The online home of Jess Barron

Web content and community expert, writer, editor, blogger, and internet video producer.
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In 2004, a guy who I don't know named Jeremy Abbate saw my website and wrote a song called "I Wanna Be As Cool As Jessica Barron." It still amuses me. Here's the mp3 and here are the lyrics.

Archives (slowly being reconstructed):
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See how this site looked in 1998
Poprocks.com screenshot from early 1998
and how the place looked in 2000.
Poprocks.com from June 2000
Yahoo counted me as a "cool person" from 1997-2001. How far have I fallen?!
Yahoo counted me among the "Cool People" in 1997-1998.
The internets have come a long way, baby...

July 11, 2005 Da Governator Vs. Da Protestors
arnold closerDa California Governator Arnold Schwarzenegger came to speak at Yahoo! campus in Sunnyvale as the latest of our Yahoo! Influentials speakers (New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and Tom Brokaw were previous speakers).

On the corner of Mathilda Ave there were about 35-50 people loudly protesting the Governator's policies and presence. They were in the same spot where anti-war groups loudly protested against our corporate neighbor Lockheed-Martin a year or so ago during the beginning of the Iraq War. (Lockheed-Martin builds some serious weapons.)

This is what the protest against Arnold looked like. People held signs with statements like "Public Health, NOT Corporate Wealth," "Kids, Not Cuts," and "No on Prop 76." Two motorcycle cops stood watch from the Yahoo parking lot.  And here's some video I shot so you can hear it too.

The number of people waiting to see Arnold (all Yahoo! employees) was much much longer. People lined up outside the cafeteria an hour before he was scheduled to speak. It was quickly standing room only and some latecomers were locked outside.

Arnold spoke for a little less than an hour, and he didn't say anything too fascinating. He didn't talk about the Internet or technology. He didn't directly address the fact that there were protesters outside, though he did sort of try to refute some of their points about his education cuts. Here is some video of his speech, so you too can feel like you were there (or re-experience it, if you were there).

One of the most memorable things he said was "California is the best state in the best country in the world." At least he didn't boast, "California is the only state that touches both Canada and Mexico," as my geographically-challenged Vassar-educated (but usually quite intelligent) friend Mindy once said. ;)

Arnold also told us how rich he is, and how we should feel good about having a rich governor, because he can't be bought by special interest groups. Yeah right.

No one protested our previous Influentials speakers Thomas Friedman or Tom Brokaw. Then again, neither Friedman nor Brokaw attracted as large an audience of Yahoos either. Still, I don't know whether it's just because Friedman and Brokaw are in the field of writing and journalism that I felt like their speeches meant more to me. I felt interested and inspired by what they had to say. The same was not true of Arnold. It felt like he was at Yahoo just to make another campaign speech and plug his many movies. (He managed to slip the titles of almost all of them into his speech.)

Check out my flickr photoset of this strange event.

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posted by Jess Barron @ 8:36 PM
April 6, 2005 "Mr. Brokaw, what do you think about bloggers?"
laura and me and Tom Brokaw
Yesterday Tom Brokaw spoke at Yahoo! Campus as the latest guest in "the Influentials Yahoo! Speaker Series."

At the end of his speech, we were given the opportunity to ask him questions. I went up to the mic and asked, sp  "Mr. Brokaw, as someone who was raised by my maternal grandparents (who were first-generation immigrants), I appreciate your comments on 'The Greatest Generation,'" I said. "Secondly, I appreciated your comments about the role of the citizen and the obligation to take personal responsibility. My question is, what do you think the role of the citizen journalist is, and specifically what do you think about bloggers?"

He answered that he thinks it is great that the internet has provided the opportunity for various voices to be heard. He also answered that he's an avid reader of Yahoo! News. He did point out that he is wary of the political polarization to far-left and far-right that has been occurring in the blogosphere (no, he did not actually use the term "blogosphere" -- that is just me paraphrasing).

I recorded his entire speech and the Q & A via my iPod and iTalk adapter, and I'll be posting the MP3 online to share later tonight as soon as I get home. He basically said that blogging is good in his opinion.

These are some very weird times for broadcast journalism. First, Dan Rather announced his retirement. Then Tom Brokaw announced he would be stepping down late this year. Last week Ted Koppel announced he would be leaving "Nightline" after 25 years. Today Peter Jennings announced he has lung cancer, though he will continue to work while undergoing treatment. What is happening with all the great white men of broadcast journalism? It's making me feel old.

I think we all (and citizen journalists/bloggers, in particular) have a lot to learn from the successes and failures of Jennings, Brokaw, Rather and their colleagues. It's a mistake for online news people to discount TV news as a dead medium as we move onto this new way ot tell stories.

And TV news is not a dead medium.

