Thursday, February 25, 2016

Saint Martin's University Graduate Data

LinkedIn tracks and creates data for what sorts of careers and jobs students who have graduated from universities end up in. Looking at that information for Saint Martin's University, what does it tell us?

The information I'm referring to is found on the Outcomes and Careers page on the Saint Martin's University website. It rests in a little widget that scrolls through these images showing us the top four places alumni work, live, and what their job or career field is in. This data is gathered from LinkedIns database and offered in the widget for the university.

In analyzing it, the information it provides is pretty apparent and straightforward. Looking first at the slide showing us where alumni and students work, we can infer further information about the university. It's evident that Saint Martin's has connections with the US Army and Air Force, as well as the State of Washington and Boeing.

Saint Martin's University has an extended learning division on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, which accounts for the high numbers in US Army and Air force work. And on the Outcomes and Careers page, it states that "Saint Martin's is next door to the Washington State Capitol and a wide range of internship opportunities." Many students must get internships which eventually turn into state jobs. As well, Saint Martin's has an engineering program that is growing and likely attracts many students to Boeing.

The next slide that talks about where they live is self explanatory for the most part. The greater Seattle area is a vague term, but typically refers to encompassing Seattle, Washington, and the outlying metropolitan area such as Tacoma and Bellevue. Saint Martin's University is located in Lacey, Washington and would attract many local students to the area. Or those who come from other states are likely to stay in the area after graduating due to having built a network of peers and colleagues. Washington, D.C., showing up implies that many students who perhaps go through the state internships end up going on to do further government work, not necessarily within the state of Washington.

Lastly, this information shows what the alumni do for jobs and careers. The Masters programs that Saint Martin's Offers can be found on their programs and schools page. The careers and jobs ranked in this data represent areas of work students who received a masters degree would go into. This is based off the list of Masters programs, which include education, engineering management, civil engineering, and business.

All of this data is a great way to look at and see where students go after Saint Martin's and to show the success of the university. While numbers always look reliable, it's important also to note the source. LinkedIn is certainly reputable and would not intentionally skew any data, however, as anyone can create a profile, it is possible some of the data may be off as it is collected by individuals saying they graduated from Saint Martin's. It may not be a significant change to the data if a few profiles contained incorrect or false information, but it is something to be aware of when looking at data.

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Role Of Journalism

What is it that makes something journalism? Is it simply the reporting of facts? With the trend of social media reporting, journalism needs to be seen as something more than just sharing numbers or information.

The role of journalism is a means to report, investigate, and discover information about events and occurrences. Yet it goes much deeper than that initially seems. Journalism has a mission, as ProPublica explains, "to expose abuses of power and betrayals of public trust." It is a commitment to give the facts, as true as able, and present a story in an illuminating light. This sort of story requires some amount of investigation and a bit of crafting to weave together all the pieces into one coherent story to illustrate for the public what is going on. media reporting is a newer trend, where journalists tweet out stories or share them in smaller posts on various social media sites. One of the bigger events of social media reporting was on the trial of Oscar Pistorius, which was covered and live-tweeted by BBC's Andrew Harding. He gave information as it came, live, during the courtroom proceedings. In something unprecedented, facts from the courtroom floor were making waves on Twitter moments after they happened.

However, is this journalism? Social media reporting is surely giving the facts as best able, yet they don't hold together to form a full story. Harding had the information and shared it with the public, but instead of as a journalistic piece of work, it's consumed in sound bytes of text limited to 140 characters. This is not representative of the full story that was unfolding in the courtroom and instead, provides reports out of context of each other. To me, it doesn't seem that it is journalism when the audience of the piece has to gather all the data together and form their own story from it.

There is further tension between the concepts of ethical journalism and citizen journalism that takes place. Because social media is rife with fiery comments and opinions, it can be very difficult to find the blurred line between fact and opinion when doing something like live tweeting or social media reporting. Harding stated to the BBC about his tweets that it wasn't "to say [he] couldn't pass comment on [the trial]" when talking about how well the judge was handling the case. While Harding has clear journalistic experience, for citizen journalists that take to the social media WiFi waves, it can be much more difficult to discern what is opinion or fact.

For instance, during the Boston Marathon bombing aftermath, while news organizations were gathering facts and checking things through, the Internet grouped together on social media sites Reddit and Twitter, according to Newsweek. With all the best intentions, they ran ahead of the news outlets often times, but were not fact checking or verifying information. From this, false accusations were made about the culprits of the bombing, stalling and creating numerous problems. Once those sorts of accusations and bits of information go viral, it takes some effort and incredible time to rectify the error.

This is the problem with social media reporting. We're given the facts in sound bytes of information and not the full story. We already see how much quotes are taken out of context from larger pieces. But when a tweet has no other context surrounding it except what is in that tweet, there is a risk for that to go viral and spiral out of control. Without the anchoring of a narrative or story weaving the information together, social media reporting is just that: reporting, not journalism.

Friday, February 12, 2016

A Burden of Knowledge

How much is too much information? Would we be better off in a more blissful ignorance when it comes to our limitations and the realities of the world?

As we go through schooling and learn more about the world and academic subjects, we start to refine for ourselves what we want out of life. We begin to put pieces together and see what we want to do, what our job might be, what our future could hold. The further into the school system we get, the more and more logical and realistic we become about it, too. We know what jobs pay the best and what we actually want to do and try to find a middle ground between that.

It seems safe to say, that through this process, we lose a lot of our imagination. That child like spark that we once had which enabled us to see beyond the confines of our present reality. When you ask a college student or even a high school student what they want to do when they "grow up," you'll likely get a worldly, reasonable answer, that has been calculated and thought through. But ask a younger child and you can get any sort of answer.

I had the opportunity to talk with a few kids in middle school who seemed to still hold on strong to their imagination about the world and their futures. When I asked them what they wanted to do when they grew up, one student told me:

"Well if I don't become a pro sports player, then I'll be in the FBI. I've always wanted to be in the FBI. And if that doesn't work out, I've always wanted to be one of those rodeo clowns that entertains people. And if that doesn't work out, I think I'll be, like, a teacher."

For him, anything was still possible. And I don't mean to write this piece telling you that the impending adult world will set in and suddenly your options are limited. In fact, it's the opposite. However, our imaginations and confidence in ourselves seems to shift as we grow and we feel like the world's responsibilities constrict what we can and can't do with our lives.

Think back to what you wanted to be when you were a kid. After you remember (if you can), what's the immediate thought that pops up following it? I know for me, it's something along the lines of "yeah well, I can't do that, it'd take too much schooling," or cost too much, or isn't feasible. Any number of excuses could pop up, seeming to blockade us from what we want to do.

That's the restriction of our imagination. And then, with time, that seems to diminish and we simply think less grand thoughts. The burden of knowledge about the world, adult responsibilities, living what society deems a 'good life,' all get in the way of those thoughts. Then we stop having them.

But it doesn't have to be doom and gloom. Try and take some time just to think with your mind as open as you can, about all the things you want to do in the future, whether big or small. If we can allow ourselves to accept that it's possible, being an adult puts us in a position where we can make things happen. Let your imagination grow back, push through the cracks in the pavement of knowledge, as it were. Every now and then, give yourself the chance to be a kid again.