Lyin’ and Tiger’s affairs … oh my

Did anyone not watch Tiger Woods’ press conference Friday? If you didn’t you were certainly in the minority as millions gathered around TV sets or watched online to see the world’s most famous athlete end three months of silence.

To put the obsession with Woods’ personal life, affairs and alleged sex addiction into perspective, there were over 93,000 tweets on Twitter about Woods Friday. Another hundred thousand something changed their Facebook status in response to Woods’ statement and at TheTimesNews.com, we had a live video feed provided by The Associated Press, which several hundred people tuned in to. But is this whole affair scandal actually news? From what I have read so far, the verdict is still out.

At TheTimesNews.com, online commenter sounded off, some expressing opinions about his future and legacy in golf while others were outraged with his behavior and all the news coverage surrounding it. One commenter called for Woods to “sit down and shut up.” Another claimed that “If every cheating husband/wife had to make a press conference on national TV, we would have nothing to watch BUT that.”

As I perused a few social networking sites Friday it seemed that almost everyone was talking about Woods and his affairs, but why? I agree that his personal business should not be aired in the public for the sake of his wife, Elin, his mother and his children, but with the 24-hour news cycle superstars like Woods can’t avoid the spotlight, no matter how personal a matter it is.

Is it fair? Some say no, but the millions of dollars he’s earned over the year in endorsements might suggest it comes with the territory. Both sides of the fence have good arguments.

I have read mixed opinions on the Internet about how Woods handled the situation. Many were disappointed that the press conference was so scripted with Woods reading from a piece of paper for the entire 15 minutes. Others mocked the forum for his speech, citing that he invited the people present and refused to take questions, basically setting his own agenda. Some felt he was sincere and accepted his apology while others longed for answers to the hundreds of questions that loom about his affair and return to golf.

A friend of mine said he actually found more entertainment value in the press conference that CNN aired after Woods. A former porn star, alleged to have had an affair with Wood,s held her own media session Friday. With her attorney present, the two pleaded for a personal apology from Woods. The attorney read a statement, which included a section bashing Woods for going to a sex rehabilitation clinic, announcing publicly that he should instead check in to “Lying rehab.”

Is this whole saga news or entertainment? Today’s demand for news often brings attention and blows up certain stories that might not normally be in the spotlight. There is no doubt that Tiger Woods being absent from golf is a news story and the reason for his leave of absence should be reported, but should every little detail be plastered all over TV, newspapers and the Internet? Maybe not.

The only thing I care about is when he will return to golf. He said Friday that he will return, but did not give a timetable. Some experts suggest he will be ready as soon as April for The Masters, but who knows.

When he returns will he win? Will he dominate? Those are the questions that I want answers to, but I don’t need a press conference to answer them, he’ll answer them on the golf course.

I can’t say I will cheer for Woods like I once did because I don’t agree with any of his reckless behavior, but if he is able to compete again at the highest level it will be tough not to watch him.

The bottom line is that Tiger Woods is one of the greatest athletes of all time. He didn’t commit a major crime despite his immoral behavior, so if he can play golf again and succeed, he might be able to prevail from the current personal disaster that engulfs him.

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Ebay, online auction sites are brilliant

Online auction sites like Ebay provide the online shopper with everything they desire while eliminating the need for any sort of in-house inventory.

These sort of Web sites are set up so that users can sell their own stuff to other users. Basically, people are buying and selling products that are not owned by the Web site itself. So, Ebay doesn’t own the products being sold. Those products are owned by other business who use Ebay or individual users selling personal items.

The system works great. By giving all the buying and selling power to the user, all Ebay has to do is facilitate and keep the structure in place and working efficiently. By having an online auction site, Ebay doesn’t have to order any product or monitor its inventory like other businesses that have actual stores. Ebay doesn’t need to worry about having enough of a popular sports equipment piece or a best selling novel in stock because the users feed the inventory.

Online auction sites are easy to use and full of interactivity. The experience begins with a search, usually typing in what you’re looking for or navigating through the site’s navigation. After that the user sifts through what is usually a large pool of results specific to the search. The user then decides which person they want to buy the product from, using price and the seller as determining factors to make their decision.

