Writing – Photos – Travel – Crafts

bellingham

My college years were mostly spent at Western Washington University in Bellingham, WA, (pictured above from my Polaroid phase), which was most importantly, in the shadow of Mt. Baker. I will be completely honestly, the proximity to epic shredding was way more a factor in my decision of where to go to college than the actual curriculum. It just so happened, however, that Western actually had a decent journalism program (at least, according to them.) But seriously, the program turned out an award-winning bi-weekly newspaper and even taught a know-it-all-like me a thing or two.

Of course, that was before the print media started to crash, and back then the program was very newspaper-centric. I got plenty of questionable advice, such as when I was told even though I’d already completed internships at a national magazine, a web start up and a TV show, an unpaid internship “at a good daily” would really help me out. Another favorite moment was in my feature writing class. The purpose of the class was essentially to learn to write magazine-style features, and one assignment even included writing a feature, which we were to pitch to a relevant magazine. Obviously I wrote about snowboarding and it got published with little effort, much to the amazement of my professor. But that wasn’t the good part. No, the best was when we were sharing our ideas in class and one girl excitedly announced she planned to write a feature for Maxim. “You should,” I said, “they pay over $1 a word.” The professor literally responded, “Every word! Even ‘and’ and ‘the’?” But I digress.

Recently I got an email from a student in an English grad program looking for information on new media. Obviously, colleges haven’t quite figured out how to teach the ever-changing topic yet, but luckily, the beauty of new media is there’s tons of information out there and people like me in the field can share our opinions via the WWW. Needless to say, many of the things I’ve learned about writing and editing were not taught in college, but there are a few fundamental lessons that I can honestly thank my journalism education for.

1. Press Law. This was by far the best class I took (even though the professor was an asshole who actually threatened to fail me before the semester even started.) Being armed with the knowledge of my legal rights, and what someone can actually sue over, has made me more confident and a better writer over all. This knowledge will also probably prevent from getting sued, which is nice.

2. The difference between that and which. That implies the following statement is necessary and which, followed by a comma, means the statement following is optional and won’t change the meaning if omitted.

3. Ethics. It seems like ethics should be sort of automatic, taught by your parents and from kindergarten, but in the media, there are lots of things you’d never even think about if not brought up. Savethemedia.com has a great article on implementing these ethics into the new world of social media, which is definitely worth a read, but the semester I spent discussing these issues with a group of peers was definitely helpful in defining my own ethical code.

4. How to write a good story. The main difference I notice between the writing of people who went to college and those who didn’t is the “video camera full of words” story technique (a perfect description I owe entirely to Colin Whtye.) Those without official education often use this “and then, and then” technique. It wasn’t until I went to college that I learned how to really assemble a story to make it interesting.

5. Nerdy grammar stuff. Either they didn’t teach this at all in high school or I wasn’t paying attention, but I learned lots of useful things in editing class, such proper use of punctuation, etc.

I am sure there are many, many other things I learned how to do in Journalism school that I don’t even realize. College in general taught me well how to deal with bureaucracy and cut through red tape, and in writing this I am definitely not saying you can read blogs and save 80 grand. My point is more that college is super valuable to the field of journalism as a whole, no matter how out of touch the professors may seem at times. The fundamentals a good college education will give you are very important.  So what I am saying it these are just a few of the things that if the profession of media continues on the downward spiral it’s on, I can see us losing because no one will bother going to J school (and obviously, some of them matter more than others.)

If there is one thing this week has proven to me, it’s that people take snowboarding WAY too seriously. Don’t get me wrong, I love snowboarding. It is a fun way so spend time during the winter months, an amazing excuse to travel, a bond I share with some of my best friends, and also a major source of income for me over the past years. But let’s be realistic. It’s only snowboarding. We are riding toys down mountains. It’s not exactly the most important thing in the world. So in light of that, here’s my list of things that have happened just this week that are more interesting/important than snowboarding.

1. They blew up the moon. Well, ok, they didn’t really “blow it up,” just fired a few rockets at one of the poles to see if there was ice on there. But still, the nerd in my thinks that is really, really bad ass.

2. Barry got a nobel peace prize. Not only is it awesome to have a President that the rest of the world actually respects and is making positive strides towards making the world a better place, but it enraged the same idiots who don’t want the “government to control their medicare.”

