One of the greatest changes in the way news is reported in the twentieth century is the 24-hour news cycle. Due to the growth of round-the-clock cable news channels, such as CNN, every hour is a news hour. The Internet has also helped promulgate this “journalism of assertion” through Twitter feeds, which often flood users with information even before the television crews can obtain it. The problem with this scenario is that very little of this information is cross-checked or verified before being released to the public, resulting in a high number of errors. The self-verification of facts that proponents of quick-release journalism cite as a rectifying action places undue work on the reader. A consumer of news should not have to follow a story for days in order to check the veracity of published material; it should be published correctly the first time.
Yesterday, there was a gas main explosion in Kansas City on the Plaza at J.J.’s Restaurant. I happened to see the breaking report while in the KFC. The original report listed a different restaurant (which I cannot recall the name of) as having the explosion, while later broadcasts corrected the name to J.J.’s. However, in the few minutes between these two events, I had already texted my roommate who is from Kansas City. His mother works at a restaurant on the Plaza. Because of the swift nature of news, I presented my roommate with false information; the television station made the explosion seem much larger than it really was. Some stations said that residents had smelled natural gas an hour before the explosion, while others said up to five hours. If the news station had verified the information before releasing it and had more accurately described the explosion as being contained to one business, my roommate would have been far less worried when he called his mom. Instead, bowing to sensationalism, the information was warped and distorted as it was passed down the line. The journalism of assertion naturally lends itself to such misinformation because of its rapid nature.
Though technology has certainly affected Western society, it has profoundly altered my personal life as well. I was first introduced to a more technical way of looking at computers in eighth grade when I was first employed by my high school’s IT Support Office. I learned how to create images and distribute them, make Ethernet cables, transfer data, manage networks and Active Directory, fix hardware issues, and act as customer support for teachers. I absolutely loved this job and the empowerment it provided. At the age of thirteen I was providing assistance to adults and handling issues that they were incompetent to solve. I quickly realized that knowing how to manipulate computers could be more than a hobby – it could be a career. I stayed with the tech office for all four years of high school during the summer and worked it during the school year as well during my senior year. The last summer, I researched, ordered, and installed more than $12,000 of video editing equipment and software in a new media lab and then provided updates and other services to the lab over the course of the year.
I currently work at ConAgra Foods, Inc in a role very similar to my high school job. The ConAgra IT Internship program moves interns through different rotations every 4 to 6 months, and my first rotation is in Desktop Support. I support Buildings One and Five of the downtown ConAgra World Headquarters. My main responsibilities include network-based imaging and data transfer for tech refreshes, managing inventory, performing hardware strips and repairs, servicing phones, and terminating old machines. I am learning many industry strength programs such as CCleaner, Remedy, Argis, RichCopy, MCConfig and AD that allow me to quickly and remotely assist ConAgra employees to keep downtime minimal and productivity high. All this is due to the permeation of technology throughout the corporate infrastructure of every large company. Without technology, I would not be employed today; without my current employment, I would be unable to pay for study abroad next fall because very few other fields offer the competitive wages that IT does.
Though I am a Computer Science and Informatics major, I am primarily an English major. I hope to one day teach literature at the collegiate level. Though these two fields may seem completely unconnected, technology is again providing a bridge that allows mutual appreciation and understanding. The burgeoning area of digital humanities helps scholars to process big data in new, innovative methods that allow users to better visualize and understand texts. I currently perform research with Dr. Bridget Keegan on eighteenth century British laboring class poetry. Along with the help of a few other undergraduates and a master’s candidate, we are trying to create a digital database and website cataloging the biographies of thousands of poets. The digital nature of the project allows easy collaboration with peers in Glasgow, Scotland where the copyright holders of the original text reside and many of the LC poets lived. Eventually, the website will allow users to truly see the data, perhaps through interactive maps that chart poetry hotspots or through searchable tags that return related authors.
Technology is central to my personal identity as well. I use Skype and Facebook to communicate with friends from Georgia to Iowa to California. My phone has replaced my music player, GPS, and PSP; my laptop has replaced my desktop, DVD player and stereo system. These devices can process so much media and handle so many tasks that they have become nearly inseparable parts of my life. Without mobile email and calendar notifications it would be impossible for to make it through an average day:
Between my classes I managed to sneak into a professor’s office hours for a quick paper review and obtain a necessary signature for study abroad. There was no possible way I could have set up those appointments without being able to gauge my schedule and email on the go. Like it or not, until the world decides to slow down, mobile technology will continue to reign supreme. There is a need for it, even though part of the need is created by the technology itself.