Friday, September 29, 2006

Objective Reporters

In other journalism news: Newsweek had an interesting article about journalists expressing their opinions. Normally we think that journalists are not supposed to have opinions or biases, but face it, they all do. A good journalist is able to admit they have opinions, but those opinions do not show in their writings. That is really hard for people to understand because on a day-to-day basis, we all express our opinions in thousands of ways. It is never going to be possible to completely keep one’s opinion out of one's writing, but with a conscious effort, it is possible to write objectively and honestly. That is the goal of every good journalist.

CA First Amendment Coalition

I just got back from the first round of sessions from the California First Amendment Coalition (CFAC) Assembly at UC Berkeley. There were two sessions this evening. The first was on students and school newspapers and MySpace. The second was on access to public meetings. It was neat to hear from so many journalists and see their enthusiasm. The most interesting part was hearing from the Bert Robinson the Assistant Managing Editor of the Mercury News and how that paper is trying to get sunshine reform laws passed here. Some journalists do not agree in taking such an active role in politics, but as Robinson said, if there is anything that journalists can get involved in, it is gaining access to public officials, meetings and records. This is an important time in San Jose as we work on reforming our local government and providing a way to clear city hall of some of its ethical problems.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Big 5 Mayoral Debate

I just got home after the Big 5 Mayoral Debate. It was held at the San Jose Rep and sponsored by the Silicon Valley/San Jose Business Journal, the SJ Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Silicon Valley Leadership Group, the San Jose Downtown Association and the SJ/SV Chamber of Commerce.

The first big surprise of the evening was the very load protestors outside. I was not really expecting that, and I am not quite sure what they were protesting. There were people handing out information on various candidates and issues. I could not understand the really load people, but their signs were about ending homelessness.

The big news of the night was that Chuck Reed announced that he has reimbursed the city for all of the reimbursements he has received over the last six years.

Other than that, the debate was fairly normal. The usual issues and attacks. Overall, Cindy Chavez is a much better and more polished speaker and did, in my opinion, a better job. Of course, I do not think that someone's speaking ability is the most important thing. Cindy's performance actually surprised me a little. I assumed that this would be Chuck's big night. He has had the support of the business community while Cindy is usually closely associated with the labor interests. But Cindy definitely got more support from the audience. It will be interesting to see what happens. I am not sure the race is over; it seems to me like both candidates have a good chance of winning.

What the rest of the world thinks

Professor Terry Christensen sent out a link to an interesting website, WatchingAmerica.com, which publishes news articles from other countries about the United States. It is interesting to know what other nations think of us and our leaders. The website translates many of these stories by computer (isn't technology amazing?) so they are not always perfect, but are not subject to an American bias in translation either. Check it out.

E-Tutors and the future of America

There is an article on Reuters today about the increasing popularity of outsourcing tutors, mostly to India. Parents that can not afford one-on-one tutors for their kids in America can pay much smaller rates for similar services from India, done online. It was a strange coincidence to see this article the same week I read about exactly this thing in Thomas Friedman's The World is Flat. Technology has allowed us to communicate and do business in ways never before imaginable. While this does mean that we lose some jobs in America, it also helps to force us to stay on top of technology and development to be competitive. One of the people Friedman interviews said that it is easy to see where India is going to be in ten years because they are following the US, but no one knows where the US will be in ten years because no one has every been there before. All the more reason for us to better educate our students and work harder to develop and use new technology.

Skype Update

The Spartan Daily has an article today about the Skype ban and Phil Wolff's talk. The key point of the article is the official word from the school:

"According to an e-mail written by Don Baker, interim associate vice president of university computing and telecommunications, there is nothing new to report in regards to the possible banning of Skype.

"'Skype and San Jose State University agreed on a technical solution that is mutually beneficial and as a result, Skype will continue to be used on the campus network,' Baker wrote in his e-mail."

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

The beginning of a new University, not the end of the Skype story

Andrew has two great posts on the status of Skype and Skype Journal's Phil Wolff's speech last night. One is on his blog, and the other is on the Spartan Daily blog. You can also listen to the podcast of Phil's presentation in case you missed it.

I am of course very happy that they have decided not to block Skype, at lest for now. But honestly, I do not think that that was the major issue here. I can understand the University's concerns and reasons for the blocking. Overall, I think that they do a great job and there are some great people working for the University. We just wish that they would do a better job of including the people that are affected by their decisions in the process. It is all about having a conversation. I would not have a big problem if they decided to block Skype, but made the decision after discussing the issue with eBay as well as students and faculty, but that is not what they did. Hopefully we all can learn from this and make the decision making process more transparent and participatory.