TV news *does* seem to suit and satisfy a segment of the U.S. population very well, particularly in the older side of the demographics. Many folks in my grandparents' (and parents') generations feel comfortable and perfectly fulfilled by getting their news items selected and read to them each evening by someone who they respect and trust. Unlike younger people in our generation, many of these avid TV news viewers do not want to have to sift through the information themselves on the Internet or maybe they don't think they have time to do it, or don't feel comfortable doing it.

My dad, for example, is a huge TV news fan, and every single night he watches the evening news, and I don't think he will change this habit. Believe me, after 10 years of me working on the Internet and singing its praises, he's still not interested in getting his news via the Web as a primary source. At least not yet.

When I decided to attend Vassar, I knew I wanted to be a journalist. This may seem a bit strange to anyone familiar with the college, because Vassar does not offer a Journalism or Media Studies major. It's a liberal arts college, and they take that really seriously. Still I wanted to attend the school.  I talked to several journalists, students, teacher, and professors about this "problem" of Vassar's lack of a journalism major -- and came to the conclusion as a high school senior that I could be an even better journalist if I had a rich and varied liberal arts education.

But I didn't stop there. I  took every single media-related course that was offered. I wrote for the college newspaper ("The Miscellany News") and by my senior year I became Editor-in-Chief. While taking classes, I also interned at the local city paper ("The Poughkeepsie Journal," or "Po-Jo" as it was called), and in New York City first at ABC News' Primetime Live with Diane Sawyer and second at David Lauren's now-dead "Swing" magazine. One of my favorite things about interning at ABC was to watch "Nightline" with Peter Jennings from up on the catwalk in the live studio.

Peter Jennings is my favorite of all these guys. Peter Jennings is a whirlwind. He does not just accept the text written for him -- he makes furious notes in the margins and adds his own thoughts/questions off-the-cuff. He's impressive to watch from behind-the-scenes.

For a while around this time, I was convinced I wanted to be a broadcast journalist. My dad's mother would ask me what I wanted to be when I grew up, and I would say "A journalist." And she would kind of frown for a second considering the lack of glamor and money a newspaper writing career would provide, and then she'd think for a moment and start to smile, saying hopefully, "A broadcast journalist? Those women are so smart." (No doubt she was thinking of Barbara Walters and Diane Sawyer.) Hence, I was veered a bit in this direction.

But my internship at ABC -- though fulfilling and interesting -- ultimately convinced me that broadcast journalism was not 100% right for me. I realized that the topics highlighted in our weekly newsmagazine show were really limited by which topics appealed to the most mainstream of people. 

Like almost all newsmagazinw programs, the "investigative reporting" leaned toward hidden cameras catching babysitters and nannies hitting children in their care and exposing local hotel chains that didn't properly clean the rooms.  These may be actually be important topics that people do care about, but they weren't the types of issues I personally to which I wanted to devote my career and my life. (Here is the tongue-in-cheek account I wrote about my internship with Diane Sawyer at ABC that was published in the campus newpaper when I was a senior at Vassar.

I became obsessed with the Internet around this same time. While I was Editor-in-Chief of Vassar's school paper ("The Miscellany News"), we brought the publication online. In 1994, I also had the good fortune of taking a class called "Hypertext Rhetoric and Poetics" with Michael Joyce, author of one of the first "hypertext novels" called "Afternoon." Hypertext as a freestanding form of organizing words and information, and later as the building blocks for the Internet excited me -- its power to enable writers to tell stories in new ways really inspired me. In 1993 I wrote a (somewhat-clumsy-sounding-to-2005-ears) article for Vassar's newspaper about how hypertext was empowering female writers in new ways. 

I truly believe in the power of blogging and online journalism to improve our abilities to share stories accurately and compellingly. I think some of this is already being done. The topic-oriented pages created by the Yahoo! Full Coverage team are a great example. They provide a rich context to help readers get a 360-degree understanding of major events from a variety of different perspectives and sources. Blogging -- though it is lately criticized for often being politically polarizing -- also gives individuals and citizen journalist the power to report events and share them with thousands and hundreds of thousands of people. It's incredibly empowering.

Still, I have tremendous respect and awe for these men of broadcast journalism and their ability to report the stories of the world for the past 20-30 years.

If you're interested in this topic, be sure to read this LA Weekly interview with Nightline executive producer Leroy Sievers about "the death of serious news." My friend Josho sent me that one, and it supplies some interesting details on the state TV network news from an insider.

As a final aside -- the photo at the top of this post is of my co-worker Laura who works on the Yahoo! Full Coverage team and me with Tom Brokaw. The photo was taken by Yahoo! founder Jerry Yang with my Sony Mavica camera. Laura and I said, "Jerry, can you please take our photo with Tom?" And Jerry said, "OK, but you have to promise you won't sell it on eBay."

"That's a promise!," I said. I just wanted it for my blog, of course. And for the memories.

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posted by Jess Barron @ 1:08 PM