Meredith Larkin’s Professional Writing Portfolio

Welcome to my journey through the world of multi-platform journalism

Delivering Miracles in the Alamance Regional Medical Center’s Women’s Care Center

Posted by mwlarkin on October 22, 2009

By Meredith Larkin

Tucked away on the third floor of Alamance Regional Medical Center’s Medical Mall is a place where life begins and lives are changed.

“We truly think it’s a blessing, it’s an honor to serve all of the families in Alamance County,” says Stephanie Brothers, registered nurse in the Women’s Care Center. “I think when you come in to the hospital, especially when you come up the third floor, you sense that, you feel that.”

In October 2008, the Women’s Care Center delivered 137 babies, which calculates to 4.4 delivered every day. The staff, recognized by pale green scrubs, working 12-hour shifts attending to the constant stream of beeps and alerts from their patients, makes these miracles happen.

“I think it’s the staff that’s unique. It’s the way in which we take care of people. It’s the service that we’ve been trained to give,” she says. “From the moment families come to us, we are ready to treat them in the best way possible.”

One of the services is the state of the art labor-delivery-recovery rooms. On the outside, the room looks like a hotel suite. These spacious rooms come with a TV, DVD player, and a stereo system for the comfort and convenience of the soon-to-be mother. They also have a fold-out sofa so dad has a place to sleep. Every room has a private bathroom with a seated shower and massaging showerhead.

Becky Holt, Director of Women’s and Children’s Services, says space is important for those having a baby.

“People can spend a good amount of time there,” says Holt. “We try to make it a comfortable space for the family.”

The only visible sign of technology in the room is a monitor for the baby’s heart rate and the mother’s vital signs. Brothers presses a button, making the ceiling opens up to reveal a huge medical light. She then opens the closet door and inside is an infant warmer. With a few switches the hotel room turns into a delivery room.

If the baby is healthy, then he or she can stay in the room with the parents, but if there is a problem, then the baby will go to the special care nursery where initial needs can be dealt with. The center has speech, physical, respiratory and occupational therapists on staff to help in this area. There can be 12 babies in the special care unit at once. Brothers says it can go from sleeping babies to screaming babies like a domino effect.

Educating the parents is also important so they know how to take care of the baby once at home, away from the nurses and monitors.

“One of my favorite things is the education that goes along with having the baby, especially when it comes to the fathers,” says Brothers. “Brand new fathers are so fun when you give them a little bit of education. They just grow so much. It’s a real rewarding experience.”

To help new fathers, mothers and big sisters and brothers, the center offers classes to learn the new skills that go along with the new addition to the family.

Nurses are cross-trained to work anywhere in the Women’s Center. Holt also talks about a unique position they have in the center called a transition nurse. They are specially trained to deal with unexpected problems the baby may have after delivery.

“We are excited about them coming here, we treat them with the utmost kindness and service. From the moment they walk in the door, I believe our faces tell that,” says Brothers. “When they present in the Birth Place, we’re excited with them. When the baby is born, whether it’s a healthy baby or a sick baby, we’re prepared. We’re ready to take care of them in whatever way we can.”

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What Issues Should Barack Obama Talk About in his Inaugural Address?

Posted by mwlarkin on December 11, 2008

By Meredith Larkin

On December 6, Barack Obama made a radio address to the nation discussing the U.S.’s failing economy.  He began on a disappointing note.

“Yesterday, we received another painful reminder of the serious economic challenge our country is facing,” said Obama. “we learned that 533,000 jobs were lost in November alone, the single worst month of job loss in over three decades.”

The Christmas season is well in progress and families are struggling to make ends meat.  As the holiday season passes, people will be anxiously waiting for January 20th to hear what Barack Obama plans to do with the country during his inauguration speech.

One answer seemed to dominate opinions from locals in Elon and Burlington areas as to what they would like to hear Barack Obama say in his first address to the nation as president.  The answer shadowed the first sentence of Barack Obama’s radio address.

“The economy,” said Edna Porterfield, a Burlington resident.  “He needs to help people with their jobs.  There are so many unemployed now.”

graphic

Elon University employee, Pat McCaskill, would also like to hear about his plans for the economy but has other questions as well.

“Of course his plans to trying to get the economy back to where it should be…right now that comes first,” said McCaskill. “But in regards to Iraq, are we going to finally get out of there, and if we do are going to go right over to Afghanistan?”

Robin Riggins, coordinator of the admissions welcome center at Elon University, overheard a student’s suggestion in regards to an economic bailout.

“One of our students had a wonderful idea that instead of bailing out the auto industry, every person that paid taxes last year, 18 and older, would be given $200,000 as an opportunity to either pay off mortgage or reinvest it in the banking to put it back into the economy,” said Riggins. “Salvage us rather than the auto industry”

Riggins also questions his plans in Iraq because of a very personal connection.

“I have a son who is a marine,” said Riggins.  “Actually he is a sophomore here so he’s certainly not gone yet to fight or anything, but that does make me curious as to what his stand will be in regards to that.”

The Goodies clothing store at the Burlington mall is having a huge closing sale because Goodies Company is filing bankruptcy.  Joy P. Walker, a Goodies employee, believes that Obama should talk about social security, but should focus on the economy when so many people are out of work.

“To get the economy, and I know it’s in bad shape,” said Walker, “back to where people will be able to get back to work.”

Another Goodies employee, Stephanie Eakes, said that she’s worried about what will happen when she loses her job due to Goodies filing bankruptcy.  She is a single mom who currently makes $6.55 an hour, and works less than 20 hours a week.  She said that because she lives with her mother, she cannot get the aid she needs.

