by Jordan Kamikawa
The Media Impact Tour in New York and Washington DC was a highly beneficial trip for me, and gave me insight into possible future endeavors. In addition, being the East Coast for the first time was great experience in itself, and just getting a taste of the culture and lifestyle there was exhilarating. In this paper, I will first talk about our meetings with the many media corporations and the information I learned from them, and then I will discuss a little about our extra-curricular activities, such as the museums and Inauguration. Finally, I will talk about what the trip means to me, especially in terms of future application.
Our first meeting with FAIR (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting) set the tone for the meetings to come. This is because going in to it, I had no idea what to expect from the meetings, and how they would be laid out. I wasn’t sure if it was going to be conducted more like a lecture, or more of an open discussion. However, this meeting proved to be a good mixture of both, in which Janine Jackson gave us some background of the organization, and then proceeded to answer questions from the group. I found this layout appealing because we not only got a taste of the organization, but also additional information that we were curious about. Overall, I found this meeting to be highly informative in giving us a peek into a media watch group who analyzes and critiques various outlets. Even though I sensed from the outset that Jackson was heavily biased towards left-wing politics, she made it certain that their research is solid and that their scrutiny of the media is thoughtful and heart-felt. This is due to the sensitivity of some of the issues they tackle, such as race and gender discrimination. Another key point that I pulled from this meeting was that media is our climate, which Janine further explained by saying that even though a person doesn’t come into contact with a certain newspaper or publication, it can still affect him/her. I thought that this was a fascinating and true point, and displays the media’s impact on society. Thus, I think that it is great to have an organization like FAIR to serve as a kind of watch group on the media, and to point out things that may lead to biases.
The next meeting with The Smoking Gun was one of my favorites on the trip. The humor and comradery that all three editors displayed were a treat to witness. It seemed as though each of them thoroughly loved coming to work everyday and finding a new, interesting story to tackle. It was also fascinating to see them working on a new story as we were there, and the process of how they went about doing it was very meticulous and efficient. The chief editor, William Bastone explained that being first is everything, which clarifies the immediacy of the project at hand. Also, it was great to see how they rallied information from government sources by using the Freedom of Information Act. That added to the authenticity of the publication, because the reader knows that whatever he/she is reading there will be accurate. I think an inspiring point from the meeting was hearing about how the Smoking Gun grew from a small website based in a room to the widely known media entity it is today. This really displays the drive and commitment that Bastone had, and how he was able to capitalize on these things and reach his goals.
Next was our meeting with The Onion, which I have been a fan of ever since reading their book, Our Dumb World last year. When I first heard that we would meet with them, I was ecstatic. Their hilarious sense of humor conveyed through fantastic writing skills really enthralled me, so I was quite excited when we walked into their office. Like The Smoking Gun, this meeting also turned out to be one of my favorites because of the ease and down-to-earth mentality that the staff displayed. From the start, I could tell that everyone writing there had a great sense of humor, which was translated through their obvious love for their job. One of the questions I had going into the meeting was if they were cautious about covering certain topics and if some areas were considered taboo. In response, they explained that they are never scared about tackling tough issues and that no topic is off-limits. However, they did say that when they take on issues like this, they put extra care in planning it out and in writing it. They said that one of the best examples of this was their September 11th issue, in which they were the first comedy publication to take on the tragedy. Because they were sensitive enough to the issues at hand, they said that no one really took offense to anything in the issue, and that many people actually felt “relieved” because it broke some of the tension during that time. I thought that their ability to take an almost impossible task, such as 9/11, and somehow find a different slant on it, was truly amazing. It is this attention to detail and ability to be delicate on certain topics that really impressed me, and made me gain so much more respect for their organization. Overall, this meeting was not only hilarious and entertaining, but it gave us a look into a publication that isn’t afraid of breaking the rules and pushing the envelope.
