Newspapers: R.I.P.?

I am a newspaper man at heart, spending 10 years as a reporter for the largest newspaper here in Western Massachusetts. I immersed myself fully in that world of journalism for so long that even now, as a teacher, it is hard to shake off. When I visit a city, my eyes always scan for local newspapers — checking out layout design, headlines, and quality. I remember the days when newspapers were pulling in profits of 10 to 20 percent and riding a wave of cash.

Those days are long gone and I have mixed feelings.

I often feel as if large newspapers abused their roles in the communities — pushing through the personal agendas of publishers (as happened regularly with our newspaper, it seemed) — and ignoring all of the tell-tale signs that the digital revolution could spell the end of their role as arbiter of the news. It’s obvious that almost every publishing company ignored those signs, as every day brings more news of a newspaper on the brink of collapse or is gone forever. Just this morning, I read and heard about the plight of the paper in San Fransciso, and yesterday, it was about the fall of a newspaper down in Bridgeport, Connecticut. And our own regional newspaper, the one where I worked, is but a skeleton of itself — decimated by staffing cuts. Even today, I buy the more local newspaper and avoid the one where I worked. I just can’t stomach it.

But I don’t want to see newspapers fail.

So I read with interest the recent cover story by Walter Isaacson in Time Magazine, where he advocates a new model for web-based newspaper content. First, he notes that the push to offer free content on the web by newspapers was wrong and short-sighted, and established in the minds of readers that all news should always be free. If there is no pay, then newspapers can’t hire investigative reporters and other quality journalists. There is room for blogging journalists in the world, but we also need full-time dogged reporters and we can’t expect them to work for no pay.

Second, Isaacson said newspapers should move towards the micro-payment model for their web-based content — charging a few cents per page for readers, which then gives people the choice to pick and choose what they want to read. And those cents, if the news is good enough, will add up, he argues. This seems to make sense to me, but I wonder if such a model will ever be adapted and, if so, will it be adapted fast enough to save newspapers.

Communities are built around connections, and local newspapers have an important role in their communities. They connect us on many different levels. I would hate to see them all disappear. Even as someone who believes in the digital world, there is still a place in my heart for the walk down to the mailbox in the morning, the scratchy feel of the paper, and the chance go find something unexpected inside the fold that starts my day, thinking.

Read Isaacson’s essay here.

Peace (in the paper),
Kevin

Current Events … as rap

This is an interesting site … The Week in Rap takes the current events and creates a video, with a rap song whose lyrics explain the news of the day. They do a pretty decent job, too, and I bet kids would be engaged to listen and watch and then think about the importance. And, of course, perhaps then they could make their own Current Events Rap song.

Here is the video about the inauguration:


The Week in Rap – Obama’s Inauguration from Week in Rap on Vimeo.

Peace (in bustin’ rhymes of the times),
Kevin

When Obama Met Spidey

I write reviews of graphic novels and comics for The Graphic Classroom on a regular basis as I continue to explore the ways in which image and words can come together for our young readers and emerging writers (I am considering teaching a summer camp on graphic novels and comics — what do you think? Would kids come?).

This week, I grabbed a copy of the most recent Spider-man comic because it has new President Obama on the cover, and the review just got posted over at the Graphic Classroom. The comic is flying off the shelves at comic book stores — a signal of both the allure of Obama-mania and the desire to learn more about the man (and maybe the continued popularity of Spider-man, too)

Head over and read the review of what happens when pop culture meets the comic book world.

Peace (in comics),
Kevin

Picturing Obama’s Words

I watched the Inauguration Ceremonies with my sixth graders (on as new interactive board in a colleague’s room — great big screen experience) and the discussion we had afterwards was quite interesting, as they picked up on Obama’s messages of sacrifice, willingness to lead into the future and tying the present and future to our past. A number of them also “heard” Obama directly criticizing former (wow) President Bush for his policies, although we talked about how Obama did such criticism indirectly, thus — a discussion about the power of language and persuasion.

I came across this image via Frank’s blog and it is a wonderful artistic expression of the themes of Obama’s speech. It comes from Brandy Agerbeck’s site. You can download a PDF from her site of this image (as I have done) to share with students.