3. Dead zones in the Pacific Northwest may be irreversible. This is definitive proof of climate change and it’s negative effects on the world. If you want to get pissed about something, this would be a good start.

4. Jim and Pam got married. Admittedly it was one of the cheesiest episodes of the office in recent memory, and it superceded my new favorite show, Community, but still, more interesting than snowboarding this week.

5. Four more magazines went out of business. Conde Nast pulled the plug on the iconic, 70-year-old Gourmet Magazine, as well as Cookie, Elegant Bride and Modern Bride. I don’t read any of these magazines, and honestly won’t miss them. But it’s just another nail in the mass media’s coffin. Which is sort of how my week got so blown out of proportion to begin with!

- I went to Burton’s annual employee/friends/industry party ’cause they invited me

- I wrote a story, because that’s what i do
http://www.yobeat.com/2009/10/jakes-fall-bash-recession-proof/

- Some kids at Burton didn’t like it

-Burton called demanding I take it down. My friend thought he was going to get fired, so i did.

-Then i wrote this
http://brookegeery.com/?p=687

-the same kids at Burton turned it into a Burton bash fest thanks to their stupid comments

- so Jared wrote this

http://www.jaredsouney.com/2009/10/burton-snowboards-control-denied/

-and a few other bloggers have written about it as well..

-Todd Richards even weighed in
http://www.yobeat.com/2009/10/feelings-with-todd-richards/

-I talked to my friend, who had smoothed things out. So I put the story back up.
http://www.yobeat.com/2009/10/jakes-fall-bash-recession-proof/

-Not to mention it being all over twitter

-But the best part:


picture-15

Now let’s move on people! I have real work to do.

(And no, it’s not the Internet’s fault)

I recently found myself in a little hot water. Without naming names, or going into specifics, I wrote a story that was deemed unacceptable by the parties involved. This is of course, not the first time this has happened (nor will it be the last), as I run a website that pokes fun at just about everything. But this time, the offended party happened to owe us money. So upon a threat to withhold money owed, I initially removed the post. Screw it, I got bills to pay. After a bit of thought though I realized, the money in question wasn’t nearly enough, and frankly that went against everything I stand for, so I put it back up.

Then I received a panicked phone call from someone who genuinely seemed to feel their job was in jeopardy over said post, and although I explained that though their ad contract wasn’t worth it to me, I am not a monster (and the story was old news anyway) so I again removed it. Of course, it had already found it’s way to another blog at that point, because well, that’s just the nature of the internet.

But the whole situation illustrates the exact reason the media is failing, and it’s the same reason we’ll probably never get universal health care. Corporations (or in this case advertisers) control everything. With YoBeat, I put up a little bit of a fight, because we’re small enough that I can, but when you run a magazine, newspaper, or even website, with a staff and large overhead, you certainly can’t say no to someone who is paying those bills. Or at least, that’s how it seems.

What happens is pretty soon you’re only reading what the companies want you to read. If that’s what the readers wanted though, there would be no magazines at all. Everyone would be content and excited to flip through catalogs to get their news and information (when of course, they can’t get online.) But if things don’t change, (the American media needs how to make subscriptions the primary source of income as they do in Europe) pretty soon all we’ll have left are catalogs, so you better learn to love them!

Of course, you can try to blame it on the internet. People don’t need magazines and newspapers because there are a million websites just giving information and entertainment away for free! But the reality is the internet is full of useless information and terrible blogs. If you want quality information, you are most likely to find it on a site that is run like a media business, meaning, they are reliant on advertising to pay the bills. Believe it or not, it still costs money to produce content and if (college) educated and informed people aren’t doing it, it’s not going to resemble anything near journalism. I went to J school, so I can tell you, even I (who knows everything), learned a thing or two there (including the right to fair comment and criticism.)

The other big problem with the online media is it’s easily bought (but more easily disguised.) In the old media, advertorials have always been frowned upon, and when they are done, clearly marked. On YoBeat we have one sponsored feature (well, we did.) When the agreement was first reached, the plan was to host a banner ad for the company alongside the column, but when it launched, they decided they no longer wanted the ad attached to the content. I explained (in sales terms) that this is what they were paying for and they eventually agreed. Honestly though, even with the permanent banner, it was not made nearly clear enough that the content is on the site only because they are paying for it to be there. But it’s the Internet, so no one seems to care. Since I care, I have added one line to each column: This column brought to you by: and it makes me feel much better.