Fellow Goodies employee Angela Honeycutt said that she views bankruptcy as a “cop-out.”

“How many more people do you think are going to be filing for bankruptcy because of the economy now, and that lays on you,” she said. “It adds to the strain on the economy”

Honeycutt also said that she wants Obama to talk about people more like herself.  Her focus is on United States healthcare.

“I can’t afford medical insurance, and I make too much money to qualify for Medicaid or help, and I’m a single woman,” said Honeycutt.

She talked about a recent disappointment she had after trying to go to a free clinic for medical help.  She still has not seen a doctor yet about her condition.

“I think the system we have now is broken,” said Honeycutt. “I went to a free clinic and I told him I make this much money and I work here.  I was honest and up front, and they let two criminals go in there first. They signed in and they were seen because they just got out of jail and they don’t have a job and we should feel sorry for them. That upsets me.”

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Condensed Chapters 9-12 of Kathleen Wickham’s ‘Math Tools for Journalists’

Posted by mwlarkin on December 11, 2008

By Meredith Larkin

 

Directional Measurements

 

Distance, Rate and Time

 

With some simple math skills, you can determine time, rate and distance which can come in handy for journalists. There are very simple formulas for these measurements, and journalists should not make it too complicated because one mistake could change the meaning completely.

 

Distance = rate x time

Rate = distance ÷ time

Time = distance ÷ rate

 

Speed, Velocity, Acceleration

 

According to Wickham, speed and velocity are not interchangeable.  Speed measures how fast something is going while velocity does the same but also shows direction.

 

Average speed = distance ÷ time

Acceleration = (ending velocity – starting velocity) + time

Ending velocity = (acceleration x time) ÷ starting velocity

 

Determine the ending velocity

 

Sally is in her hunk of junk car.  Full acceleration is said to be 0.27 miles per hour per second.  If the car is already moving 23 mph, and accelerates at full throttle for 3 minutes, how fast will Sally go?

 

3 minutes x 60 seconds/minute = 180 seconds

Ending velocity =  (acceleration x time) + starting velocity

                           = (0.27 mph/s x 180 seconds) + 23 mph = 71.6 mph

 

Area Measurements

 

Measurements can show the magnitude of something or how miniscule something may be.  Measurements can be expressed through analogies where one object is compared to the size of another more common object or through actual numerical measurements. Measurements in journalism are usually used to find the size of surfaces.

 

To find the perimeter or the outline of a square or rectangular surface, add all of the sides together:

Perimeter = (2 x length) + (2 x width)

 

Finding the area of a rectangular surface requires multiplying the length by the width.

 

Wickham provides the a table of conversions from a square foot to a square mile.

 

144 square inches

1 square foot

9 square feet =

1 square yard

30 square yards =

1 square yard

160 square rods =

1 acre

1 acre =

43,560 square feet

640 acres =

1 square mile

 

Finding the circumference of a circle, which is the equivalent to the perimeter of a rectangle is a little different. The radius is:

 

Circumference = 2 x ∏ (which is 3.14) x radius (which is the distance from the center of the circle to any edge of the circle)

 

Finding the area of a circle is ∏ multiplied by the radius squared.

 

Determine the area of this Circle

The diameter of the circle (length of the circle from one edge to the other) is 328 feet.

 

Area = ∏ x r^2

Area = 3.14 x (164)^2

Area = 84453.44 square feet

 

Volume Measurements

 

Measuring volume is just as important as surface area.  Using this measurement can help determine how much of something is needed.  Wickham says that in the business world, “goods often are sold based on volume.”

 

Here are some common liquid conversions:

 

2 tablespoons =

1 fluid ounce

½ pint =

8 ounces, or 1 cup

1 pint =

16 ounces, or 2 cups

2 pints (32 ounces) =

1 quart

2 quarts (64 ounces) =

½ gallon

4 quarts (128 ounces) =

1 gallon

1 US standard barrel =

31.5 gallons

1 US gallon =

4/5 Imperial gallon

British or Canadian barrel =

36 Imperial gallons

 

To find the volume, simply multiply the length, width and height together.

 

Find the volume of this box full of rice

The box measures 6 feet in width, 9 feet in length and 5 feet in height.

 

Volume = length x width x height

Volume = 9 x 6 x 5

Volume = 270 cubic feet

 

The Metric System

 

The United States refuses to adopt the metric system like the rest of the world, but journalists need to know this system if they want to have any grasp of important international news and commerce.

 

The system runs on multiples of ten, which in actuality is easier to understand than the American system. The tricky part is memorizing the terms that go along with the measurements.

 

Meter =

39.5 inches

Kilometer =

0.6 mile

Centimeter =

0.4 inch

Millimeter =

Thickness of a dime

Hectare =

2.5 acres

Square meter =

1.2 square yards

Gram =

Weight of paper clip

Kilogram =

2.2 pounds

Metric ton =

2,240 pounds

Liter =

1.2 ounces

Milliliter =

1/5 teaspoons

0 Celsius =

32 Fahrenheit

100 Celsius =

212 Fahrenheit

 

Concert the American length to meters

The length of the largest sandwich is 438 inches.

 

Divide 438 inches by 39.5 inches.

