First person series engages readers through new media

Subhead: David Rohdes, New York Times journalist, relates his experiences as a Taliban prisoner in Pakistan.

The New York Times published a five-part series entitled “Held by the Taliban” written by David Rohdes, who was kidnapped and held by the Taliban for over seven months between 2008 and 2009.

The series, unlike standard journalistic works, was told in the first person. The “I” of the story however, was quite powerful, relating the struggles of prisoners in a foreign area through the personal attribution. The primary source of information was also the person behind the words. Though this might be viewed as biased, it does add something that usually lacks in everyday newspaper articles: life.

Furthermore, the online series used various media elements, including videos, a blog, and a Web page devoted to the readers’ comments, to contribute to the story and its content.

Though traditional journalism has not fully embraced the idea of convergence, The New York Times proved that its usage is indeed worthwhile. Not only was the story read and or listened to, but over 150 comments were posted on the first part of the series.

The videos used maps and pictures in order to enhance the story’s content and the reader’s comprehension. Without these videos, some might read the stories and not fully understand the importance and differences in locations of Rohdes’ environment. The articles are quite long, and because reading has become such an outdated form of communication, these videos are quite perfect for those who only want the basic information or the overview of the story.

For those readers who also had comments to publish, a question and answer blog was created. The blog was dedicated to answering questions that subscribers posted. Though Rohdes primarily answered these questions, Bill Keller, executive editor, was also involved.

This last element is crucial to online journalism. It provides the newspaper with rapid feedback, a strength of online communication. There is dialogue between provider and consumer; therefore, any misunderstandings can be effectively clarified. Moreover, readers feel a more personal connection to the story and are willing to spend more time learning about the issues involved.

The most essential piece of traditional journalism, photographs, served the same purpose in this series. They helped bring life to the story (and added color to the long pages of text for each article, of course).

Newspapers cannot do this with print editions. However, this statement is not a blow to traditional journalism. The purpose behind journalism remains essentially the same: to present necessary and significant information to the public.

If convergence is necessary to push the public to absorb this information, then by all means, it should be used. The New York Times knows this and is pushing these elements to an entirely new level.


Students: large percentage are now working while studying

Half of all full-time students and 8 of ten part-time students have a job, according to Inside Higher Education.

I don’t fit the typical definition of a full-time college student who works. Though I would love the idea of getting a paycheck or even getting money deposited into my account on a weekly basis, from someone other than my mother, this is not going to happen any time soon.

Besides homework and studying for the 18 credit hours I’m enrolled in, work and learn hours, and coordinating events for a student organization, I tutor. I help international students with their homework in any way that I can. I cannot imagine studying in a language that I am still learning and trying to improve on a daily basis. I guess you could say I have a soft spot for these students; I’m told it’s something called compassion. Sometimes I think it’s something called stupidity because then I wind up stressed out. Nevertheless, I do it.

Because of my hectic schedule, I am constantly surprised when I hear others say that they work other than the work and learn hours at school. Gary R. Pike and other researchers conducted a study that found that those students that work more than 20 hours at an off-campus location are more likely to suffer from poor academic performance. However, another study reported in The Daily Iowan stated that “clocking over 20 hours per week can translate to greater gains in areas of leadership and psychological well-being.”

I consider working part-time while going to school a risk. However, even more surprising is the amount of students that both study and work full-time. Not to mention the serious lack of time for a social life, these students are susceptible to failing prey to the ultimate disaster: burning themselves out. This can result in dropping out or taking longer time than usual to graduate.

According to an article published in May of 2006, 78 percent of undergraduate students work approximately 30 hours per week. Let’s take for example a student who is taking 18 credit hours and working full-time (40 hours). Add 8 hours a night for sleep and the student is down to 54 free hours a week, almost eight hours a day. Take three of those hours for meals and the student is left with less than five free hours a day. The list has not included the time needed to take a shower and get ready for class as well as work or the drive to school and work. And good luck if there is an emergency that cuts into the student’s schedule because there goes either a night of sleep or the completion of an assignment.