A concern for consumers is always the trust factor. Do I trust this person enough to buy their product? Ebay and other auction sites solve this problem by using PayPal’s secure system and by establishing a seller rating system where users can rate and comment on their experience with the seller. The better the experience the higher the seller rating.

I personally use online auction sites a lot. I used sited like half.com to buy text books, eBay to buy golf equipment and ticket sites like Stubhub.com to find tickets to a sporting event. They are convenient and always have the product you are looking for.

How are online auction sites organized?  What elements of interactivity are conducive on the site for browsing and purchasing?

Are we too caught up in new technology to function socially?

In my Media Issues class, the author of one of our books writes that he doesn’t believe that new communication technologies can solve social problems. I disagree strongly with this mindset.

The book may be a little outdated, but the author, McChesney, seems dead set on his values of old media. Some could argue and I am going to try that social networking itself makes it easier to solve social problems. In today’s world Internet access isn’t becoming more and more available and that number is growing. It seems that everyone is connected to everyone.

On the local level, thousands joined a Facebook group for a missing Elon alumni, Kyle Fleischmann. The group organized search parties, donations and was used to develop new leads and talk about the case. Unfortunately, he is still missing, but the group has helped answered some questions and established a central location for people to get information about the latest status of the case.

I think that the younger generation would prefer to rely on these new technologies to get their information and communicate with each other. How many people would prefer to send an e-mail or a Facebook message than pick up a phone and make a call? A lot. I know I do in most cases.

I think that traditional news sources like TV and newspapers will still exist to solve social issues, but they are changing form. I think they are much more useful to the public online. The user can watch video, read, learn and talk back all in one place. I think it is important to have it all in one place.

The sooner we realize how much more valuable a news Web site is than the traditional product, the better off we will be. McChesney seems behind on his thinking and is one that almost stands in the way of the Web takeover of social networking and online news. I think the sooner he and others embrace it as a positive, the better off we will be because it isn’t going anywhere, that’s for sure.

There is no road map for Internet ethics

The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada began under a dark shadow of tragedy as a luger from the country of Georgia was killed during practice Friday.

Nodar Kumaritashvili, 21, was on the final corner of the course during a training run when he had a serious crash and was thrown from the sled and smashed into an unpadded steel beam. The horrific accident came just hours before the game’s opening ceremony.

I learned of the tragedy while having dinner at a restaurant. A TV in the distance was tuned to CNN and I read the breaking news title which revealed that a luger had died after a crash. Just seconds later, CNN aired video of the crash which caused everyone at my table to cringe and gasp in shock. Were CNN and other news stations out of line for airing that video? I think so.

After searching the Internet I found the video on YouTube, no surprise there, but also found it on NBC, CNN and ABC’s Web sites. I couldn’t find it on Web sites for FOX News or CBS, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t there. Online, each video was prefaced with a graphic content warning, alerting viewers that the material about to be shown may not be suitable for all audiences. I wish I had received a similar message before seeing it air on CNN.

I understand that some people might have wanted to see video of the crash for whatever reason, but I guarantee you the luger’s family and friends did not. I have less of an issue with the video being posted online because standards are different on the Internet. Online, a user chooses what they watch and read and click off quick and easy, but on TV, the station chooses what to broadcast. The Internet is a user experience and TV is a viewer experience.

The video is actually on our Web site, TheTimesNews.com. It is located within our Olympic section, which is a syndicated site put together by The Associated Press. We do not control the content on the site. The video there does not have a disclaimer, but I have written the Associated Press to request they add one.

Airing the video is a question of ethics and I have been dealing more with ethical issues in the last two weeks than in the last two years. With today’s technology and the Internet we have unlimited access to information and often have more content than we know what to do with. And lately, more and more of that content is showing up online.