The sandwich measures 11.09 meters long

 

 

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Special Issues: Every Body Belongs to the Media

Posted by mwlarkin on December 1, 2008

 

Experts agree that our repeated exposure to images of perfection is a dangerous influence 

By Meredith Larkin

In a world where you can’t turn your head without seeing a product of the media, and with that media dictating what is normal, desirable and acceptable, it is often difficult to escape the societal pressures to live up to these images.

Dr. Maurice Levesque, psychology professor at Elon University, recognizes the problem at hand.

“These idealized images are a major contributor to people’s unhappiness with their own bodies,” says Levesque.  “And that’s a process of comparing yourself to these idealized images coming up obviously short because these bodies are in the media for a reason.”

Leigh-Anne Royster, coordinator for personal health programs and community well-being, contributes the problem to all of the media outlets present in today’s culture.

“People say ‘Well I don’t pay attention to advertising and it doesn’t affect me,’ but we see it all the time and studies have been done about how many ads people see a day,” says Royster. “With being online and all the different ways we get advertising it can’t help but be pervasive in our culture.”

According to a 2007 New York Times article, a marketing firm called Yankelovich estimated that people living in a city today will see up to 5,000 ads per day compared to 2,000 ads 30 years ago.

Elizabeth Bailey, professor of health education at Elon University, also believes that body image has to some extent, become an obsession.

“Thirty billion dollars a year on weight control products is what they are spending in the United States,” says Bailey.  “People willing to try and try and try again and spend all that money again to get something that they’re searching for or trying to get.  That seems obsessive to me.”

Andi Bender, professor and athletic trainer at Elon University, has an optimistic view of the beginning changes being made by the media in terms of body images.

“As much negative stuff that has escalated and come out in the culture we’re starting to see a couple things creep up that really have a better impact on how women and men also see themselves body image wise,” says Bender.

When and how does it start?

Royster says that she thinks negative body perception begins in elementary school.  She says that influences such as the movie High School Musical or the television series Hannah Montana, are targeted to young girls and often put out a very confusing message.

 “This is what I’m supposed to be identifying with but I’m eight and so I don’t really identify with this.  But they think about it,” says Royster. “They think about relationships and it’s very centered around body and physical attraction and all the images that they see are [hyper sexualized].”

Bender advocates team sports to build a better body image. “A lot of it is the environment you grow up in, who your social support is, whether you’re involved with sports or not. I think team sports don’t have as much as a problem with this as individually focused sports,” says Bender.

“Things like gymnastics, wrestling, swimming diving, dance and cheerleading, you know, when the spotlight is on you for an individual performance where you have to where skimpy clothing or you have to train really hard to make a certain weight class, you definitely more conscious of your body, how it looks, how you perform, how you’re perceived by others, a lot more than if you’re a football player on the football team covered in pads and out there as a group performing,” says Bender.  “The spotlight isn’t on you as much as it is the whole entity.”

Senior Jessica Lindsay says that she thinks it starts primarily in middle school and it stems from the need for control which she found from her own experiences with her friends.

“That was the only thing that they could control is what they ate and their body image so they would literally not want to eat so they could control that themselves and no one was telling them what to do,” she says.

Lindsay also identifies the lack of time in her schedule that she can devote to eating.  Her schedule is tight because she is a dancer, but many college students can relate to this lack of time.

“Because the dance schedule is so rigorous, we would only have like 30 minutes to grab something to eat,” she says.

College Atmosphere a Cause?

Although negative body image is a national issue, it is prevalent in the bubble of Elon University and every other college environment. 

“The higher academic level you get, the more competitive those students are and that can exacerbate problems like that because we get competitive about everything then,” says Bailey.  “Lots of our habits as women anyway come from this innate urge for procreation and so when we’re competing for males, those tendencies tend to come to the surface a little bit more and when they do, then we see these kinds of competitive manipulations of weight for control.”

Bailey says college is a stressful time in a young adult’s life. “If nothing else is in control, then you can control that,” she says.

Lindsay agrees with Bailey when it comes to Elon’s competition.

“I think at Elon it can be an issue because you’re around so many skinny pretty girls that you want to be like.  It’s competitive,” says Lindsay.  “I could definitely see how it could be an issue.”

Bender agrees that the stress of college is an important factor in body perception, but she says that a strong support group is necessary to battle it.

“I think that at every college in the country, you’ve got people going through this,” she says.

“Your support group here is your friends. Because everybody’s going through this change of who am I, what am I doing, what are my goals here, why am I doing what I’m doing – it can be stressful.”

 Bender says that if the support group isn’t right, then the problem can only get worse.

“Over time, these negative body images just fester and grow, and if you don’t have supports systems or people to help positively reinforce that you look good, that’s the way to kind of deter them from years and years of negative thoughts and self – punishment for having perceived their own body,” she says.  “Your mind can be your own worst enemy.”

Levesque does not believe the pressure in college comes from competition, but from the actual size and diversity of the college itself.

“In smaller schools you have fewer people in your field to compare with,” says Levesque. “If you look around and everybody seems like they’re in shape and you’re not in shape, it highlights it for you, whereas a larger institution with a wider array of individuals, it’s easier to find people to maybe say, ‘Well I’m more like their shape.’”

Junior Catherine Siegel says that as a dancer she realizes body image may be stressed, but that she and other dancers need muscle mass in order to perform to their best ability. “Luckily for me, I’m an ESS major and I am more aware of that,” she says.

Royster doesn’t believe people are truly considering their habits as disorders only because they are not “extreme cases.” She says that people may not then identify themselves as having a disorder because they do not match the cases often seen on documentaries or other sources depicting negative body image.