Though this group is divided into those that consider themselves students who work and workers that study, this does not change the fact that they are focusing on two important activities simultaneously. What does the name have to do with anything? The name of a perfume doesn’t change the scent, just as the name of student workers doesn’t change the fact that they must spend hours at a job to make money (for any number of reasons) and then go home to a long night of homework and studying.

The purpose of an education is to study and acquire the skills needed for a professional job. If a student’s focus is interrupted with the need to work, then the student is not receiving the optimal educational experience. However, if the need to work is great, then what other choice does the student have? Money is not everything. Tell that to these students who work, or if you prefer the other term, workers who study, who must take up jobs to pay for tuition or simply to pay the rent and bills. Those that succeed at balancing these aspects of life are learning important lessons (time management, for one), but what are they losing?

Students Impervious to the Purpose of General Education Courses

Education in the United States is characterized by general education courses. Unlike other countries around the world that focus on only classes that pertain to a student’s degree, the United States stresses courses that are not directly linked to a student’s future career. Several international students have asked, what is the purpose of these general education courses?

Though universities may disagree on what subjects make up the fundamental principles of education, a general education in addition to a student’s chosen degree path is essentially to help a student reach a particular level of well-roundedness. A well-rounded individual is one that retains the basic knowledge of various areas, including but not limited to basic math, science, literature, history, etc.

We are not adept at succeeding in all fields of study. This is understandable. The university’s desire to make us well-rounded individuals is also a valid goal. However, students’ desire to learn and their decision to excel in an area that is not their specialty is completely dependent on them.

I applaud those that do indeed excel in many distinct subjects. However, how many graduating individuals are actually well-rounded? Of course, to measure this would be quite difficult, so let’s take into account Lindenwood University students and the general education courses they take.

Business majors are encouraged to take a foreign language introductory course. Not all of these students are actually interested in learning a foreign language, especially those that are international and already fluently speak two or three languages. Becoming fluent in another language is not a primary goal, so they do what they have to in order to pass the course with a decent grade.

The same can be said in many cases. Students will do the minimum required to pass a course that is not of much relevance to their personal curriculum. Science, a subject I particularly avoid whenever I am able to, is a class I am not going to put my best effort into. It’s not a matter of important versus insignificant. It is simply my choice to focus more on classes that are going to help me in my career. It is not an admirable choice per se, but it’s reflective of this generation’s message to the general education classes of a university course load.

This is what Generation Y has to say about general education courses:

Campus Events Hopeless

If you want people not to show up to a campus event, advertise it as such. Just add the name Lindenwood to the front of the activity name or just mention the event place. That’s a foolproof way to get people not to attend.

athletic Activities on campus seem to be a plague. For some unknown reason, college events are just not popular if it doesn’t concern an athletic event.

Invite someone to a movie night in a dormitory lounge and no one will show up. Change the plans to a group night at the local cinema and things change. Is it the movie? Probably not. Students just don’t want to spend time on campus.

If you want some friends to hang out and play some video games in your dorm room, expect only your roommate. Turn it into a bowling night, then people suddenly decide they’re up for some friendly competition.

There’s a dance on campus. One word comes to mind: lame. However, a night in the same bar on Main Street week after week will continue to have attendees. It doesn’t matter what type of music is playing or the people that are going. Leaving campus? I’m going with, even if I have to sit on other people in the car to get there.

lu This fear of campus events might come from the infinite amount of time we spend in classrooms and doing homework. The university is associated with studying and the endless cycle of education we have endured for the past twelve years of our lives.

Unfortunately, students will pass up going to campus events. It is inevitable. In this case, drag friends to the event with you first. Then, decide if it’s worth it. Otherwise, do the same thing week after week. After all, the university can’t force you to attend these events. Just remember, you’re paying activity fees, while spending extra money off campus. Can you afford it?

Headlines and Summaries II

Steps taken to combat flu spread
New: RDs active in swine flu prevention

To Inform: LU is now taking more than the necessary precautions to fight swine flu pandemic including training resident directors to recognize the virus. Other colleges are dealing with the concerns as they arise, just as doctors continue to stress basic precautions.

To Entice: Worried about swine flu? Others on campus have the same concerns. That’s why administration is taking more direct action for resident students besides the basic precautions.

