Tag Archives: Internet

Life Before Internet

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The last 15 years of life before the Internet were a magical time… Or so historians might write one day.

For me, the start of the digital revolution coincided with my own independence.

When I look back at 15, the year before I could drive, the year before freedom came my way in the form of my own vehicle, the year before girls, the year before work, the year before Tim Berners-Lee thought interconnectivity would be a good thing for this world, I see the last vestiges of a simpler time glowing like the embers of a late-summer fire.

Maybe mobile and smartphones were the bigger revolution, but when I was 15, I still dreamed. I went camping with my friends and spent time at coffee shops without staring at a screen every five minutes.

Continue reading Life Before Internet

Aaron Swartz hacked our culture, and you should be grateful

Aaron Swartz hacked our culture, and you should be grateful

Here’s Why Journalism really is the Best Job Ever

No disrespect to Jeff Bercovici, but his article, “Forget That Survey. Here’s Why Journalism Is the Best Job Ever” made me throw up a little in my mouth.

Being a newspaper, magazine or television reporter IS worse than being a waiter or waitress and just a wee bit better than being an oil rig worker.

And don’t you forget it.

The last thing we want is journalism being so cool only the elite can get in or so ironic that only hipsters want in.

Journalism is hard, low-paying work made for those of us with just enough personality disorder to ask questions no one else would dare. With little to no personal life to take us away from it and without regard to the proverbial ladder climbing of traditional workforce.

Bercovici’s list starts with:

You’re always learning

I learned everything I would learn about journalism in the first 10 days as a cub reporter. That’s about all the time they’ll let you make the mistakes you cannot afford to make as a journalist.

It’s truly a sink or swim career, and if you swim, it’s 90 percent instinct, 5 percent skepticism and 5 percent alcohol by volume that keeps you afloat.

Continuing education? Yes. But the best journalists I’ve worked with know it, and they’re just looking for a few more inches or 30 seconds more to prove it.

You get paid to read a lot

I worked with a reporter who used to come in and pour himself a big cup of coffee and read through our newspaper. The rest of us were combing through blogs, Twitter and Facebook for leads, sources and to make sure there were no tagged pictures of us from the night before. Of course you get paid to read a lot. You read 10 times more than you write. You read so much your eyes bleed.

You get paid to meet interesting people

Perhaps the understatement of the article. If you consider city managers who embezzle money and sexually harass staffers interesting, well then daily journalism is just chock full of interesting characters. Yes, there are the occasional celebrities playing the county fair circuit, but a county commissioner with an ax to grind is far more interesting than a washed up country star who is about to squeeze out an extra 15 minutes on a reality show. 

You get to meet celebrities

See above.

Maybe you get to enjoy a little celebrity

It takes a hell of an ego to do the stuff that journalists do every day. My favorites keep their awards (like toy soldiers) on their desk. Like notches on the bed post, 97, 98, 99, 02, 04, 05, best writing, best feature, best story, best photo, Pulitzer, Murrow. Lets just say journalists are not likely to inherit the earth.

All that “stress?” It’s called excitement

Actually, it’s stress. Pure, unadulterated, sweat-stained stress. It’s trying to maintain a semblance of the coverage before layoffs decimated newsrooms over the last 5 years. It’s stress from trying to keep up with every vertical invented to create the illusion of new revenue. It’s stress from two cultures sharing the same space, virtually at odds and ultimately trying to achieve the same purpose while working to destroy one another. What’s the definition of insanity again?

Journalists Get Around

Conferences in Puerto Rico and Austin? It beats conferences in Portland and Seattle or pretty much anywhere in the Midwest, but seriously, who among us didn’t get into journalism for that international assignment, the war reporting, the travel writing? The reality is quite the opposite, but the opportunities are not all gone the way of the buffalo. I once spent a week in Yellowstone National Park in winter to write about the impact of snow machines on the park. I paid my own way, shot all my own photos and wrote three stories for the paper I worked for. It was totally worth it. A young reporter I currently work with just went to Afghanistan for a week to cover Alaskan troops stationed there. The days of blank-check travel are over. But a reporter who refuses to accept the limitations will find much shoe leather and plenty of road miles if not air mileage.

And then there’s the matter of self expression

If the appeal of journalism is getting to use the word “I” today, then we’re in some real trouble. Bercovici says, “Have I convinced you that journalism is the only real career choice for curious, restless semi-narcissists like me?” That’s pretty much anyone on Facebook these days. In this UGC world of iReports, journalism is an open door for the innovators, the thinkers, the relentlessly curious, the willingly overworked, the consciously objective, the ego-worthy writers and broadcasters willing to face the eggs and tomatoes of an altogether uncaring audience, who, like a child, does not know what’s good for it were it not for us.

The things we do for WiFi

If I hold my tongue just right, and I extend my left arm up over my head holding a clothes hanger, I can get two bars on my GCI Android phone. This is just enough to allow me to send a text message or possibly a Tweet.

Never mind that I look ridiculous doing this in the middle of downtown McGrath, which is a veritable city by Alaskan bush standards.

Today I have cursed, cried, pushed, pulled, prayed, worried and willed my way to Internet success. I’ve used four devices, my iPhone, my Android, my iPad and a laptop. I have created hot spots to send an email, and I’ve held my Android to the sky trying to get one bar of broadband in order to send a photo to Facebook while mushers feeding their dogs looked on in what I can only think of as the way they might view a moose behaving strangely on the trail.

This is Iditarod. This is a race that pits man and dogs against the extremes of all that is the mothership of extremes – Alaska.

It is 1,000 miles of silent, frozen rivers, burned out hillsides, banshee-filled coastlines and every possible weather element one can imagine.

There are stops along the way, and it is in these shelters that we, the media, go to meet the mushers. A stop like McGrath is often greeted with a surprised look from the mushers who have been alone with their padding canine companions and their thoughts for the previous seven hours.

And we thrust recording devices into their hands and then run away full-sprint toward the nearest wifi signal to try and keep our readers and viewers updated to the very last second.

It is many moment spent watching the blue status bar crawl up the percentage ladder. Little celebrations occur at 20, 40 and 75 percent. And then the terminal wait for the spinning star to indicate that it has indeed processed.

Then you run out again hoping for a quick bite or something short you can send to the gods of web.

Covering the Last Great Race on Earth in one of the world’s most isolated places has its challenges, but for all of these, I’m astounded that in the heart of Alaska, in McGrath upon the Kuskokwim, I can type these words and press send. Sitting here in the McGrath school, where the broadband is almost as wide as that river behind me, I can press send and deliver this to you moments after I write it.

It took me two days to figure out that the school has the best Internet connection in town, but I secretly like to sit in the cafe with the slow speeds and people watch while waiting for videos to upload to Facebook.

Tonight I charge my phones and my laptop in hopes of finding a connection in the next remote town, that which they call Ruby on the Yukon. I’m told there is nothing there. I may go crazy.

I’ll see you on the other side.