Our next meeting was with Channel 13, and was our first encounter with a Television broadcast corporation. I thought that the people here were very professional, and did an excellent job in explaining how their shows are produced. One of the highlights for me was the discussion with Charlotte Madson, who is involved with the production of the documentary show “Wide Angle.” The immense amount of work and time put into each show was especially evident, which in turn illustrates the organization’s commitment to quality. Also, authenticity was stressed, as the reporters would get in-depth information on a particular country, and try to tell stories that are largely unheard. This often spurs on people to react to the stories, which definitely proves the impact of the show on the general public. Throughout the meeting, we were also given many pieces of advice on being better journalists and reporters. One of the main points stressed in this meeting was that as a journalist you have to be flexible, and to be skilled in not only writing, but in producing as well. This includes being able to shoot videos, take pictures, and edit pieces. They explained that the reason for this was because nowadays people have to do most of the work themselves, rather than having a large TV crew accompany them. I thought that this was great advice considering that we are in the midst of a new digital media age, in which technology will continue to change how reporting is carried out.
Our meeting with the Nielsen Company, the biggest marketing and research company in the world, was definitely a change of pace for us considering most of the places we visited have been on the other side of the spectrum in terms of media. Although I thought that this meeting was not the most beneficial for me in terms of my future, I still enjoyed learning about how Nielsen analyzes corporations and products. It is impressive how they can gather information about the viewing habits on so many people and still provide accurate results. However, one of the issues discussed was how DVR and Tivo are changing the game, in a sense it makes it harder to track if people are watching advertisements or programs. Also, it was interesting to hear that Nielsen is often compared to an Umpire in the sense that no one really takes notice until a bad call or mistake is made. Therefore, they are pushed to provide the most accurate data and research possible in keeping their standards high.
Personally being more interested in public relations rather than the journalistic side of the media, I was looking forward to our next meeting at Ketchum Public Relations. One of the first points stressed in the meeting was how the field has grown tremendously in the last few decades. John Palusazek, senior PR practitioner, attributed this growth to four main points. The first was that PR has grown because they offer communication resources of all types and to all kinds of audiences. Therefore, the attraction of PR is very broad. The second point was that every kind of institution realizes the need to relate to their publics, which PR professionals help them to do. The third point was that PR today is considered a global practice, thus showing its scope. Finally, the last point was that digital services are influencing all business, thus making their job more crucial and involved. I thought that these points were very true, and that more and more corporations are realizing the need for a PR department in order to better interact with their publics and to reach their goals. Also, they said that one of the biggest parts of their job is evaluation, and that relying on research is key. This is very important considering that because they are such a large-scale corporation, they often have many different clients with differing needs, thus making feedback and research extremely vital to their service. Ultimately, this meeting was highly educational for me, and provided me with a good look into how the field of PR is evolving and how the organization conducts business in response to these changes.
Our next meeting with Barron’s Magazine was probably one of my least favorites from our trip. This is mostly due to the fact that I have little interest for stocks and big business finances, so the information presented didn’t really catch my attention. However, Flemming Meeks, the editor of the daily online newsletter there, did give some good advice on general writing skills. He said that one of the most important things to remember when writing a story is that you have to gain the reader’s attention from the outset. Even though he does write about financial issues, he tries to remember that it’s not the numbers; it’s the people that bring about a good story. I found this compelling because I came into the meeting expecting to hear about numbers and math, so his emphasis on people and human nature was refreshing.
The New York School of Law was the next meeting on our list, and it was also one of my least favorites. Similar to Barron’s, the topic covered never really appealed to me, thus seeming not as important for my future career. However, they discussed some interesting information concerning new technology and the switch to digital cable. They covered many of the technological components of the switch, which I never fully understood before. In addition, a good piece of advice was given to us, which basically implied that we should brush up on our technological terms, especially because of the approaching digital age which is on the horizon. I thought that this advice was important, especially as most of us will be dealing with more and more technology in the future to come.
Our next meeting, which was with the Associated Press, really impressed me as far as the organization and professionalism of the tour. Having two experienced and very intelligent speakers was definitely a treat for us, and both conveyed different aspects of the issues in the media and within the organization. One of the key points that came out of the first discussion was that the demand for news is still as great as it’s ever been. Even with the changing of times, the media is still thriving and growing. I thought this was sort of counterintuitive because as the Internet becomes increasingly vast, it seems as though the role of journalists may decrease. Another valuable statement that came from the first discussion was the thought that the media is constantly changing, and that people must expect the change and move forward. I felt that this was good advice considering that some people rigidly try to hold on to dying technology, which doesn’t get them anywhere. The second part of the meeting involved a tour of their facilities, and even a sit in on one of their meetings. This tour gave us all a better sense of how a giant like the Associated Press actually works, and in my case, brought the whole experience to life - instead of just listening to the people telling us about the organization, we were able to see it in action first-hand. Overall, the entire experience at the AP was definitely a highlight of the trip, and helped me get a sense of how a successful newsroom is run.
Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising was our next meeting and really stood out to me as an interesting and fun organization. One of the first things I noticed when walking into their office was the very modern decorations and furniture. This gave me a fresh, innovative first impression of them. When we started our meeting, I was really impressed by their work on various advertisements. Their emphasis on simple, but heart-warming messages really drew me in. In addition, many of their ads were humorous and memorable, such as the Tide stain commercial. Erin Lyons, the communications team leader there, explained how they utilize an idea called “Lovemarks,” which she explained as being the act of elevating and evolving brands to a high level and also producing an immense level of respect. This concept was very appealing to me, because they seemed to operate with a lot of thoughtfulness and meaning behind their work. In addition, their thought process was made up of an abbreviation that included the objective, the issue, interest, and the creative challenge. I thought that was an innovative way to go about their planning, and probably helps in keeping people on track and focused. Also, their emphasis on positive messages and support for humanitarian causes such as UNICEF really intrigued me. This showed that they actually care about constructive issues, and how to better society. The tour of the facility was also a highlight of the meeting, and displayed the fun and easy-going atmosphere of working there. Overall, I think that this was one of the organizations that most appealed to me in terms of future employment due to their mix of professionalism and creativity.
Columbia University, the next stop on our list, was a very interesting due to Sree Sreenivasan, a professor and media expert. From the start, he made us feel welcome and encouraged for our meeting to be more of an open discussion rather than a lecture. He then discussed a wealth of information about new media and Internet tools. One of the points that he stressed was that people need to have a new media mindset, rather than just having a new media toolset. Thus, this implies not only having the technological tools to keep up with the changing times, but a mindset that adapts with the technology as well. An interesting term which he told us about in the meeting was called a “tradigital journalist;” which basically describes a person who has all the traits of a traditional journalist, but also knows his/her way around digital as well. Another fascinating point Sreenivasan brought to the table was that the media is facing a challenge due to the business model, not the technology or the journalists.
Our next meeting was in the same building with Mike Hoyt, executive editor of the Columbia Journalism Review. My first thoughts about the publication that Hoyt gave us were that it looked very well put-together and professional. The articles were well-written and scholarly, and pertained to appealing topics. However, I thought that the rest of the meeting as a whole wasn’t as interesting, and dealt with issues that didn’t spark my attention.
Project for Excellence in Journalism was our first meeting Washington DC. There we met with Tom Rosenthal, who gave us an inside look into how their organization goes about critiquing journalism. In addition, Rosenthal talked about how news is becoming a more active environment in which we pick and choose whatever we want. He described the shift from the old media as going from being the gatekeeper and having people be consumers, to people now becoming their own editors. He also described news-gathering as being like a “diet,” in which people need the right amount of nutrition, and not too much “junk food.” Overall, he concluded by saying that technology has the potential for a much richer journalism.
The Podesta Group, which focuses on lobbying and public relations, was our next meeting in DC. Claudia James, who is the telecommunications expert there, mostly explained how Obama’s administration is changing the policy on disclosure, and how it shifts the focus to a policy of openness and affects the FOYA applications. James also talked about how DTV will be an issue in the future concerning their work.
National Public Radio was our next stop, and instead of a conference type of meeting, we were given a full tour. Although the tour was interesting, I felt that it wasn’t as informational as the other meetings, because we weren’t able to ask a lot of questions that we wanted answered. Instead, it seemed like more of a show and tell type of experience. However, it was really neat to see the main sound studio, being that music and recording are some of my biggest passions. However, as a whole I would say that this meeting did not stand out that much to me simply because of the lack of depth in the content covered.
Our next meeting with Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press was a nice change of pace because they were an advocacy organization that dealt with legal issues. Being that I don’t write for a paper, I had never heard of this organization before. However, if I was a reporter, it would be nice to know that an organization like this would be able to help me if I got into some legal issues. It really seemed like they do a thorough job in investigating each case, and try to defend journalists who have been treated unlawfully to the best of their ability.