“If we talked about the proportion of students who actually practiced disordered eating or had distorted body image, it would be a huge proportion of the population,” says Royster. “But people aren’t identifying that as something that’s going on for them because they just say, ‘Well I just go to the gym a lot.’ But if you go to the gym five times a day or you’re running ‘x’ number of miles and you’re not training for something then that actually is disordered eating.”

Dove Campaign: a step in the right direction?

Last season’s America’s Next Top Model may have been plus-size, but it seems as though thin is still in.  Another attempt to change perceptions of the body has been made through Dove’s new “Campaign for Real Beauty. 

The Dove Campaign for Real Beauty was launched in 2004.  The campaign, according to the official web site’s mission statement, serves “as a starting point for societal change and act as a catalyst for widening the definition and discussion of beauty.”

Also in this campaign, Dove found that only 2 percent of women around the world described themselves as beautiful and that 81 percent of women in the U.S. strongly agree that “the media and advertising set an unrealistic standard of beauty that most women can’t ever achieve.”

Levesque is skeptical about the Dove campaign but agrees that a change needs to start somewhere.

“It used to be a much heavier figure was attractive.  In the 60s and 70s you had Twiggy and being thin.  Then we went through the period of heroin chic and came back more, but I’m not sure you can go all the way,” says Levesque. “The Dove campaign is changing it or attempting to change it in a much more dramatic way.”

Royster likes the Dove campaign but eventually believes that companies ultimately need to focus on what sells.

 “I think the media is trying in certain ways.  I don’t think it’s money-making which is why I think it’s hard to be in that position,” says Royster. “Dove still needs to think about the bottom line and profits, and so I think it’s money-making for Dove right now because of the way they’ve couched it, but I think it’s hard to find those opportunities.” 

Go to www.campaignforrealbeauty.com to view the campaign, watch videos about real body image, sign up for workshops and buy Dove products supporting the campaign.

The Next Step Toward Recovery  

Levesque believes that the most effective step towards beating the question of body image starts with educational training.

“There are studies that show it does help people to understand, for example, that a lot of the images they see are doctored in ways that accentuate the features they’re going for,” says Levesque.  “So even the models that they’re seeing don’t actually have legs that are that long, don’t actually have that little body fat and don’t actually have that perfect skin.”

Bailey is head of a program called Girls in Motion at Elon University.  The program developed out of Southern Methodist University when a father lost his daughter due to suicide after her long battle with anorexia. He gave the school money to work with college women about anorexia.  They discovered that the problem started younger than college age and that there were children ages 5 to 9 that said they had been on a diet.

“I brought it to Elon a few years ago,” says Bailey. “We’re in our sixth semester right now. The idea behind it is to really build self-esteem and to try to talk these girls into understanding that in who they are, their body is only a component of who they are. Also to understand that if their parents genetically are not shaped like that model on the television, their chance of being like that model on the television are very slim.”

Royster says that the Dove campaign is a step in the right direction but also acknowledges the equally negative prospects of the future and media’s promotion of a specific body type.

“I think that celebrities like Oprah and other people are trying to do some work in that area and I think that that’s a good thing, but there will always be 10 celebrities like Jennifer Aniston and Angelina Jolie and all these people for every Oprah,” she says.

 “I think that definitely the positive thing is that people are recognizing the need,” says Royster.  “And so, if people keep advocating for and with people who also recognize the need for some culture change it will happen, but it’s slow.”

Siegel is also a bit torn in her prediction for the future of the media’s influence on body image.

“They’re trying to make it more of an issue now,” says Siegel. “They’re trying to make young women more aware of it. I think in a few years it will be a thing of the past,” she hesitates. “Maybe… you never know.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Condensed Chapters 5-8 of Kathleen Wickham’s ‘Math Tools for Journalists’

Posted by mwlarkin on November 24, 2008

By Meredith Larkin

 

 

Polls and Surveys

 

When conducted the right way, polls and surveys are extremely telling even without a journalist’s description. The journalist’s job comes in when surveys are biased, and they need to pull apart the information to find out what facts are represented properly.

 

 

Polls are more specific than surveys. Polls need to be represented in a random selection of people, while surveys involve people who choose to participate.

 

Reporters need to be especially aware of the margin of error. This percentage can reveal the sample size of the survey and the journalist can determine whether it was truly representative. The larger the sample size, the smaller the margin of error.  

The confidence level determined by researchers is also an important percentage. According to Wickham, it is, “the level or percentage at which researchers have confidence in the results of their research.”

 

 

The most major survey conducted in the United States is the U.S. Census. This survey is getting smaller and smaller due to people not turning in their forms. Some numbers in the census are adjusted in order to give smaller states more representation.

 

 

Determine which is a poll and which is a survey.

 

A. Researchers want to find out what factors contribute to poor body image.

B. Researchers want to find out who people will vote into the school board.

 

A= survey

B= poll

 

Business Math Tools

Most numbers in a newspaper can be found in the business beat. Everything from quarterly earnings to annual reports contain detailed math.

 

Companies contain financial statements, and one of the most important pieces is the profit and loss statement. Profit can be calculate by subtracting expenses from income

 

 

In this statement, there is a difference between the cost of goods sold and the selling price. This is called the gross margin. The cost of goods sold generally refers to how much it costs to make a product. The gross margin is determined by subtracting the cost of the goods sold from the selling price.

 

 

The gross profit is then determined by multiplying gross margin by the number of items sold.

 

 

Then, the net profit is determined by subtracting the overhead, which are the expenses not related to the profit such as rent, from gross margin.