And, of course, someone over at Readwriteweb popped Obama’s speech into Wordle and came out with this cloud:

obamaonblack.jpg

Perhaps this is also a good time to re-share a song that I wrote for Obama when it was clear he was going to garner enough votes for president. It is about our expectations of him and my worry that he might succumb to Washington inertia and disappoint me.

Listen to Don’t You Go Disappointing Me

I’ve lived a long life
Oh, the stories I could tell
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

The path is paved
with empty words that they will sell
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Four years ahead of us — The future’s in our eyes
My baby’s getting old — and the world is compromised

They’d tell you anything
to fill your heart with fear
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

I’d like to take you
for a walk around my town
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Just stop and listen
to the people all around
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Four years ahead of us — The future’s in our eyes
My baby’s getting old — I hear it in his cries

You’ve got the power
to change the world that we know
I hope you don’t go disappointing me

Peace (in words),

Kevin

Guest Blogging at Learn Me Good

(Note: I tried posting this yesterday and something strange happened and it went out blank. So, here I go again. Kevin)
I have never tried guest blogging before. This is when someone else opens up their blog to readers, who then move from the one making the comments or doing the reading to the one who is doing the main writing on a blog. But when John Pearson, who runs the blog Learn Me Good, put out the call for guest bloggers a few weeks ago, I put my name into the mix. John wrote a fictional book called Learn Me Good about teaching and it is a funny tale.
Yesterday, John ran my guest post, which is all about the realization that I had that some students whose experience with technology were far beyond me, the so-called expert in the classroom. I came to understand the techno-lives of some of my students is richer than I had thought. The post is called “Who’s the Expert, Anyway?” and it also notes how the story later helped me think about my webcomic, Boolean Squared.
John goes by the handle, Mr. Teacher, and now I wonder if his book wasn’t in the back of my head as I created the character of Mr. Teach. Hmmm. (Shhh. Don’t tell John.)
Peace (in the guest house),
Kevin
PS — John also writes a column called Mr. Teacher for Education.Com that is worth a read.

Postrank says …

Last week, I jumped over to a site called PostRank, which puts the most “clicked” posts from a blog in order. The method is supposed to identify which posts on a blog are getting read and used the most. Here is what popped out when I plugged in my blog:

A few of the posts are from the start of this school year but I note that my song about Obama not disappointing us is there in the mix, too.

Peace (in a hierarchy of clicks),
Kevin

Snow … in six words

Sometimes, you stumble upon interesting things in the networked world. A few days ago, I noticed on Twitter that @roswellgirl was seeking collaborators from her various wired networks for a collaborative Google Presentations project on the concept of snow. Using a photograph, participants added a slide to her presentation, write a six word narrative about snow, and passed the show on to the next person.

How could I resist?

On this day, with sleet and freezing rain descending upon us, I decided to open up the screen of our window in the dining room and take a shot of an old and decaying snowman (featured on PhotoFridays a few weeks ago), and then added six words about the fate of snowmen when the freezing rain arrives.

I believe that the project is still open for contributors (email Martha at t56linc(at)gmail(dot)com to get invited into the Google Docs presentation).

Here is a direct link to the presentation (I had trouble embedding the presentation here — it kept doing strange things to my blog). Here is my picture:

And my sentence was: Sloppy snowfall means death to snowmen

Peace (in pictures),
Kevin

Dave Eggers says … Get Engaged

Here is another great video from the TED conference. It is a talk by Dave Eggers, whose writing both inspires me and sometimes frustrates me, but I am always willing to dive in with Eggers and see where he will take me as a reader (and if you have not read What is the What, you should … one of the best books about the Lost Boys of Sudan I have ever read).

In this talk, Eggers discusses his project for young writers, called 826 Valencia that is spreading into many cities in the country. I also want to push the Non-Required Reading collection that Eggers and a group of high school students pull together and publish every year. I am always anxious for the collection to come out — knowing that treasures that will be within — and then I am told by my wife to wait until the holidays and not buy it EARLY (thus, thwarting the elves).

I love this quote about Eggers’ work in Time Magazine:

“Many writers, having written a first best-seller, might see it as a nice way to start a career. He started a movement instead.” — Time


In thinking of ways to engage young people in the art of creativity, Eggers’ talk here is both humorous and also insightful as he meets them on their own level (I mean, a storefront that is a pirate booty store … how can one resist?). And his website — Once Upon a School — is another way to engage adults in helping to improve schools in their community.


Peace (in inspiration),
Kevin