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Online Journalism

reflections on a changing medium

Tag Archives: story ideas

I have chosen to do my course project on bingo players. As I said in my original “story ideas” post, churches, firehalls and community centers frequently host bingo games, sometimes even several times per day. Although I’m not sure how it compares with other cities, I do know that Buffalo has no shortage of bingo events. After some online research, I’ve come to find that it’s possible to play bingo somewhere within the city at almost any given time virtually any day of the week (see for yourself! bingoplanner.com is a Buffalo bingo site that has a great calendar of events). In order for these games to survive economically, bingo must be pretty popular. Enough people must be playing and spending money to sustain the jackpots that are offered at every game.

To me, this is interesting, and I’m speculating that Buffalo’s bingo scene is widely overlooked and unconsidered by the general non-bingoing public. I think that other people, like me, who don’t frequently play bingo might also be curious about the bingo scene.

Who plays bingo? What’s the draw? How seriously do people take the game? Do they treat it more as harmless entertainent, or as a form of gambling?

After two nights dabbing away at bingo boards in church basements, I’ve found that there is a wide audience of bingo players. Most bingo players that I have encountered have been elderly, but it isn’t too unusual to see a few young people playing as well, or to see young mothers with children playing bingo. Many of the players that I have spoken to exhibit a sort of “this is my chance!” mentality, counting more on “the law of averages” than the statistics of the matter, forgetting that thirty people also need B9 to cover all four corners of their board. At the bingo games that I have been to there has been a good mix of bingo fanatics and casual players. Some of the bingo fanatics have bingo dabber caddys, bingo t-shirts and even “lucky” objects like stuffed animals or plastic dolls. Most of them purchase four or more boards and tape them together before the games begin in order to form one larger, more manageable board. These visual aspects of the scene along with the tension inherent the gaming environment makes this a good topic for my project.

Although I faced a bit of a challenge getting my first pictures (I was asked not to take pictures at the first bingo game that I attended), I do look forward to trying news ways of interacting with the players and those who organize the games in order to get better material for my project. I am also quite excited to start talking to the players more “on the record.” Many of them seem like very interesting people and I can’t wait to hear their stories and ideas about what bingo is all about.

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This post is in response to chapter three of Richard Craig’s Online Journalism.

This reading really seemed to highlight something that I discussed in my last post: that, above all, it is important to have a strong foundation of journalistic skills. While Craig describes many ways of using the Internet (search engines, emal lists, news sites, blogs, and Web pages among others) to procure solid story ideas, the rest of this chapter, and Craig’s tips, can be applied to traditional print journalism techniques.

For example, Craig suggests things like seeking out local angles, doing follow-ups and previews, and feature stories that examine and convey the vivid details of a subject. These are standard jounalistic methods of creating story ideas when reporters seems to be running low on hot news stories.

One of the things that Craig briefly discussed as an advantage of using the Internet to track down story ideas was the feedback-friendly aspect.  Here, he talks about things like feedback pages, message boards, chat rooms and polls. These types of interactive spaces allow the consumers room to provide their own input and to have a say in the type of information product that is being delivered to them. Previously, before the Web journalism phenomenon, consumers of news didn’t have this luxury. The news was determined by professional journalists who were were part of a “professional class,” according to Clay Shirky in his book, Here Comes Everybody. The rules of such a class, he says, are determined by the way in which the elite members who all experience the benefits and challenges of the particular profession choose to see the world.

On page 65, Shirky writes:

“In a world where a dozen editors, all belonging to the same professional class, can decide whether to run or kill a national story, information that might be of interest to the general piblic may not be published, not because of a conspiracy but because the editors have a professional boas that is aligned by the similar challenges they face and by the similar tools they use to approach those challenges.”

This is where the importance of Web journalists–especially amateur journalists and bloggers comes in. With more media outlets existing on the Web and more independent voices, the bias that Shirky writes about will not be a limiting factor in news that comsumers will have access to. It is especially important for the increasingly independent, varied pool of Web journalists to utilize the feedback devices that Craig describes in order to avoid this very problem and to report the stories that traditional print media outlets might not see as being things worth covering.

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1) breakdancing in Buffalo? I know that there are several groups of breakdancers here, and this would be a very visual idea. I actually photographed and interviewed several breakdancers over the summer while in Chicago over the summer and might be interested in pursuing the idea.

2) used bookstores – are they successful, or are these businesses dying? Buffalo has many of them. It would be interesting to talk to the owners and the customers who frequent them.

3) vintage clothing shopping  – many people (including me!) buy secondhand clothing from thrift stores and consignment shops. I could explore this, going on shopping with some of these people.

4) bingo fanatics – organized bingo games at places like churches and firehalls has been something that I have always known about. It seems like there are always people playing bingo somewhere or another. I kind of wonder what the regulars are like and what the draw to the game is.

5) bicycling – Buffalo has a big bicycling community and many bike shops that encourage community members to build their own bicycles from recycled parts or to rent bicycles as an eco-friendly, cost-efficient method of transportation.

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