I still think that Skype is a great tool that will benefit my education, and maybe the University is a little better now that we have gone through this together. I especially hope that Associated Students will see what happened and decide to be a little more proactive in being a voice for students. If nothing else, this was a great example of the power of blogs and the strength students can have when they voice their opinions. Now we just need to get people to show up and vote...

Technorati tags:

College makes you stupid

Finally there is proof that going to college makes you stupid. Newsweek had an interesting article online this week about just that. A study tested to see how well US colleges and Universities teach civics and US history. The result, college makes you stupid:

"Not only did many respondents at the 50 participating colleges fail to answer half of the basic civics questions correctly, but at such elite schools as Cornell, Berkeley and Johns Hopkins, the college freshmen scored higher than the college seniors."

I have begun to wonder what colleges do teach in America? We are constantly hearing about how other countries are turning out more engineers and scientist than we are, and we are obviously not teaching history and government, so what are we teaching? A lot of the classes I have taken at SJSU have spent a lot of time going over the same exact things we studied in high school. I do not think it is a problem of just the colleges, but our whole educational system is under performing. Honestly, I have no idea what to do to make it better.

The other concern here is the overall disinterest in government and politics. This type of knowledge is crucial to the success of our democracy (ok, our republic). We as citizens need to understand how these things work and then be active participants if the nation is going to succeed. Now, I will admit that I am not perfect either, and I will give the students who took the survey some credit. The sample questions from Newsweek were hard and I only scored 75% of them right, but that is a lot higher than the average.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ethics in Local Government

I went to a panel discussion last night on ethics in local government. The panel included SJSU professor Lawrence Quill, Councilman Ken Yeager, City Manager Les White, the Survey & Policy Research Institute's Phil Trounstine (a former Mercury News reporter), and lobbyist Dustin DeRollo and was held in the City Council Chambers at the new City Hall. It was really interesting to hear each of their insights and comments on ethics.

Ethics is one of those subjects that is usually only talked about when there is a problem, and there have been plenty of problems in San Jose. The lobbyist especially was critical of the Mercury News for their attacks on lobbying in city government.

"In San Jose," DeRollo said, "the lobbyist has been the whipping boy for everything that has gone wrong in city government."

The Merc has been leading the call for change in city government, and we do often focus on the bad and forget that San Jose is actually not too bad of a place to live. Trounstine pointed out that for journalists, bad news is good news. But bringing down politicians is not the purpose of journalism.

"What makes great journalism is hard-headed reporting," he said, "Not hard-headedness."

Journalists, he explained have to maintain the Jeffersonian ideal that if people have all of the information, they will make the right choices. That means that our job as journalists is to get the people all of the information they need, even if we do not agree with it, or think that it is going to help the causes we like.

It is often hard to determine what is right and what is wrong, the panel concluded. But, as Trounstine voiced, there are two types of politicians: "those that want to do good and those that want to do well." Most politicians really want to do good. They seek to improve the communities they serve, and most of them do their best.

Technorati tags:

Cluetrain Manifesto Review

The Cluetrain Manifesto: The End of Business as Usual is the book the common person has been waiting for and just did not know it. The basic premise is that businesses need to adapt to the new world technology has created. In this world, consumers, or publics, are not merely sitting around listening to messages crafted by marketing and P.R. departments. Instead, consumers today want to be part of the conversation. They want to hear from employees at the companies they are doing business with. They want the companies to hear them, and listen to what they are saying.

My favorite of the author’s 95 theses are:

20. Companies need to realize their markets are often laughing. At them.
21. Companies need to lighten up and take themselves less seriously. They need to get a sense of humor.
22. Getting a sense of humor does not mean putting some jokes on the corporate web site. Rather, it requires big values, a little humility, straight talk, and a genuine point of view.

The authors certainly do not take themselves to seriously; the book is filled with wit and humor as well as personal stories and experiences. These stories help to make the book enjoyable, but also make the message more powerful. But theses 22 also points out the big mistake a lot of companies make. They think that they can just put a few things on their website and everyone will be happy and buy their stuff. But that is not enough. It is all about communicating, having a conversation between businesses and consumers and vendors and everyone else involved.

Every businessman in America should be required to read The Cluetrain Manifesto. Although very unlikely, these principles have the potential to change the world. Companies have already begun to implement the precepts of the book, simply because they have to if they want to survive. We demand it, insist on it, and they are starting to give in to our demands.

Breaking News! Skype Stays!

Steve Sloan just posted that SJSU is not going to be blocking Skype.