LSGA tiers determine club funding
New: Club funding designed to increase involvement

To Inform: LSGA created four tiers to allot adequate funding to clubs on campus. The amount of money each club receives depends on several factors including size, appeal, and campus involvement.

To Entice: LSGA’s new system for club funding handles about $27,000 for campus events plus $7,000 for additional funding. This money is distributed between clubs and helps promote campus-wide events.

Downloadable books become available
New: LU joining the audio book trend

To Inform: To appeal to a new audience, libraries are now carrying audio books, including Butler Library on campus. These books are available for students to download directly into their MP3s. The growing popularity of e-books is based on its simplicity.

To Entice: Students tired of reading have a new option. The Butler Library is adapting to technological advancements and educational needs for consumers.

Procrastination: Issue for College Students

procrastination I sit at my computer at 8 p.m. and start working on homework. Two hours later—when I’ve finally finished the assignment—I remember another assignment that I had not contemplated writing that night. I am doomed to a restless night of staring at the computer once again.

It’s my fault of course, for not having an agenda, or at least not having one that I actually update once in a while. I try to commit everything to memory, but since when has that technique been confirmed foolproof?

College students are characterized by procrastination. Obviously, the independence and much more active lifestyle affect why we procrastinate. The University of Buffalo Counseling Services lists several reasons for which college students procrastinate. Among these are poor time management (obviously) as well as difficulty concentrating and negative beliefs.

The most evident consequence of procrastination is poorer grades. According to an article published by Ohio State University, the most severe procrastinators earned an average grade in the class of 2.9 on a 4.0 scale…while low procrastinators scored an average of 3.6. This is a difference of .7 points on a student’s GPA.

The article also states that these severe procrastinators make up excuses to keep up this habit. The most common statement for this group is “I work better under pressure.” This is a myth. You do not work better under pressure. It is simply the belief that you work better because the time passes by faster than it normally would if there wasn’t any pressure to finish on time.

In August of 2002, the American Psychological Association presented the results of various studies. These studies show that procrastinators are likely to have unhealthy sleep, diet, and exercise patterns. In addition, procrastinators are more likely to smoke, drink, and postpone seeing a doctor for acute health problems.

I attribute procrastination to the constant need for technology. We must type essays, research information, communicate with others that have information we might need, etc. However, when we log onto our computer, there it is: entertainment. We have e-mail, YouTube, Facebook, iTunes, Twitter, MSN Messenger, and the famous Google Search—and that’s only a few of the Web sites we check before we even begin contemplating all the work we have for the night. The solution: be smart about it. Don’t leave a ten page paper until the night before.

Duke University presents “I’ll Stop Procrastinating…Tomorrow”:

Fitness Alternatives for Non-athletes on Campus

It seems that health and fitness on campus is aimed only at a specific group of students on campus: athletes. These athletes have access to sports facilities on campus, whereas students that do not play a sport are limited to health and fitness activities in the frequently crowded gymnasium.

There are over 40 sports at Lindenwood University—though I only seem to grasp the point of about a dozen—and yet there seems to be no available space for these athletic teams to practice on. Those facilities that are available to student-athletes are at times inadequate since weather conditions may affect the athletes’ schedule.

For example, the Harlen C. Hunter Stadium is used for various sports’ trainings and games. The stadium is divided between the football team and the field hockey team as well as both the women’s and men’s soccer teams and women and men’s lacrosse teams. These are several teams to take into account when scheduling practices.

The tennis courts are outdoors and therefore, tennis players either have to practice in terrible weather conditions or they are forced to end practice early, if they get an opportunity to practice at all. Indoor tennis courts would help the team infinitely since the players would get a chance to practice at all hours without worrying about freezing weather or slippery courts.

The school gymnasium lacks sufficient space and equipment to accommodate the over 3000 resident student population. Since student-athletes have priority when the team has to train in the gymnasium, the rest of the students are left to find a bicycle or treadmill that isn’t already being used. (And God forbid that the one not in use is actually working.)

What options do students that are interested in keeping fit and maintain a healthy lifestyle have? Enroll in the 24 Hour Fitness Gym that is located nearby. After working out, one can even enjoy a lap in the swimming pool. Other than that, join a sport. With over 40 sports, the choices are numerous.