Iowa Journalist Fall 2009

The University of Iowa

When book meets blog

When a book and a blog join forces, a "blook" is born.

photo of Pam Creedon

"OurBlook" Creedon teaches the Gender and Mass Media class which is currently working to make a collaborative Web site on about women in 21st century online press. Photo by Nawaar Farooq

So what is a blook, exactly? OurBlook.com defines it as "a Web site combining the dynamic online atmosphere of a blog with the researched, in-depth analysis of a book."

Professor Pam Creedon and her Gender and Mass Media class received an opportunity to talk to OurBlook’s Communication Specialist and Production Manager Sandra Ordonez via a live Internet chat on Sept. 2 about their roles in the OurBlook project.

Ordonez described OurBlook as a collaborative site that cultivates the exchange of information and debate on current national and global issues such as the economy, the health care debate and the future of journalism. OurBlook wants to accomplish two main goals.

The first is to collect opinions and input from experts to find solutions to problems that may exist in the future. The second is to create a valuable educational tool that improves the knowledge base that currently exists online.

Creedon initially heard about the Web site in an e-mail OurBlook sent out to professors. It piqued her curiosity, and after looking at the site and receiving an e-mail from Ordonez, Creedon decided it would be a good class project and a valuable asset for the students’ resumes.

The project is designed so each student researches the biography of a female online journalist who has been selected and assigned. After researching the journalist, the student will interview her via email. All subjects will answer a set of general questions along with specific questions that relate to the experience of the interviewees.

Creedon’s ultimate goal is for the students to learn about women involved in the 21st century online press. She emphasizes online because it moves forward from what the class will learn in the textbook about print media journalists. Some of the women who will be interviewed include Kim Bolan of Vancouver Sun Online, Jennifer Seizmore of MSNBC and Editor-in-Chief Denise Polverine of Cleveland.com.

After presenting the students’ findings to the class, Ordonez will collect all the articles and publish them on the OurBlook Web site. Once they are published, anybody may access the articles.

Brianna Runyan (senior, Indianola, Iowa) is currently taking Gender and Mass Media and participating in the project. She believes writing a blook is a great opportunity for students to get clips published in a medium other than print newspapers or campus magazines and a good way to bring students in the communications field together with professionals in the industry.

photo of Creedon’s Gender and Mass Media class

Gender and Mass Media Creedon's class talks with Ourblook Communication Specialist and Production Manager Sandra Ordonez via ICN. Photo by Nawaar Farooq

"Although we are not posting this online ourselves, it’s an online clip of ourselves that shows that we as students are aware that the Internet is growing and becoming more and more important in the news industry," Runyan said.

"Even though this is technically a blog, it seems to me it is a blog of professionals in the journalism industry. What better of a forum to have our own work published in than one with professional journalists?"

Runyan thinks it will be intriguing to read about how the women juggle all that is expected of them. She would also like to know whether they feel an imbalance between men and women in the media.

"The most interesting part of the project will be reading the end product and discovering all the different lifestyles women are leading in the media today," Runyan said.

Some may be wary of a "blook" because of its association with blogging. Ordonez clarified why a blook is a legitimate source of information.

"The difference is that we have primary, authoritative information," Ordonez said. "To use a proverbial saying, the information comes ’directly from the horse’ mouth,’ since the majority of our content is interview."

However, because OurBlook is a "Web 2.0" site that allows for more social networking and interactivity than traditional Web sites, individuals can create their own blog network with other people and comment on stories. Ordonez believes this creates a nice balance between the two.

"To the best of my knowledge, no one has ever written a book -- certainly not a "blook" -- featuring the experiences of online women journalists," Creedon said. "Students are interviewing women online journalists across the country and around the world. All of us need to know more about what online women journalists are experiencing, so it became the course assignment."

OurBlook’s Ordonez said although she thinks the blogging phenomenon is one of the most amazing things that have happened in the last few years, it does have its limitations. She points out that most blogs aren’t edited by a third party for grammar or fact-checked, which makes them less likely to be primary sources.

However, the strengths of blogs -- which include flexibility, the ability for different voices to reach different audiences and the fact that they are inexpensive to produce -- have revolutionized the way information is shared and distributed. Ordonez believes the Internet is a great resource and that people just need to learn how to pick the good information from the bad.

"All forms of communication are great as long as you know the differences between them, and most importantly, know when to use them," Ordonez said.

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