Phil Wolff from Skype Journal is speaking tonight and I am sure we will hear more.

Mayoral Debate

There is another mayoral debate this Thursday, 5:30 p.m., at the San Jose Rep downtown. I am not sure if I am going to be able to go, but if you are interested, you have to register. If you live in San Jose this is a great opportunity to hear from the candidates and decide who to vote for.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Mayoral Candidates Face Off

Last night I helped out at the Neighborhood Candidate Forum at the San Jose High Academy. It was really neat to see the two candidates for City Council District 3, Manny Diaz and Sam Liccardo, as well as the candidates for Mayor, Cindy Chavez and Chuck Reed. I was there to help as part of my local politics class. The forum was sponsored by CommUniverCity, collaboration between community groups, San Jose State University, and the City. The forum was very well attended; there were easily 250 people there, probably closer to 300.

I am not completely on top of the issues relating to District 3, but it was great to see the candidates for both offices and hear from them in person. I thought it was awesome that so many of the neighborhood groups were able to participate and ask questions of the candidates. The best part was that they also allowed people in the audience to submit questions. The people there were just ordinary people asking questions and getting (mostly) honest answers from the candidates. Too often we are detached from politics, campaigning is mostly done on TV instead of person to person. As the saying goes, all politics is local, and this was an example of politics as local as it can get.

The biggest surprise to me was that more people seemed to be interested in the city council race rather than the mayor's race. There were a number of people that only stayed for the first half and left when it was time to hear from Chavez and Reed. I would have expected the opposite.

Some of us that were helping went out for pizza after the main event was over and I enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the people that put the whole event together. CommUniverCity is a great concept, trying to get different groups to work together to benefit a struggling community. This was one of the first service-learning projects I have been involved in since high school. It is a great idea, and I hope that I can help out more in the future.

Look what blogs can do

I may be just beginning my life as a blogger, but it is exciting to see how quickly things spread and the word gets out there. I just noticed that my blog was quoted in SiliconValley.com's Good Morning Silicon Valley blog! It is so exciting! Ok, so I am a geek that gets excited about a blog, but I still think it is cool. Here is a list from Steve Sloan of blogs and articles about the Skype issue. Keep on blogging, folks, the battle is not over yet!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

SOS - Save Our Skype

The movement to save Skype at San Jose State continues to grow. The JMC163 class blog has a list of recent posts about the issue. Andrew Venegas sent an email to Bob Neal, the Sr Director, Network & Telecom Network Services UCAT, and got a response. Steve Sloan sent out this letter to the campus community (I also copied the SOS title from Steve). It is a great perspective from an educator. The Spartan Daily and the Skype Journal have all picked up the topic, and it looks like it will soon be in the Mercury News. Keep the letters coming. Here is my email to Bob Neal:

Dear Mr. Neal:

I am one of many students that were very surprised to learn that San Jose State University is contemplating blocking the use of Skype on campus. Skype is a powerful tool that seems to me to be a great way to enhance my education. Not only is a working knowledge of Skype and similar services going to be necessary for me to get a quality job when I graduate, but students and teachers can use it to improve the quality of education at San Jose State now. Skype is a tool that expands our universe as students; we now are able to connect with people all over the world in a way never before imaginable. Just think of the possibilities! Blocking Skype is nothing but a shortsighted move on the part of ignorant University staff. Please do not let this happen! We need to stay on top of the very latest technology, not pretend like it does not exist!

Sincerely,
Kyle Hansen

It is not nearly as elegant as Steve Sloan's, but the more people he hears from, the better. If you are a SJSU student, email him at bob.neal@sjsu.edu or call 408.924.7862. I will post any response I get and any other news I hear.

PS - for those of you that are Mac users, there is a new version of Skype, and it is pretty cool.

Register to Vote and Meet the Candidates

This is an exciting year for those of us that follow local politics. Not only is Arnold Schwarzenegger running for reelection, but San Jose gets to elect a new mayor. Hopefully you are already registered to vote. If not, do it now! You can request the form to register from the CA Secretary of State. Right now is the perfect time to do it. There are some really important issues on the ballot and it is crucial that you register study and then show up and vote!

I am also going to be helping at a candidate forum for Cindy Chavez and Chuck Reed this Friday. This is a great opportunity to meet the candidates, hear them speak and ask them questions. The candidates for the 3rd City Council District, Manny Diaz and Sam Liccardo will also be there. It is at 6:30 p.m. on Friday, September 22 at the San Jose High Academy Cafeteria,
24th and Julian Streets (park across Julian from the school or on Bulldog Blvd). I will be there and will post here about how it went, but if you are available, come and see it in person!