It will also hopefully save me an $11,000 fine, as the FTC just announced new regulations requiring even bloggers to disclose any gifts or payments they receive for promoting a product. A few of the bloggers I know have expressed concern over the matter, the more honest ones actually going back to make sure they divulged which products they got for free. But most bloggers I know don’t care. Is the FTC really going to go after small action sports blogs because they got a free snowboard? Some how I doubt it, but you know what? It would be great if they did. And while they are at it, crack down on the print magazines as well.

Because I work in snowboarding, no one seems to care about any of the ethics usually involved in the media. It’s not exactly world ending, you know. But ethics and quality journalism aside, the overall content of quality is suffering because it is paid for by people who think that entitles them to dictate what the content is (or is not.) Because a brand wants to send its team of rookies into the backcountry instead of experienced riders who can actually ride the stuff, the photos suffer as does the overall quality of the feature. Stories that everyone seems to be enjoying (or at least are stirring things up) get taken down because someone owes money. And it continues like this until the only things left are the advertisements themselves. Enjoy!

dodge

This weekend I completed what I believe to be my greatest cinematic work yet, a documentary of sorts on the Weena Man, Government Camp’s premier dodgeball player. The subject is Cory Grove of Cobra Dogs fame, and in one afternoon we filmed everything I need to make this gem. The results, he and I agree, are epic. Even the perpetually salty Jared Souney said it was my best work yet (even if he did follow it up with “usually your videos aren’t funny.”) So it went live on YoBeat this morning and I highly encourage you to check it out, but it brings up an issue I’ve been debating for awhile now.

We’ve recently gotten a video player on YoBeat and technically it’s supposed to be embeddable, but for whatever reason the viral part of it doesn’t work with WordPress. So a lot of times I will include a link to the video on our vimeo page as well so people can embed it from there if they so desire. But on this one not only did I not include the link, but I set our vimeo so that no one could embed it either. That way, if they want to see the video they have to come to YoBeat, right? (more…)

I have been trying to write this post for awhile now. Originally my angle was going to be if I thought I was a better writer or an editor, because it’s very rare that someone is good at both. However, I decided that there was no way to write that honestly without sounding cocky while simultaneously writing an appropriate blog for my professional site that would not dissuade people from hiring me. So I’ve instead decided to instead to just talk about doing both and which I like more.

Although I have been “the editor” of YoBeat since it started, the first 10-12 years included very little actual editing. But these days I find myself acting a real editor for that site, as well as Alliance Wakeskate. That means I not only write a lot, and edit the stuff that comes in, but I am directly responsible for the editorial direction of the sites. I am the one who says, “that sucks I’m not using it,” or, “that is good I am using it.” I am also the one who figures out what we can pay and pay for, and deals with breaking the bad news to contributors. I think for the latter reason, I have sort of been missing my carefree lifestyle as a “writer.”

I am not sure when it happened, but I haven’t been working as a “writer” for awhile now. In fact, I just got my first exclusive writing assignment in too many months yesterday and now I am confused. So let me get this straight– I don’t have to decide what I am writing about or how long it should be? All I have to do is put 1000 words together and email it to you by Friday? Man, you writer types have it easy! I kid, I kid. Both jobs have their perks and drawbacks, and I think this video sums up perfectly the plight of a creative professional.

The Vendor Client relationship – in real world situations

nick

This past weekend I found myself in a twitter battle with the WWA’s Shawn Perry. At the first Toe Jam stop I had tweeted all the action, and the kids, as they say, were stoked.

diana_decastro@alliancewakesk8 wow twitter is amazing and u also. thanks for the updates! ;p

lakehippie@alliancewakesk8 I love the play by plays! I am at work but feel like I am right there with you!! Keep it up for us who can’t be there!!

So I wasn’t at all surprised that just two weeks later the practice had been adopted by others looking to enthrall wakeskating’s huge public. Unfortunately for me and my need to be first though, “others” included Shawn Perry, who happened to be judging the event. He claims his work required him to tweet, but I am pretty sure he just wanted to be like me and beat me to posting the results. Anyway, I become obsessed with beating him to the punch, so I started tweeting the results based on  my predictions, rather than the actual facts. And sure enough, I was wrong on more than one occasion.