 

 

Find the Gross Profit

 

Misty sells her lip gloss concoction for $5.75. It only costs her $2.30 to make it. She sold 54 containers of lip gloss.

 

 

Gross margin=selling price-cost of goods

Gross margin=$5.75-$2.30

Gross margin=$3.45

 

Gross Profit=gross margin x number of items sold

Gross Profit=$3.45 x 54

Gross Profit=$186.3

 

Stocks and Bonds

Everything about stocks and bonds are important to the public and therefore are important to journalists.

 

 

People invest in stocks while companies sell these stocks to raise money. When a person buys a stock, they have a little bit of ownership of that company. Depending on a stocks demand, the price of the stock will increase and decrease. The more people want that stock, the higher the price.

 

 

Wickham describes a bond, saying that it is “basically a loan from an investor to the government or other organization selling the bond.” The face value of the bond is the amount of money that the owner of the bond will get at return. With the bond comes an interest rate, dates for interest pay, as well as a set maturity date. The current yield, or return on the investment can change.

 

 

The formulas for current yield and the cost of a bond are:

 

 

Current yield = (interest rate x face value) ÷ price

 

Bond cost (interest) = amount x rate x years

 

 

The Dow Jones Industrial Average provides a snap shot into the entire stock market by showing the “total value of one share each of 30 select stocks divided by a figure called the divisor.”

 

 

The NASDAQ reports on trading and domestic stocks and bonds not listed in the regular stock markets.

 

 

Find the Current Yield

Kelly Smith paid $930 for a $1200 bond with a 7 percent interest rate.

Current yield = (interest rate x face value) ÷ price

Current yield = (7% x $1200) ÷ $930

Current yield = 9%

 

Property Taxes

 

Property tax rate can be determined by getting the total amount of money that the government wants, and then dividing that amount among property owners in that district.

 

 

In order to understand property taxes, one must understand mill levy, appraisal value and assessed value.

 

 

The mill levy is the taxes to be collected by the government divided by the assessed valuation of all property in the taxing district.

 

 

The appraisal value is based on the property’s use, characteristics of the property, current market conditions and a visual inspection of the property.

 

 

The assessed value is the appraisal value times the rate.

 

 

Find the Assessed Value

 

Scarville assesses a property at 30 percent of the appraised value. A house on Shadowbrook Rd. is appraised at $300,000.

Assessed value=appraisal value x rate

Assessed value=$300,000 x .30

Assessed value=$90,000

 

 

 

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Doing the ‘Twitter’ Bug

Posted by mwlarkin on November 21, 2008

Update the world with your life and follow and report breaking news in 140 characters or less (94 characters)

 

By Meredith Larkin

 

With MySpace and Facebook, yet another networking tool is developing and flourishing.  Twitter, a more simplified and less private version of these networks allows people to ‘tweet’ their latest activities in 140 characters or less.  Others can then respond to these posts as well as follow a certain person’s posts for entertainment, networking or finding out the latest news.

 

Janna Anderson, director of a research project called Imagining the Internet, gives a brief summary concerning the history of Twitter.

 

“It first caught on at the South By Southwest media conference in Austin, Texas, just a couple of years ago,” says Anderson. “It has since been used by political campaigns, businesses and media organizations to quickly brief people on developing situations.”

 

Olivia Hubert-Allen, Editor-in-Chief of Elon University’s newspaper The Pendulum, gives her thoughts about the workings of Twitter.

 

“Twitter is about the mundane things in other people’s lives that you miss. ‘My house smells like burning toast. Must get a new toaster’ or ‘It’s snowing in Pennsylvania this morning. School not delayed though, this isn’t the south!’ are the kinds of lines that you would not usually hear in day to day conversation,” says Hubert-Allen.  “Though these simple things may sound trite, it is little stories that that truly keep people connected.”

 

Anderson describes this new phenomenon as ‘microblogging.’

 

“It’s called ‘microblogging’ because some people use it just to inform their friends about what they are doing minute-by-minute, for instance writing things like, ‘I just voted for Obama, and now I’m headed over to Starbucks to get my free cup of Election Day coffee,’” says Anderson. “Twitter users opt in to following the ‘tweets’ of the individuals or organizations from whom they want information – you follow the messages from the people you want to follow.”

 

Aside from social networking, Twitter is also becoming a tool for journalists to report breaking news as well as learning news from the people through their incoming tweets.

 

“Also, Twitter is a wonderful source of information,” says Hubert-Allen. “Once you start ‘following’ enough people Twitter can almost be a news source. People will write about things going on in their city, town or state and it gives you a wide view of the world around you.”

Anderson says Twitter is also a great tool for journalists because it forces a constraint for the amount of words used.

 

“With its requirement for people to squeeze their thoughts into 140 characters or less, Twitter is a perfect tool for a fast-paced, mobile society,” says Anderson.

 

A common skill needed for journalism is knowing how to say the most in the least amount of words.  Twitter provides great practice for learning this skill.

 

“Twitter takes the burden out of blogging and let’s you communicate instantly with hundreds or thousands of people with a single click,” says Hubert-Allen. “Since it limits the amount of characters you can submit to 140, it forces writers to simplify their thoughts and find the most concise way to put things.”

 

Hubert-Allen shares one of her personal experiences using Twitter for social networking.

“One of my first twitter friends is a guy named Nick from Iowa who I met during a week-long conference,” says Hubert-Allen. “Though our actual time together has been limited, Twitter has allowed us to get to know each other better and become close friends. It is a kind of relationship that can’t work on Facebook.”