Cynthia McCune has a great post on voting with links to helpful websites and more. There are a lot of important and complicated issues that are going to be on the ballot. It is about time to start taking a serious look at them and decide how you are going to vote.

China's Iron Grip on Journalism

To many of us young Americans that do not remember the height of the Cold War, the threats of Communism are also often forgotten. But they are still there, and with the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, they are going to be brought again to our attention. One specific example is China's strict control of news and information. In preparation for hosting the games, China has not loosened restrictions on journalists, but has increasingly tightened them, according to an article from Newsweek online.

"Today’s targets are not just domestic media and foreign correspondents, not just our Chinese sources and local assistants. Less than two years before Beijing hosts the 2008 Summer Olympics, authorities are in the midst of a concerted—and disturbing—effort to slam stricter controls on what Chinese know and how they know it. The aim of the recent crackdown is not only to silence individual “troublemakers,” but also to beef up institutional controls over the free flow of information. This is a grim portent for the 2008 Games, when some 20,000 international journalists are expected to descend on Beijing."

New rules even change previous agreements that allowed international news outlets to directly provide some financial and other data to some Chinese clients. Now, everything has to go through the official news agency, Xinhua.

This is scary stuff for those of us who really value freedom of the press. The First Amendment rights we Americans often take for granted are still almost nonexistent in places like China, North Korea and Cuba. This is certainly going to be a major issue during the Olympics in two years.

"For the Olympics, Chinese authorities insist they’ll live up to their promises of free and open press coverage. Even so, how long will it last? Will authorities relax some curbs for, say, a couple of months during the games, but keep the media muzzled before and afterwards?"

Good question. Unfortunately, we may have to just wait and see.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Help San Jose Arts

I am not a major supporter of the arts, in fact, as a starving college student, I do not very often pay to support any art organization. However, I do enjoy theater and other music, and occasionally go to see musicals and other shows. I got an email today from the Chair of the Arts and Culture Roundtable asking for help. The American Musical Theater of San Jose sent it to me. He says:

"The value of the arts is immeasurable. Local arts groups bring soul and texture to our communities. Beyond the intrinsic value of art for arts sake, cultural enterprise is good for business. It creates a local culture that attracts the best and the brightest to our Valley and therefore plays an integral role in the success of the region. We simply cannot afford to go culturally bankrupt."

I cannot agree more, and while I may not be able to donate big bucks to solve all of the problems, I can voice my support. Here is a copy of the letter, and here is a list of contact information for the Mayor and City Council members.

Monday, September 18, 2006

The Advertising of Politics

We had an interesting speaker in my state politics class today. Michael Terris is a political consultant based in San Francisco. He mainly specializes in direct mailings all over the country, but he also does general consulting for campaigns in California. It was interesting to hear the insights of someone who basically makes junk mail for a living, but only for political campaigns. It sounded a lot like the advertising class I took last year. Basically it is the same as any other advertising campaign, except you are selling people, politicians to be precise. One of his most interesting comments:

"Our job is not to educate voters, that is a really expensive proposition to actually change someone’s mind. Our job is to match our client’s viewpoints with the already held views of voters. . . . I am not going to try to convince them that they are wrong about something; I am not going to try to convince them that they are right about something; I am going to match my client’s strength and ideas with their previously held convictions and strengths and ideas so that I help my client accrue votes."

Sounds like a politician? It is not really any different than most business people would sound like when talking about their product or service. It is all about make whatever you are trying to sell match the consumer (or voter). Sometimes we get frustrated with politicians and especially campaigns, but we should be grateful for the freedoms we do have, and I think that most politicians are not as bad as we make them out to be.

More on Skype

Just an update, Steve Sloan, SJSU Tech on a mission, has a great post on why SJSU says that they are blocking Skype and why it is such a bad idea. He specifically gives examples of how Skype can be used to enhance our educational experience and how blocking it is a short-sighted move by the University.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Scary Voter Statistics

It is nothing new, but there was an article in the Mercury News on Thursday reminding us of the huge correlation between ethnicity and voter participation. It is realty simple, ethnic "minorities" and the uneducated do not vote. Here's the most startling, in my opinion, fact:

"California is the only state in which no ethnic or racial group constitutes the majority, with whites representing 46 percent of the population and Latinos 32 percent. Yet, whites make up 70 percent of the electorate, and Latinos only 16 percent."