Earlier this month, one of our photographers went out to the scene of two separate and unrelated incidents and took some photographs. Two of the photos showed male victims being helped by paramedics and you could see that they were bleeding. He e-mailed the photos to me with a little bit of information about what happened. The information was vague since authorities were still trying to piece everything together. A few hours later, the photos and information were posted online with an end tag that read “Check back at TheTimesNews.com as more information becomes available.”

Later that morning as I sat in my “Media Issues” class, ironic I know, I received an e-mail from one of our reporters who felt that we should take the photos down. She was sensitive to the victims and thought they should be removed. We discussed the issue back-and-forth through e-mail and I wrestled with a tough call. It was perfectly legal for us to publish those photos online, but was it ethical?

There is no real precedent for online ethics because the Internet is too unfamiliar and unpoliced. In the end, I decided to take the photos down. I didn’t feel that they brought enough news value to the story to outweigh their graphic nature. I am still torn on that decision and there really is no right answer. I am sure the TV stations debated their decision to air the luge crash video too. The bottom line is that these issues are difficult to decide and unfortunately, we will face them time and time again.

Is journalism a problem?

In my media issues class we have been discussing the state or journalism and the problems with it today. As a working journalist I see some problems with the current protocol, but don’t see it as a major concern.

Our text book over exaggerates the problems with today’s journalism. I believe that on the national level journalism is flawed and I agree with some of the book’s suggestions for how to fix it. They need to be more investigative. The difference between national and local news coverage is that all the national media outlets cover the same events and issues, but the local outlets cover things specific to their area, so they differ depending on where you are.

It is time the national media start doing things differently. Instead of filing the same story from the Washington Post, NY Times, ABC News and more, let’s have more investigative pieces that differ from station to station and newspaper to newspaper.

I agree with our book’s author that national outlets just report on what they are told by the government and official sources. There needs to be more digging. On the local level, I don’t see this as a big of a problem, except for the fact that the local media organizations are forced to use those same generic reports from national outlets because of resources.

I just don’t see a major problem with the media though. I do recognize that investigative journalism has taken a back seat to deliver desirable content to online viewers. Instead of reporting like we have done for generations, we tend to focus on what is popular and what the online readers want to see. This result in too much crime reporting, less feature stories and as a result there is no time for investigative journalism.

I think once online journalism is mastered, sooner rather than later I hope, then investigative journalism will return.

Wouldn’t it be great …

If I had created the mobile phone? I certainly think it would be.

The mobile phone continues to grow in popularity and usability. As the demand increases for these useful devices they will become more enhanced and can do more and more. The idea and concept behind the mobile phone is genius.

First came the cellular telephone which made an individual available outside of the house. You could now communicate verbally to people no matter where they were. The cellular phone became even more convenient than the household land-line phone. Essentially, the consumer said why do I need a land-line phone when I have this cellular phone I can take with me wherever I go. That idea evolved into the mobile device.

The cellular phone was always mobile after it broke away from the car phone philosophy, but the mobile part refers to the device’s capabilities to do more than just make phone calls from remote locations. Mobile devices today can take pictures, shoot video surf the Web and much more. With GPS capabilities you can use your mobile device to navigate to a friend’s house and listen to music.

Many of today’s mobile phones also have touch screen capabilities, making them super easy to use and navigate. In the future these devices will completely take over and become the standard for Web browsing, making phone calls and much more. I think that the cost of the phones will come down as they become the standard and technology costs decrease. Soon, everyone will own one and will use it for everything. Phones will come with built-in projectors to display images and video on larger surfaces. You will also be able to dock your phone at home so it becomes your land-line phone or can be hooked up to your computer or stereo system. At some point the device will act as your house key and car key, starting your car or opening your door for you.

Just think, at your finger tips you can watch a movie, watch television, read the newspaper or read a book. The technology already exists, it is just a matter of catching on to every consumer which will happen as they become more affordable and available.

I envy the person or company who created the iPhone and these other mobile devices. They are so convenient and useful that they must have made a lot of many for those people involved in their development. It sure would have been nice to be a part of the innovation.

Food is the best part of the Super Bowl

Every good party has excellent food and drink and the Super Bowl is no different. As the game is the grand daddy of them all, the same is true for the food display. The spread must be the best.

Here are a few items I like to enjoy while watching the Super Bowl. Of course, all of these foods should be washed down with an ice cold beer because that is the way God intended it.

Chili

I am not a huge chili fan, but I am outnumbered. Still, even though I will opt for other items before fixing a bowl of chili, it is a must have for the Super Bowl, especially with the recent cold snowy weather we’ve been having here in North Carolina.

chicken-wingsBuffalo Wings

Whether you like them hot, mild or with honey BBQ sauce it doesn’t matter. Just make sure you have them at your party. Wings are the ultimate sports snack and are required in order to enjoy the game. I mean that.

Dips

There are all kinda of dips for parties, but here is what you should have at your Super Bowl party. No veggie dips or any crap like that. The Super Bowl is a man’s game so bring a man’s dip. A sausage and cheese dip is delicious and OK to eat in public. Other dips include a buffalo chicken dip, which I will attempt to make this year, Crab dip and any sort of Mexican dip. Mexican dips take all the things we love and tosses them all together, salsa and cheese being the two obvious choices.

Baked goods

Attention men. We usually bring our ladies to Super Bowl parties so they can help make the dips and also the baked goods. Cookies and brownies are a nice change of pace from all the fried foods mentioned above.

Pizza

You need it in some form. I recommend bagel bites or pizza rolls for the Super Bowl. They’re easier to eat then slices, especially with a lot of people in the living room you don’t need pizza boxes getting in the way.

Pigs in a blanket

Everyone loves hot dogs and a little crescent roll wrapped around one is just perfect. So put some on your table for your friends to enjoy.

Ham biscuits

A co-worker’s wife makes some delicious mini ham biscuits for our Fantasy football draft every year. I’d never had them until moving to N.C., but buy was I missing out. They are fantastic and you need them for your party.

Chips, nuts and everything else

Potato chips, Doritos, chips and salsa, peanuts and M&Ms are perfect “pour them in a bowl” snacks. You don’t have to cook or prepare anything. They’re simple yet delicious. It’s up to you what kind to get, just make sure they’re available to your guests.

Beverages

If you plan on drinking a lot of alcohol during the Super Bowl then you might choose a lighter beer like Bud Light or Miller Light. But, if you’re purely going on enjoyment and taste or want to switch it up, here are a few recommendations:

beer_footballSam Adams Winter Lager

Magic Hat #9

Fosters

Heineken

Amstel Light

Or whatever is on sale.

Bottom line, nothing healthy. I outlined a lot of food and a lot of beer, but it’s the biggest game of the year. Splurge, enjoy yourself because after Sunday night, we have to wait all Spring and Summer for our favorite game to return. So, eat and drink up!

Jokes stop after real snow storm finally hits

I am always the first to squawk at reports of a big snow storm during our newsroom budget meetings.

I joke about the milk and bread syndrome and make cracks at the over-projection of snow, which always seems to disappoint in terms of accumulation totals. Coming from Boston I have seen snow and lots of it, but I can’t remember many storms that lingered as long as this one right here in North Carolina.

Having recently enjoyed sunny 90-degree days in Panama, I hadn’t really gotten back on track after the trip. My apartment is in disarray and I hadn’t been to the grocery store since before the trip. So, with the storm looming Friday, I decided to join the milk and bread goers and went for some last-minute shopping after work.

The store was a disaster.

I wasn’t grocery shopping in emergency mode, but I knew I didn’t have any food in my apartment so I had to go. The aisles were jam-packed with shoppers frantically tossing items into their carts. The egg aisle was the worst.

The shelves were covered in egg yoke and broken shells lined the refrigeration unit. Half-empty cartons were tossed all over the place. Not a single carton was left intact or available for purchase.

After waiting in the checkout line for close to 30 minutes I was finally able to leave the war zone. Later that night it began snowing and didn’t stop until Saturday morning, a little earlier than projected. We got about seven inches of snow and ice.