 

Anderson also shares about who she is following for her information using Twitter.

 

“I’m following a number of technology people and media experts; I’m getting a steady stream of data from interesting people like Tim O’Reilly, the man who coined the term Web 2.0, and Jay Rosen, a new-media columnist,” says Anderson.

Whether it’s for reporting news, following it, or just making sure everyone knows that you’re having an amazing day, Twitter is growing with every ‘tweet’ posted. 

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Which came first? The guarded source, or the attacking journalist?

Posted by mwlarkin on November 19, 2008

By Meredith Larkin

 

Journalists aim to seek truth.  They aim to document opinion to allow their readers to determine their own thoughts about a topic.  But is this task becoming more difficult even though more laws are being passed to encourage free information?

 

Yes, North Carolina has an open government coalition, open meetings law and public records law allowing journalists to maintain their rights to information, but as journalists are welcomed into meetings and have access to more records, are people becoming more guarded in the way they act and through what they write?

 

The world is becoming more and more available through the Internet.  People are now beginning to realize that what they say may not only be published in a small town newspaper, but can be posted on YouTube for the world to see, judge and comment on.

 

One of the main tenets in journalism is about maintaining sources.  It is becoming a more and more difficult process because people are not openly telling their stories.  This fear about having their words used against them and the caution that ensues often provides either a “fluffy” story without real conversation, or the loss of a source from “gotcha” journalism.

 

The dilemma between journalists and their sources exists because both have a duty to maintain their credibility, and one side usually has to give in order for the other to do a good job.

 

Another key point drilled in the profession of journalism is that if journalists make a mistake, they need to immediately fess up and then make the correction. Although journalists need to understand that sources need to protect their reputation, sources need to understand that concept as well.  Journalists are not trying to catch, but if the source is not truthful then it may be necessary in order to get the job done.

 

It is a story of the chicken and the egg.  Are we becoming a society that is more guarded, making it more difficult for journalists to discover the real and the factual, or are journalists becoming trained to get the story through whatever means necessary even if that means losing a source?

 

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Elon Community Braves the Rain to Make This Election Come to a Close

Posted by mwlarkin on November 5, 2008

By Meredith Larkin

 

At a cool 57 degrees, with a light misty rain that seemingly no umbrella can shield, the mood outside was dreary and stagnant.  This gloomy atmosphere didn’t stop Elon students and residents from coming out to the polling place located at the Elon Firehouse on Williamson Ave., and their determination to end this election was certainly more pounding than the indecisive rain.

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“I would come here even if it was pouring,” said Elon University junior, Carolina Ellis.

 

Caroline was accompanied by her friend, fellow junior Sheila McGregor, who was also undeterred by the rain.

 

“Considering the polling place is so close to our campus I feel like kids will really want to get out there and vote because it’s going to be one of the most historical elections that we’ve had in a long time,” said McGregor.  “We woke up way earlier than we usually do to go vote.”

 

Although people may prefer sunny skies on Election Day, it can be appreciated that the skies did not pour and only left a mist.  Heavy rain could have an effect on election results due to people not wanting to wait in line outside.

 

Elon freshman, Melanie Chun, was debating whether to walk in the rain to the poll.

 

“I was kind of hesitant to walk outside,” she said.

 

Even though it was a light rain, she was not the only person questioning the trip to the poll.  Elon resident, Karen Scovill, also believed that the voter turnout may be different if people couldn’t fit indoors.

 

“I think less people would come out if they had to stand outside,” she said.

 

But with all of the media coverage surrounding this election and people constantly being bombarded with commercials, signs and telephone calls, many find voting today to be as cathartic and liberating as the rain.

 

“I think it’s time,” said McGregor. “I think the media has kind of blown it out of proportion in a way. And I think it’s time that everybody just stops and we have someone new, and we can change whatever needs to be done now.”

 

Elon resident, Lisa Gazda, also feels a sense of relief that the election will be over.

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“I’m excited for the outcome, but I’m glad it’s over,” said Gazda.

 

Gazda’s remark seems to be the basic sentiment surrounding the election.  People are excited to see someone new in office, and thankful that the hype will soon be over.

 

“I feel so relieved,” said Ellis. “I’m so sick of the commercials and stuff on the radio and all of the signs and everything and everyone arguing.  I’m just excited for somebody to be appointed as president.”

 

Chun feels quite the opposite.

 

“It’s going to be so tense,” she said, referring to the arguments that will ensue between people in her dorm after the decision is final.

 

The rain and the voting carried on from the beginning to the end of Election Day 2008.

 

 

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Condensed Chapters 1-4 of Kathleen Wickham’s ‘Math Tools for Journalists’

Posted by mwlarkin on November 3, 2008

By Meredith Larkin

 

Write by Numbers

 

Although journalism tends to be associated primarily with the written word, numbers are just as important.  Statistics and numbers may daunt the average journalist, but they are essential in accurate and thorough reporting.

 

Wickham advises to always double check a sources math calculations.  “Interview the numbers with the same care that you interview people,” she writes.

 

Wickham also provides some style, writing and language tips to aid the journalist in writing with numbers.

 

Single digit numbers should always be spelled out while multiple digit numbers from 10 and up, should be written in numerals. This excludes numbers like 2 million in which you should use the numeral and then spell out the word ‘million.’ Fractions less than one should always be spelled out.

 

Rounding numbers is acceptable, but only in certain cases. Death tolls should be exact, while budgets can be rounded to make it easier to read.

