditional piece of journalism. But, with the added influence of data with the interactive graph, it’s beneficial to add a “face” to the data — which is something journalists often do. (The first “traditional” story that comes to mind is Pulitzer Prize-winning piece “AIDS in the Heartland,” which used written word and photo to put a face to the AIDS crisis in the 1980s.)

The author of the piece also includes the fact that the team wished to use income mobility as a unit of measure, but couldn’t find enough data for it to be telling for their graph. Though it’s a small statement, this parenthetical made me trust the data and the work done by The Upshot even more.

Over the past few years is how headlines have become “clickbait,” in the form of questions or ambiguous phrasing. Some data driven content,

Screenshot from FiveThirtyEight

Screenshot from FiveThirtyEight

including this Upshot piece, does just that, while others, like the fluff piece by FiveThirtyEight to the right, may simply be just a good conversation starter. Since clickbait and data journalism are online phenomenons, it’s easy for them to overlap.

But maybe we don’t need to take ourselves that seriously. Though I turn to the New York Times for hard-hitting news, perhaps I’d rather read something lighter — about SNL — that includes quality data work, but also a fun read.

That’s what data journalism and online tools can do: create more mediums and outlets for journalists to get creative — and for audiences to explore. Continue reading

#BBUM and Twitter

I interviewed LSA senior Geralyn Gaines, the secretary of the University of Michigan’s Black Student Union, to discuss last year’s #BBUM movement. The hashtag opened a space on Twitter for students to tweet their experiences of being Black at the University of Michigan

The initiative took Twitter by storm in early 2014, transcending the University’s campus and entering a host of others. Eventually, The New York Times featured the movement on their front page. As Managing News Editor of The Michigan Daily at the time, I spoke to the NYT reporter on background about the racial climate at the University as she conducted interviews and researched the initiative for her piece.

The movement has interested me immensely, and I’m interested to see where BSU takes it next. It was great talking to Geralyn — though, unfortunately, we could only talk through the phone. (I apologize for the sound quality.)

On Jan. 20, 2014, Kinesiology junior Capri'Nara Kendall in a protest organized by the Black Student Union in front of Hill Auditorium on Jauary 20th. Photo by Allison Farrand.

On Jan. 20, 2014, Kinesiology junior Capri’Nara Kendall in a protest organized by the Black Student Union in front of Hill Auditorium. Photo by Allison Farrand.

NPR at my fingertips

Admittedly, I don’t listen to NPR as much as I should. While interning at The Hollywood Reporter in the summer of 2013, I started my day with All Things Considered and ended it with Fresh Air during the ridiculous commute to downtown. But without a car, my NPR consumption has fallen significantly.

With the NPR One app, this depletion has been remedied. Opening on the app for the first time, a voice told me how the app works and then directed me to the hourly update, where I heard a briefing of the Wednesday’s top news as of 1:00 p.m.

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Screenshot from NPR One’s website.

Next came the organized chaos. A flurry of stories, ordered one right after the other, filled the queue — and I welcomed them. Confused as to how I can show my preference to different topics as the voice told me immediately as I opened the app, I noticed an “Interesting” button that I began clicking during pieces I enjoyed. I pushed this button several times on stories like one about the Obama Administration no longer pursuing the end of the 529 college tax break or others about ongoing irrigation issues in Southern California.

Since the app had me sign in with my Facebook account, it somehow only gathered I was from California, though I now live in Michigan. The stories “best for me” were mostly ones on the Golden State. Though I appreciated the throwback, my news interests lie mostly on Michigan, as my reporting focuses are on the state of Michigan while working on The Michigan Daily. I tried searching “Ann Arbor” with hopes it would give me an option to add that location, but nothing came up.

Though the geography feature was not perfect, once I started marking certain pieces as “interesting,” I came across more “interesting” ones — primarily a Fresh Air piece on Ghettoside, a book examining the unexplored and forgotten murders of Los Angeles.

Sceenshot from an Los Angeles Times review of 'Ghettoside.'

Sceenshot from an Los Angeles Times review of ‘Ghettoside.’

The interview with author Jill Leovy examined homicides in Los Angeles that often go unnoticed or underreported. The timeliness of such a book is remarkable. Leovy noted for some Black communities in Los Angeles, more police enforcement is needed, rather than less in places like Ferguson, Mo. and New York City. It was an intriguing conversation, and one I didn’t have to stop by getting out of my car. I played the full 40 minute interview as I cleaned my room, did laundry, and other chores, making a mental note to use the app more often.

Though the search engine and features on the app are a bit confusing, I found NPR One to be overall a great app to add to my “News” folder on my iPhone. I spent the day after listening to NPR’s content daydreaming about listening to it while walking to class and work.

While there are some glitches, it appears to be NPR’s attempt at developing catered, up-to-date content for its listeners. As someone with many interests, the app may not need such attention on the catered content. But as a journalist, I believe it’s a step in the right direction in not only maintaining current listeners, but gaining new ones.

Live-tweeting Ta-Nehisi Coates’ lecture

Award-winning journalist Ta-Nehisi Coates came to Rackham Auditorium last week, and I was fortunate enough to be in attendance. Since working at The Michigan Daily every weeknight for the past year, I’ve rarely been able attend lectures or events the University of Michigan has to offer. (Unless, of course, I’m covering it for the paper.)

As an aspiring journalist, I found Coates’ passion and talent intriguing. Perhaps best known for his piece in The Atlantic “The Case for Reparations,” Coates has a rich understanding of history and institutional racism in the United States.  He also runs an incredible blog on The Atlantic’s website.

My friends and I spotted him in the audience before he spoke. Though I’ve read a lot of his work, I never saw any recordings of his speeches, lectures, or appearances on talk shows.

When he took the stage, I was in awe of how casual, yet intelligent he was. As a journalist, I often look exclusively for “quotable” lines from a speech to tweet out and include in my story. However, Coates made his lecture almost like a casual conversation as he recounted African American history in the U.S., starting at slavery and ending at racism today.

I had trouble finding these “quotable” quotes, though I remained enticed throughout the whole lecture. Every so often I tried to summarize his statements in my tweets, but his ideas, research, and thoughts on racism and inequality were so nuanced it was difficult to state in my own words.

The tweet that drew the most reaction, though, was one that quoted him directly. It was difficult to find these short snippets that made for great tweets, but when I did, they garnered a lot of reaction on Twitter.

@umich retweeted this from my account, so it clearly got more recognition as it was blasted to their 107,000+ followers.

Moreover, much of my following from the lecture on Twitter came from my status as the Editor in Chief of The Michigan Daily. My twitter feed is usually news, and that’s what my followers expect from me.

Here, an Ann Arbor News reporter, told his followers to follow me as the lecture progressed, since he couldn’t be there himself:

And a few of my friends had quite a following as well throughout the lecture:

(Sam and Will were able to summarize what Coates said pretty easily.)

(Allana was covering the event for the Daily and tweeted much more than me or others were.)

Aside from retweets from other Twitter feeds, here’s a list of my tweets from start to finish: