The Board of Governors would not be happy with what I got from JOMC 240 — and I’m ok with that

The idea of what qualifies as valuable, especially in something like public, state-funded education, is always in the eye of the beholder.

Some, like our “friends” in the state legislature and the Board of Governors, see value in tangible things: jobs, marketable skills, powerful resumés, money, money, money, money.

Some, notably my father who once told me to treat college like Shaq treated his NBA career (you could work your ass off and never have any fun and go down as the best student ever, or you could do great things but enjoy the ride. I’ve definitely enjoyed the ride.), regard intangible things like experience, new thinking styles and different perspectives as valuable.

I thought about value a lot when John Robinson tasked our JOMC 240 class with writing about what we got from his class, what the most important we learned was, how we have really changed this semester.

The class was set up in non-traditional setting with the students leading the course just as much as the professor. The class did not have a true syllabus, would occasionally veer off into tangents and always left us with more questions than answers.

And that was ok.

The most valuable thing that I am taking from the 30-person course is that sometimes just talking — not testing or memorizing or lecturing, but legitimate and thoughtful discussion — is the most effective way to learn and, much more important given my chosen field of study and hopefully work, create.

I’m not leaving Robinson’s course with a tangible, marketable skill liking coding or Chinese fluency that would make BOG members smile and nod as they know the state’s investment in me would one day pay off for them when I start paying into the tax system.

I’m leaving his class with something I find much more valuable. The ability to collaborate and create is so important in the changing world of media. The ideas that bounced around in class, the presentations that made us think about change in our field, the instructor who wouldn’t let us not push each other (I’m keeping this double negative just in case anyone from the Copy desk reads this accidentally) — these were all intangible things that helped me grow, not only as a journalist, but as a person too.

Our class was not perfect; we had days where the discussion was off-topic or the lack of structure was overwhelming apparent.

In the middle of the semester, the class was asked to fill out an evaluation form on what we had enjoyed and what we were confused with. To be completely honest, I think the form was the best thing that happened and not because the changes students suggested made some drastic, all-powerful shift in the course.

The form was so helpful, because I think we, the students, realized that when we scribbled down things like how we wished it was more structured we stopped and paused.

We are in college. We are at one of the best schools in the world. If we want change, we need to go out and do it ourselves.

So I’m cheating a little, because I did already mention what I found most valuable in this class. But I am taking this sentiment, that we need to be the ones who initiate change, as the thing that will stick with me longest.

This is what I am taking most from this class: Change is made by leaders, not followers — by those who overextend themselves and take risks, not those who ask their professor for more structure.

Grabbing life and running with it is something most college professors will tell you; you will hear about how you are in the prime of your life with the world at your feet, and despite all of those pesky, pressing concerns (getting job in an ever-changing market is probably up there as one of the biggest stressors I’m just going to go ahead and say), you are going to achieve whatever and blah blah blah.

But in this class it was different because we could see how we were actually going to grab life and run with it. Coming up with ideas for the future of news and its consumption, one could see the wheels turning in people’s heads as ideas from class became more than ideas —they started to become plans.

The world of media is changing and it is riddled with issues, much like the name of the course suggests, but that doesn’t mean we should be scared of it. We are going to be the generation in charge very soon and, as leading individuals in the fourth branch of democracy, it is imperative that we lead this field into a new, ethical, unbiased, thought-provoking, openly-available-while-still-monetizing-it age.

And in this class, we didn’t figure out the solution to problems being faced by the media industry today. Actually, I’m pretty sure many of us are leaving with even more questions than what we came in with.

But now, we know that we can and will change this field — and that we will 30 people to chat about it if we ever get stuck, or something much, much worse. You know, like actually thinking we had solved all of the problems in the media world and putting ole J-Rob out of a job.


Kendrick Lamar’s new album and race

On my Twitter feed not too long ago, I saw a lot of uproar from a tweet by Slate pubbing a story about Kendrick Lamar’s new album “To Pimp A Butterfly.”

The story Slate wrote centers around how white listeners should interpret and perceive King Kendrick’s newest album. The album, which has been lauded by music critics and my friends alike, starts with a 45 second verse that repeats. The verse says “every n—- is a star” over and over again, growing louder and louder until finally breaking off into the first track’s actual beat.

Some of the individuals I follow blew up at Slate’s tweet, many reiterating a common sentiment: Kendrick didn’t make this album for you, white people.

First, I need to qualify myself. I’m white. I’m from the suburbs. I like Kendrick’s new album, but, at least at the time of writing this, I enjoyed his first album, “Good Kidd, M.A.A.D. City,” more.

But my thoughts when I hear that his album wasn’t made for white people are simple: I don’t think this was made for anyone but himself.

Kendrick is one of the most intelligent artists alive right now, I truly believe this. And he knows it. That’s why I think when he makes music, he is his toughest critic. That’s why it took so long for his second album to come out after he became a household name following his first album’s success. If he doesn’t love the way his music sounds, then he doesn’t produce it.

Do I think he made it the album with race in mind? Probably. Race is one of the most dominating and polarizing topics in the nation right now, and I think Kendrick, who I have always considered to be very socially conscious when it comes to talking about drugs, women and his hometown of Compton, was definitely aware and engaged with the national narratives and debates surrounding Ferguson.

But to me, the album doesn’t play like something that’s supposed to put off white people. If anything, I think it is something that is meant to give white people a chance to understand issues with race that we have never been able to see.

I think Kendrick is incredible, and the album stimulating. As white person, I listened to it with the conscious thought that I may or may not understand everything. To this point, I think the argument can be made that it was not made for me. It was not meant for me to relate to everything — and maybe other white listeners have complained about that.

I just don’t believe Kendrick made it with intent for only a segment of the population to listen to it.


The dangerous example the White House is setting

Sunshine Week is always great; it’s a week of celebration of democracy’s unofficial fourth branch and the important role journalists serve.

At the heart of Sunshine Week’s purpose is public information. Public records may be my favorite thing in the world. There is a weird feeling of joy I get everytime I see an email from UNC’s public records office.

But this brings me to a much more serious and grave point: The White House and its disregard for the fourth democratic branch.

In short, Obama’s administration has chosen to exempt itself from FOIA requests, giving the public and, more importantly, journalists a much more limited access into the inner workings of the most powerful office in the world. (Sidenote: I’m an Obama fan, but even I cannot make sense of this decision).

Jonathan Jones, the director of the Sunshine Center in North Carolina, called the decision to announce this during Sunshine Week “a slap in the face,” while David Levine, a law professor at Elon, criticized the entire Obama operation, saying his operations have been some of the most secretive in the history of the presidency.

But all of this misses the biggest issue.

You see, the White House’s decision may not be all that detrimental when viewed in a vacuum. It sucks that incredible White House reporters now have to work even harder to get documents and information that many view as public record. And it is upsetting that Obama, who has touted increased transparency in speeches, OK-ed this horrendous PR move.

But the biggest issue is that, for better or worse, the White House sets a precedent for its successors and its understudies. What stops other government agencies from becoming more withdrawn and secretive now?

The leader of the free world has made a decision that makes even the biggest Obama supporters cringe. I can only imagine what it did for those who aren’t in his camp.


How every March Madness announcer misses the mark

Every since my dad showed me how to fill out a bracket — before I could really write anything more than my name, really — I have loved the NCAA tournament.

It’s the most exciting time of the year, especially in the Triangle. Without the tourney, people may only despise the NCAA a lot instead so-much-it-makes-their-head-spin.

And here comes my issue with the entire spectacle. The tournament is, more or less, the NCAA throwing itself in our face. Just look at the facts:

-The NCAA is playing the Final Four in the Indianapolis Colts’ Lucas Oil Stadium, a behemoth of a stadium that feels more like a Grand Canyon than a typical college basketball arena (and this is coming from someone whose favorite team plays in one of the bigger arenas in the nation.) Why would the NCAA move the most important games of the year to an unfamiliar environment? Money, of course! The worst part is the Final Four becomes almost Super Bowl-esque, with less actual fans of the teams attending and more celebrities merely making an appearance.

-The NCAA has an official candy bar from this tournament. According to Forbes, the tournament made $1.13 billion in TV advertising just last year. The score lines at the top of the screen even have their own sponsors

-Jahlil Okafor does not need to play college basketball. He has been ready to play professionally since he graduated high school, only to have archaic rules force him to attend school for a year. While NCAA supporters say the year allows young studs to get an extra year of seasoning, it further diminishes the academic part of student-athletes’ lives.

These factors, plus the wonderful fact that no student-athlete has seen a dollar of the multi-billion dollar business that revolves around them, make it so much harder to enjoy the tournament.

From a broadcast perspective however, I’ve grown increasingly annoyed with the lack of conversation on the subject of the NCAA’s shady ways by color commentators, many of whom are former athletes and were screwed by the system.

Yes, they are indirectly profiting off of the system thanks to the massive broadcast deal between Turner Sports, CBS and the NCAA, but the thing is, college sports is not going away — they are only getting stronger. There will always be UNC-Duke, it just may not be held in the same, unfair ways they are currently conducted.

So, while some may see commentators speaking out as biting the hand that feeds them, it really is just them alerting the hand that it has a broken bone and it needs to be fixed, slowly but surely.


UNC is still thriving in teaching a certain type of student

Over Spring Break, Sports Illustrated writer S.L. Price published a long story that is a breakdown of what he saw as the downfall of the Carolina Way. 

Price, who went to UNC in the 1980s and worked for the DTH, had plenty of great lines in his piece, but one in particular stood out to me. Price spoke of how when his son, who had pushed since birth to go to his father’s alma mater, chose to go to UCLA, he was happy.

“Sending one more dollar to UNC felt too much like endorsing an academic crime binge,” Price wrote, which in many cases is true. UNC’s scandal was the worst case of academic fraud in the history of the NCAA. It’s embarrassing, a permanent, swollen black eye that will take decades to move past.

But going to UNC for the past half-decade has benefited one type of UNC student’s education: student journalists.

This year, I had national news break in my own backyard with the release of the Wainstein report. I myself have become so familiar with this scandal that I have had interview requests to talk about it on other media outlets. The Daily Tar Heel has broken incredibly important stories about the entire beast that is this scandal, for instance: Jan Boxill’s irregular independent studies that Price mentions in his piece, Mary Willingham’s FERPA-violating research application, the names of the employees facing disciplinary action, the Chapel Hill foundation’s overprotective tax policies, the issues of the 1993 start date.

These incredible important stories were all done by UNC students, who are competing with some of the best media professionals in the world. We learned everything from the journalism school and the DTH, neither of which we would have been able to experience without attending UNC.

So Price’s annoyance with UNC is understandable; I’m annoyed with how the scandal seemingly never ends and the fact my very hard-earned degree may be questioned. But thanks to this scandal, a certain group of UNC students are leaving this school better than ever. So, in a weird and twisted way, I guess UNC can take solace in that.


Weather is the eternal story idea and pain my butt

Even if print dies and all newscasts devolve into a disarray of cat videos and cheesy top 10 lists, there will still be one news item that will live on forever — the weather.

It is truly remarkable how every year this area gets some semblance of winter weather — somewhere in between 2 inches and 2 feet — and it is still the biggest story of the season. This year, of course, was no exception.

The Daily Tar Heel wrote two different front page stories about the snow, primarily because when no one is in their office to return our calls, what can we report on?

Snowdays in journalism, especially the newspaper business, are not a godsend like they are for the rest of the world. People still want and need the news despite not going to their own jobs for the day (yes that was supposed to be full of shade).

I can say that when your job is to report on University news and the only thing new  coming from it is that it is closed due to weather, you are basically left with no choice.

This isn’t me saying stories about snow and weather are unimportant. I know that follow-ups to natural disasters, like holding FEMA accountable for the shitshow they put on during Hurricane Katrina, are extremely important. It’s just that initial story that blows my mind as to how fascinating it is to the average person.

If a story is about 4 inches of snow, it is going to include some pretty typical things:

  • How many accidents the local police responded to
  • How many power outages
  • How this snowfall stacks up historically (with the obligatory “this storm, of course, is nothing compared to the wrath of winter gods we experienced in year XXXX” phrase)
  • How people are enjoying their day off
  • How the grocery stores sold all of their bread and milk — like all of it
  • Annddddddd that’s kind of it….

I wrote a snow story last week for the DTH, but luckily, I had the locally trending hashtag #WheresCarol and annoyed sense of body to deviate from the norm with, or else I would be turning into something I complain about it.


North Carolina Press Association Awards thoughts

Every time I think I could not be luckier to work at a place like The Daily Tar Heel, we do something else that ups the ante.

Thursday night’s awards ceremony saw the paper win a variety of awards, including the coveted Green-Rossiter/Duke Award for Higher Ed reporting.

As the only college paper invited to the awards ceremony, I oddly did not feel out of place sitting amongst professional journalists. The DTH receives as much criticism as anyone or anything on this campus — and that includes J.P Tokoto’s jumpshot and Carol Folt’s decison-making process on a snowday — but we are very good at what we do, and the North Carolina Press Association acknowledged it last night.

We didn’t feel out of place because we are not college kids that make a newspaper everyday.

We are a newspaper staff that happens to also be going to the same college. We know how important our paper is to holding UNC, Chapel Hill’s town government and Student Government accountable and take this role as seriously as any “professional” paper does.

Of course, there are people that have helped us along the way, but that could be said for any paper.

In particular, I want to thank Amanda Albright for her tremendous help in getting me off to the right start as University Editor this year. Her knowledge and teaching helped win us the higher education and sexual assault reporting awards that the DTH does not always win.

In short, despite the consistent hate spewed across Yik Yak and other social media about the DTH’s incompetence, there is no denying it — we are pretty damn good at what we do.