 

If you are confused about number style, you can always consult your AP Style booklet or visit this site for an online subscription:

http://www.apstylebook.com/

 

Wickham advises not to overwhelm your reader with many numbers within the same paragraph.  She also stresses to interpret the numbers in a way so the reader can understand by using storytelling and graphics.

 

Also consult your style booklet to differentiate between words such as ‘among’ and ‘between,’ ‘fewer’ and ‘less than,’ and ‘more than’ and ‘over.’  This is very important because one little change in the words can construe an entirely different meaning.

 

Edit this sentence for practice:

 

It was eighty-nine degrees on Thursday, a warmer temperature for this season.

 

Answer:

It was 89 degrees on Thursday, a higher temperature for this season.

 

The Dreaded Percentage

 

 Percentage Increase/Decrease

 

Wickham provides the simple formulas in order to determine percentage increase and decrease, percentage of a whole and percentage points in her second chapter.

 

Whether determining the salary increase of the President of the United States, or the decreased production of candy corns during the Halloween season, percentages are very helpful.  Below is the formula Wickham provides the formula to find percentage increases/decreases.

 

Percentage inc./dec. = (new figure – old figure) ÷ old figure

*Then convert to percentage by moving the decimal two spots to the right.

 

Percentage of a Whole

 

Finding the percentage of a whole is also important because it allows the journalist to put the figure in perspective.  “A million dollars sounds like a lot of money to most people,” Wickham writes. “But if that $1 million is just 1 percent of a city’s annual payroll, the figure doesn’t seem as big.”

 

Wickham provides another formula for determining the percentage of the whole.

 

Percentage of the whole = subgroup ÷ whole group

*Again, move the decimal two spots to the right for the percentage.

 

Percentage Points

 

These two formulas may be easier to figure out but determining percentage points is a little trickier.  A percentage point lies in the percentage itself. 

 

For example, if the unemployment rate went from 5.2 percent to 7.2 percent, then the unemployment rate went up by two percentage points. You can then find the percentage increase or decrease from the previous formula, dividing two by 5.2 to get a 38 percent increase.

 

Simple Interest

 

In calculating simple interest, the amount of money borrowed is called the ‘principal’, while the money paid for the use of money is called ‘interest’ according to Wickham. Interest is determined by how long the borrowed money is kept. The interest rate varies depending on company.

 

Wickham provides the formula for calculating simple interest.

 

Interest = principal x rate (as a decimal) x time (in years)

 

Compounding Interest

 

Wickham defines ‘compounding’ as when the interest is added to the original principal.  This means that the compoundings thereafter apply to this new number, and this repeats for every consequent compounding.

 

An example of compounding interest can be expressed in payments on loans.  Wickham provides the formula.

 

A=monthly payment

P=original loan amount

R=interest rate, expressed in decimal and divided by 12

N=total number of months

 

A = [P x (1 + R)N  x R] ÷ [(1 + R)N -1]

 

Practice Compound Interest with This Example

 

You bought a college loan for $15,000 with an interest rate of 4 percent for a span of 8 years.  What will your monthly payment be?

 

A = [15,000 x (1 + 0.004)96 x 0.004] ÷ [(1 + 0.004)96 -1]

A = 188.48

Your monthly payment will be $188.48.

 

The Importance of Stats

 

Mean, Median and Mode

 

Understanding statistics and how they are calculated is essential to journalistic reporting. Not only will statistics help the reader, but it may also help the journalist find out more from a source trying to manipulate their statistics to their benefit.

 

Basic statistics include understanding and calculating the mean, median and mode.

 

The mean is the average of all the numbers.  This can be calculated by adding up all of the figures and then dividing that calculated figure by the total number of figures.

 

The median is the middle number in the set of numbers.  The median can be found by placing the numbers in ascending order and then picking the middle number.  If there is an even number of figures, then find the average of the two middle numbers to get the median.

 

The mode is the number that occurs most frequently in the set of numbers. If every number only appears once, then there is no mode.  On the other hand, if a bunch of numbers appears most frequently, then there can be multiple modes.

 

Percentile

 

A percentile is a designated number referred to as a barrier or level in order to distinguish numbers above or below the percentile.  For example, someone with a test score in the 85th percentile knows that 85 percent of those who took the same test scored the same or lower than she did.

 

Wickham provides the formula for determining percentile.

 

Percentile rank = (Number of people at or below an individual score) ÷ (number of test takers)

*This formula can be reversed to find the number of people who scored at or below a certain point by multiplying the percentile by the number of test takers.

 

Standard Deviation

 

According to Wickham, “Standard deviation indicates how much a group of figures varies from the norm.” The smaller the standard deviation, the closer the group of figures is to the mean.

 

Wickham says a typical distribution shows that 68 percent falls within one standard deviation,  95 percent fall within two standard deviations and 99 percent fall within three standard deviations.

 

Wickham also says that journalists are rarely required to find out this number, but it is helpful to know what it is.

 

Probability

 

The key to calculating probability is understanding ratio. A ratio expresses a comparison between two numbers.  Probability often expresses the odds of an event occurring.

 

For example, in order to find the odds of a person dying by car accident in the U.S. on any given day, you would take the number of deaths by car accident per day and divide it by the total number of people in the United States.

 

Practice Finding the Mean, Median and Mode

 

Find the mean, median and mode of this set of numbers.