The roads were a mess Saturday afternoon as I drove to my girlfriend’s apartment. Later, we tried to pick up some dinner, but almost everything was closed and there were very few cars out on the road, which, of course, was unplowed. Getting in and out of my girlfriend’s apartment complex was the worst. A tall snow bank stood in the entrance and I really had to give the car some gas to get it up and over. After a loud thud, the car went soaring through the snow. Success!

Sunday wasn’t much better. Despite the sun’s presence for the first time in days, the roads were just as poor. Intersections were also dangerous as a collection of snow gathered at every stop light, including the Forestdale Drive and Church Street crossing. On a slight hill, my car started to skid a little before I regained control and smoothed things out. Snow in North Carolina wasn’t so funny anymore.

I thought for sure that by Monday morning conditions would be better, but they were almost worse. More roads seemed to be partially cleared, but black ice added to the mix. I left for work around 7:15 a.m. and headed down Haggard Avenue in Elon as usual. I tried to turn right onto Front Street, but couldn’t as my car started to spin out. I was able to straighten it out and get back on Haggard Avenue, so I just continued straight and went to work a different way.

I don’t understand why so few roads are plowed across Alamance County. It is kind of ridiculous. According to the county, plowing Interstate 85/40 and its on and off ramps took longer than expected over the weekend. As a result, only Highways 100, 70, 87 and 54 were finished by Monday morning. That left Highways 62, 119, 49 and most other secondary roads in the county to be plowed Monday. I won’t even try to explain why city roads in Burlington weren’t plowed. To be honest, the city can’t explain it, either.

I doubt all the roads will ever be plowed and the sun will do a quicker job than the snow plows, tractors and whatever else they are using to move snow off the roads. I understand that it doesn’t snow much here, but when it does the conditions end up worse than they should be. It seems that the system in place to deal with snow storms is flawed. I didn’t see a single plow or salt truck on the road while I was out driving this weekend.

I hope that the slow response time in plowing roads from this storm is fixed as soon as possible, especially because there is a chance for more snow at the end of the week.

Apple iPad jumpstarts new revolution

Sure, people have been using the Kindle for awhile, but have you seen the new Apple iPad? It looks pretty incredible and the price is right.

Now I don’t have $499 to drop on a new iPad when it becomes available in March, but if I did I would jump all over one.

The new device is advertised as better than a laptop and better than a mobile device. The size is perfect. It is about the size of a piece of paper and its thin 1/2 width is sleek and slim. Its lightweight design will make it easy to carry around and transport. And it does it all.

The iPad will do all the things your laptop and mobile device can do, but it will do them better. I think the sell for this device is the size and the ability to use it more like a book than a computer or a phone.

The touch screen allows you to move through all the device’s elements with ease and quickness. The interface makes complete sense and the keyboard is larger than a mobile device, eliminating the hassle of touching the wrong keys.

The iPad works with the more than 140,000 apps available and also works with iTunes.

There are different options for hard drive space which varies the price. Also, to purchase the iPpad with AT&T’s 3G network, you will have to tack on another charge.

When it comes down to it though, this will be the future, for now. We might see newspapers and magazines all converting to using tablets like this. The Kindle was released quietly, but Apple’s iPad was unveiled with a roar.

Putting it to the test

We are slowly starting the testing phase of our OI Panama project.

The Web structure is complete, most of the Flash elements are working properly and all the stories are finished, edited and posted on the Web site. All we are missing from the site is a large chunk of multimedia content.

Unfortunately, multimedia comprises about half of the Web site so there are a lot of holes. We are waiting on all of the videos and photo slideshows to be completed so we can upload them to the site.

While we wait on that content we are making sure links work and go to the correct pages and that all the text is spelled correctly. So far, so good.

When we get all the multimedia up on the site there will be a lot more to do. We will have to watch videos and slideshows and make sure things look good and that there aren’t any mistakes. Then we will have to check that they load and play correctly on the site.

So, there is still a lot to finish, but we are close. You can check it out at OIPanama.com, but remember that it is still under construction so we will be making tweaks and changes here and there. Feedback is welcome!

We present the finished project to the entire interactive media class and other school of communication faculty members Tuesday afternoon.