Similar to the previous meeting, the Student Press Law Center provided the same kind of legal services to student journalists. Frank LoMonte, director of the SPLC, also talked about the internship program which seemed very hands-on, evidenced by the intern-produced final project which we were able to look at. The piece was put together very nicely, and featured stories and articles pertaining to cases they’ve dealt with.
The next meeting with The Express was very inspiring because we met with Aimee Goodwin, copy editor who was also a former student at Whitworth. Not only did I think that the paper was well balanced and a good read, but the fact that a person who was in my position a few years ago and is now in a successful position really encouraged me. Also, it was great to see that they try to keep the office light-hearted and fun, such as stacking their papers like well-earned trophies.
The Washington Post Online was also a refreshing change of pace, dealing with more of the website side of things. Chet Rhodes, assistant managing editor, not only was funny, but also gave us an extensive tour of how the website operates and is managed. Rhodes also displayed a new system of displaying news called TimeSpace, which was a unique way for the viewer to experience events. Overall, I thought that this was a very intriguing presentation, and Rhodes was able to give us a taste of how news is presented on the Internet medium.
Our final meeting with PBS was definitely a great way to end the trip. Just the fact that we met with the President and CEO of the corporation, Paula Kerger, was exhilarating to say the least. Let me be honest and admit that I was not expecting a woman to come walking through those doors. That being said, it was an extremely nice surprise to see that a woman made it to such a position of power, which is unfortunately not as easily achieved in our society. It’s a sad fact in itself when we are surprised or taken back by a woman who is in a high position of authority, and I hope that this can change in the near future. The meeting was very interesting and informative, and it was especially fascinating to hear how they balance such a wide range of shows aimed at varying demographics. Ultimately, this was a great meeting to end our trip on, and I’m glad that we were given the opportunity to meet someone of the caliber of Kerger.
Museums and Other Events
In addition to the many great meeting we had, our group was also fortunate to experience a little slice of life that both New York and Washington DC had to offer. This took the form of museums, shows, and of course, the Inauguration.
First, the museums we visited were all intriguing and fascinating. The first museum we saw in New York was the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and was overwhelming to say the least. I have never seen an exhibit as extensive and thorough as the Metro, which featured art pieces and artifacts from numerous cultures. I felt that the Egyptian section was the most interesting part of the museum for me because just seeing some of the tombs and buildings in person was very breath-taking. In addition, it was great to see some of the hieroglyphics and early forms of communication, which related much to the Mass Media History course I took last semester.
Along the trip, we also visited other museums featuring different aspects of history. One of those that stood out was the National Holocaust Museum, which was enormously powerful and saddening. It hit me hard to see how the events played out, from Hitler’s rise to power to the tragic massacre of millions of people. Out of all the museums, this one definitely had the biggest impact on me, and made me recognize how large scale the holocaust actually was.
The National Archives was another interesting museum we went to, and I felt it was the most important in terms of our nation’s history. Seeing the actual original copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, as well as many other important documents was a very unreal experience. I felt as though I was staring at our country’s foundation in a sense, especially in terms of the freedoms we enjoy. In addition, seeing the Constitution was very exciting from a media and particularly journalist point of view, because it laid the foundation for the freedoms we use in the practice. Thus, this was a very big part of the trip for me, because I feel that the media’s impact wouldn’t be the same without the fundamental roots that these documents established.
However, one of the most beneficial activities in terms of relation to our class was our trip to the Newseum. I thought that museum illustrated all the different mediums of the media in intricate detail; from its early beginnings to the digital age. One of the highlights for me was the wall that displayed all of the Pulitzer Prize photos. Some were really heart wrenching and intense and display was overall inspiring to lay eyes on. In fact, this exhibit almost inspired me to consider photojournalist as a possible career; however, after thinking it through, I’m not sure that that will happen. Also, I enjoyed the section about the digital age, and how technology is changing the way that media operates. I thought this section went hand in hand with many of the meetings we went to considering that almost everyone we met with discussed this issue.
Another high point of the trip was when Pat and I went to see a Conan O’Brien show live. I have always been a big fan of Conan for his humor and spunk, so I was thrilled when we finally got in after three hours of waiting. I never realized how much goes on behind the scenes and during commercial breaks before I witnessed it at the show. The studio looked much different in person, and featured a lot of equipment and cameras which you never see on TV. In addition, there were a lot of staff involved on the set and in the area much of the time, including cameramen and make-up artists. Ultimately, it was captivating to witness the show from a behind-the-scenes perspective, and in the end, it was extremely funny and well worth the wait.
Finally, the biggest highlight for me, and probably for many others from the trip, was being able to attend the Inauguration. When I first heard I would have the possibility to attend this historic event, it sounded almost too good to be true. Just the thought of watching the first African-American president take his oath into office was tremendously exciting. When the day actually arrived and we headed downtown at 4:30 AM, it slowly set in on how historic the event would be. Just standing out there in the sub-freezing temperatures with thousands of other people was literally and figuratively a bone-chilling experience. However, when we finally got in and I realized how many people were around me, it really started to hit me. Just looking around at all the people from different races and walks of life, gathered together in joyous anticipation of what was to come, was something that I’ll never forget. You could tell people traveled far and wide just to be at this event, which made it feel like I was part of something immensely significant. Hearing the chants of “Obama” from about two million people in unison was also a memory that will be engrained in my head for the rest of my life. It was truly a historic moment, and I was glad I was able to be a part of it.
In terms of my future, I feel that this trip was an exceptionally beneficial and valuable experience for me. Although I don’t really see myself going into journalism or broadcast, it was great seeing how they operate first-hand. Places like the Smoking Gun and The Onion really stood out to me, and if I was to take the journalistic route, I could imagine myself being at a place similar to those two. I’ve always enjoyed writing in more of a creative and humorous manner, therefore making these seem like a perfect fit.
However, the real highlight for me was seeing both the advertising and public relations side of the media through meetings such as Ketchum Public Relations and Saatchi and Saatchi Advertising. This is the area of Communications that I could really see myself doing in the future, so it was a great experience to visit these places in person. I especially was interested in Saatchi and Saatchi and the work they do there, because I admire their creativity and innovative approach to their ads. I could definitely see myself working at a place like this in the future, and thoroughly enjoying my work while doing so. In addition, the visit to Ketchum Public Relations solidified what I learned in a PR class I took last semester, and it was neat to see how the concepts in class actually played out in the real world.
In addition, hearing about the advancements in technology and how it is affecting the media will probably better prepare me for my future. Because we are in the midst of a digital age, I feel that it is important to be able to keep up with the times and adapt accordingly. Thus, hearing many different professional opinions on this trip helped me to get a better sense of where the industry may be going in the near future. Therefore, this knowledge may prepare me for advancements and changes to come. In turn, if I am able to apply those pieces of advice to my future career, I may be ahead of the curve in terms of technological knowledge.
Just going to the East Coast for the first time also meant a lot to me, and may have an impact on my future. Who knows, I may end up working in the East Coast. But even if I don’t, I feel that the experiences and knowledge I have gained by being on the East Coast for three weeks is something that will definitely better me in the long run. I firmly believe that the more you travel, the more you grow intellectually and culturally as a result. I have lived in Hawaii most of my life, which is basically the total opposite side of the country from the East Coast, so going there for the first time was definitely a shell-shock. Even compared to life here in Spokane, the differences between the two places are night and day. One of the biggest differences I noticed was the pace of lifestyle. In New York everything’s faster paced, and if you are not up to speed, you could get left behind in the dust. Also, the diversity mix was extremely different from Spokane, where most of the population is Caucasian. In addition, I got to see how a very efficient public transportation is run, something that neither Hawaii nor Spokane really has.
This trip has also quelled some wrong suppositions I’ve had about the East Coast. For example, I always had the assumption that New Yorkers were very self-oriented and rude individuals. This assumption was mostly based on what I have seen in movies or TV shows. However, I found the reality to be quite opposite. In fact, pretty much all the people we met with and ran into on the streets were courteous and kind, and were more than happy to help us. It is revelations like these that I would have never known if I had not gone on this trip, and I now feel more knowledgeable and content as a result.
Ultimately, this trip not only broadened my horizons academically, but also showed me some options for future careers and pathways. Wherever I’m headed in the future, I’ll be able to apply the knowledge I learned on this trip, especially in terms of the changing digital times.