My Local Politics class is going to be out every Saturday for the next month or so trying to register voters in a predominantly minority neighborhood in San Jose. It is really hard to get through to these people who do not realize the power they have if they would just vote. Please encourage everyone you know who is eligible to vote. Get them to register before it is too late. And then show up and vote!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Telephone Telepathy

I had lunch today with some friends from church. We were discussing how strange it is that sometimes you know before the phone rings or you get a text message that it is going to happen. We knew a study had just been done, so I had to see if I could find it. Here is the Reuters article about a study done in England that supposedly "proved that such precognition existed for telephone calls and even e-mails." I am not sure how believable it is though. The study did not have a very large sample. It could be just coincidence, but it does seem to happen often. I think that I just check my phone and email a lot because I am a news junkie. I want to know right away if something happened or if someone is trying to get a hold of me. But sometimes you just seem to know, even before it happens. Coincidence? Science? Who knows?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

SJSU to block Skype

Steve Sloan set out the word yesterday that San Jose State is going to be blocking access to Skype from the school network. Perhaps I should not be surprised, but I was anyway. Skype is a great tool that can only help improve our educational experience, and yet the school is unwilling to support it. Hopefully the people in charge get the message that we need these tools if we are ever going to be prepared to face our competition for jobs in the future, jobs that will require a high level of proficiency in technical tools like Skype, blogs, and other Internet services.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Scoble at SJSU

I just got out of my JMC 163 class at San Jose State on new media in journalism. Today we had Robert Scoble speak. Scoble is one of the premier bloggers out there and had great advice for us budding journalists turned bloggers. The most interesting thing to me is the future of the field. It is kind of scary for those of us that love the news and think that they want a job in the industry, but we have to accept that fact that newspapers are dying fast. But, at lest according to Scoble, we should not despair, the jobs are still there, they are just online now instead of on paper. This class is teaching us how to use the technology that is going to be the key to getting these jobs. Scoble and others have already made careers in this stuff. And he had lots of great advice on how to get our blogs out there. Hopefully this blog can become a forum for people to express their ideas as well as being a way for me to express myself.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Five years later

Today is the fifth anniversary of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. There has been a lot said and written about the event. The events of that fateful day five years ago have profoundly changed the lives of every American, and perhaps every person in the world, whether we like it or not. As I look back on what has happened over the last five years, I am not sure we are any safer today than we were before. But I think that there is a greater sense of community and unity among Americans, despite our divisiveness over the war in Iraq. Unfortunately, it sometimes takes a catastrophic event to remind us what is most important. Hopefully we can stay focused on the essential aspects of life, such as community and good will, so that when the next disaster comes we are more prepared.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Don't Let Your Resume Kill You

Part of my job as a recruiter is to look at resumes. Lots of resumes. Most resumes are ok, but every once in a while there is one that is really bad. They give us all a good laugh and then we move on. It is nice to have the laughs occasionally, but if you are looking for a job, it is not good when a recruiter is laughing at your resume. Here is my all-time favorite line from a resume:

"Despite my speaking impairment, I get along well with people and work well under pressure."

Now, I don't have problems with people that have speech impairments or any other disability for that matter. I even try hard not to discriminate against them. But they still should not put it in the resume. Any negative that has to be explained is best left for the interview.

Another candidate had a lengthy comment on how he thought about going into the priesthood, but could not really make up his mind. Then for his next job, he included:

"Food service, cashier and stocking at a convenience store. Owner was my cousin and she hired me whenever I needed work."

That's what we call too much information.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Good Night, and Good Luck

Last week I watched the movie “Good Night, and Good Luck” about Edward R. Murrow and his fight against Senator McCarthy. George Clooney’s movie is an amazing tribute to true journalism. These people who were brave enough to take on the “junior senator from Wisconsin” are examples of what journalism is all about: working for the good of others.

Especially interesting to me was the fight between the journalists and the corporate interests at CBS. Murrow was able to bring down McCarthy, but he also damaged his own show in the process. We hear a lot about how journalism has fallen prey to big corporations and Wall Street, but the battle is not new. Journalism has never been popular, especially real investigative reporting.

Now more than ever, we need journalists like Edward Murrow and Fred Friendly who are willing to take on unpopular fights and stand for what they know is right, despite pressure from those who write their paychecks to do otherwise. We discussed this somewhat is my Journalism 132 class yesterday. Most of those who go into journalism are not in it for the money. They want to make a difference in the world and they want to help others. Too often we hear people complaining about media and their “liberal agenda.” “Good Night, and Good Luck” shows the sincere intentions and desires of journalists to help others and bring down the evils that others fear.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Look out blogosphere, here comes Kyle!

Hello world!

I am new to blogging and want to try out a few services to see what is best. For now, this is probably all that will be here; we will see what else I can come up with.