 

65, 27, 34, 16, 78, 34, 55, 44, 37, 26, 50

Mean = 42.36

Median = 37

Mode = 34

 

Federal Statistics

 

Although people may have different interest rates, favorite baseball teams and test scores, but one thing that everyone in the United States has in common is the government.  Therefore, there are special statistics specifically made for the federal government.  Some include the unemployment rate, inflation, gross domestic product and the international trade balance.

 

Unemployment Rate

 

The unemployment rate, produced by the U.S. Department of Labor every month, measures the percentage of the labor force that is unemployed and actively seeking work.

 

The labor force is defined as anyone over the age of 16 who is working or has looked for a job in the past four weeks.  This excludes unemployed people who are not actively seeking work as well as people who are institutionalized.

 

Wickham provides the formula to calculate the unemployment rate.

 

Unemployment rate = (unemployed ÷ labor force) x 100

 

Inflation and Consumer Price Index

 

People are very aware and concerned about inflation and the increasing prices of the products they buy. Therefore, it is a popular topic among journalists. Inflation is measured by the Consumer Price Index, which shows the amount of inflation for eight major product categories. 

 

To find monthly inflation, use the following formula.

 

Monthly inflation rate = (Current CPI – Prior CPI) ÷ Prior month CPI x 100

 

To find the annual inflation rate, use the following formula.

 

A=annual inflation rate

B=current month CPI

C=CPI from same month of the previous year

A = (B-C) ÷Cx100

 

To figure out how much something would cost a year from now, use this formula.

 

C=cost aster one year

K=original cost

I=inflation rate

C=K(1+[I÷12])12

 

Gross Domestic Product

 

GDP calculates the value of our economy’s goods and services.  We use it to determine how our economy is and where it is going.

 

It is determined by the following formula.

 

C=consumer spending on goods and services

I=investment spending

G=government spending

NX= net exports (exports – imports)

GDP=C+I+G+NX

 

Practice Calculating Annual Inflation Rate

 

The December 2006 CPI was 197.4.  The December 2005 CPI was 194.3.

Annual inflation rate = (197.4-194.3) ÷194.3×100

The annual inflation rate as measured in December of 2006 is 1.6%

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When red carpet fashion leads to the White House

Posted by mwlarkin on October 29, 2008

By Meredith Larkin

 

Project Runway is hardly entertainment compared to the fashion of the campaign trail. The men and women on the road to the White House dress not only to impress but to emphasize their campaign goals.

Junior Matt Emig is majoring in acting and theatrical design and production with a concentration in costume design. He said the women’s fashion senses do play a role in their husbands’ or their own campaigns.

“The fashion shows the social status of women as they are now taking on jobs that were once only held by men, which is directly influencing their fashion choices with pant suits or tailored suit jackets and skirts instead of strictly dresses,” Emig said.

Cindy McCain and Michelle Obama have decided to dress according to their political agendas.

Sen. John McCain’s slogan reads “Country First,” and Cindy keeps with this theme by frequently wearing red, white and blue. She also transforms a conservative agenda into a conservative fashion statement by wearing tailored suits with clean lines as well as often sporting a high turtleneck, hair in a tight French twist and her signature pearls.

John McCain’s Ferragamo leather loafers are classically cut and an elegantly simple finishing touch to his clean-cut suits.

Sen. Barack Obama’s campaign pushes the notion of change and Michelle keeps up with her husband’s proposed changes, as well as changes in fashion. Obama himself can be found in Hart Schaffner Marx suits, which are very fashion-forward and manufactured in Des Plaines, Ill.

Michelle has been compared to Jackie Kennedy with her brightly colored clothes, styled down hair and trendy accessories. She often bears a jeweled broach on her dresses as well as wide belts to show off her tiny waist.

Emig said he admires Michelle’s wardrobe variety, especially with the use of colors, dresses, skirts, pants and suits.

“This shows the diversity in the common woman’s closet and keeps it fresh so she won’t blend into the background,” Emig said. “She isn’t beating the audience over the head trying to show that she has strength just like her husband, but her subtlety and changing her look slightly with almost every televised or publicized event drives the point even more than Sarah Palin and Cindy McCain.”

Emig also said Cindy and Palin hide behind their fashion. 

“I feel they are just trying to make a look work for them because of the ideals they uphold, instead of letting their personalities come out through their wardrobes,” he said. “It is more the reverse and their wardrobes are dictating their personalities.”

On the other side, Michelle set off a fashion frenzy with her appearance on “The View” where she wore a $148 dress from White House Black Market, a store commonly found in many American malls. 

The dress quickly sold out by the end of the week.

Despite their choices, these potential White House women have learned to take a fashion-forward step without outshining their partners’ messages.

“[Michelle] is looking nice and representing the common woman, but also helping in supporting her husband’s campaign without making a spectacle or appearing to try too hard,” Emig said.

Out of all of the candidates vying for the White House, Palin receives the most criticism in terms of style. 

Her go-to fashion accessories include her wide-framed glasses, librarian-style updo and a lot of make-up. Although many critics deem Palin a fashion disaster, others appreciate her more down-to-earth style next to fashionista Cindy.

Emig said his vote for the most fashion-forward candidate would have to be cast for Michelle.

“I am more proud from a fashion and design point of view with Michelle Obama because she is trying different things and she has variety,” Emig said. “She is causing audiences to wonder what she will be wearing this time, and when there is another campaign rally that is what fashion should do.”

To see this article and more election coverage from Elon University’s Pendulum visit:

http://www.elon.edu/pendulum/Story.aspx?id=1192 

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