I would correct myself via tweet and no harm was done, after all, it’s only wakeskating. But this morning this article was brought to my attention.

Irish student hoaxes world’s media with fake quote

Basically, as an experiment to see how fast information circles the globe, this guy posted a fake quote on a recently deceased composer’s wikipedia entry, which was then published by multiple media outlets in his obituary. I was like, oh my god, what lazy idiots, until I remembered, in the quest for speed, accuracy often gets thrown to the wayside, and I am as guilty as the next. We’ll add this one to the list reasons the Internet is ruining our lives. (Complete list or pros and cons coming soon.)

Sidenote: after the Toe Jam, I checked to see how many people we’re potentially seeing theWWA’s tweets. 29. So follow them, I almost feel bad.

david

Yesterday I was informed that writing was a dying art and I’d better learn Final Cut if I wanted to still have a job. That statement was followed up by, “Seriously, in 2010 they are going to stop teaching kids to read in school!” The latter may be a bit of an overstatement (considering that’s 8 months away,) but there is definitely some truth to the fact that video is more powerful than writing on the Internet.

I spent the day messing with Final Cut and ended up with enough knowledge to make a video look at least as good as I can with iMovie. Mostly though, I have twitter to thank for that, since I used it as tech support when I had questions and was able to get answers within seconds. Amazing really.

But  this is all just a long winded intro to the new video series we’ve started doing on YoBeat. Jared named it “Conversations,” which admittedly makes little sense since it’s totally one-sided, but what can you do. I asked the questions while Jared filmed and edited it, and today we launched the first installment with David Benedek, snowboarder and filmmaker extraordinaire. The response so far has been great and if you are remotely interested in snowboarding, filmmaking or the current state of media, you’ll probably find it somewhat entertaining. So click on over to YoBeat and check it out.

picture-41

One of my main professional projects is YoBeat.com. Just saying that sounds weird, given that I’ve been “doing” YoBeat since I was 15 years old, but these days, it is actually a large part of my day-to-day exsitence. I can’t complain. It’s amazing to have a project that I have full creative control over, people seem to like, and even makes me a (very) little bit of money. But the strangest part about concentrating on YoBeat is that students and aspiring extreme journalists have taken notice. I’ve done a few online interviews about it. There was the one on (apparently now defunct) Diablo Snow, before the actual relaunch. And then of course I got my big break on Shayboarder.com last October. The most recently though, was for a senior at Ohio University. She was working on a project for her “business practices for photographers” class and was assigned to interview someone running a business she admired. I was honored she chose YoBeat as that business and I answered her many questions. I’m not going to lie, partially I am proud of my answers, and partially I want to get more mileage out of my hard work. So follow the jump and check out how exactly we make YoBeat magic happen. (more…)

completely unrelated, but still adorable photo

completely unrelated, but still adorable photo

So I am a writer. I know it’s hard to believe because I just started a sentence with so, and I do it often, but shit, this is my blog and I follow no rules. I also am a big fan of NOT TRYING TO HARD. Nothing annoys me more than shitty writers who try to write well and come off sounding like total tools. One of my other trades however, is editing. Editing is fun because you get to sift through bullshit of people who are trying to hard all the time.

But once, a long time ago, I got the chance to work with Chris Heavner. I enlisted him to write an article about wakeskating entitled “Win a Date with Cassette” for the premiere issue of Alliance Wakeskate. Actually it was his idea, and he did an amazing job, but it was way too many words for the pages of the fledgling web zine. I was forced to hack the shit out of it (one of my least favorite things to do) and I told him I was doing so with the disclaimer, “if you are bummed on what I do, you never have to write for me or talk to me again.”

He didn’t talk to me for years (until we randomly bumped into each other in Chicago,) but to this day I am not sure if he just didn’t have any other ideas or if he cried himself to sleep over my editing and didn’t want to face me ever again. We’ve lost touch over the years, but he recently came back across my radar after a conversation with his brother, Chase. It seems Chris is trying to transition from print to web, and I wish him the best with that. I figured I could even check out his efforts now that he’s embraced the ‘net. Thanks to the magic of links, I found him.

Among the well-worded gems on his site was a post entitled “How to Write a Good Story.” It’s funny, informative and much better articulates exactly how I feel about trying too hard.

2. Keep it simple.

Say you and I are friends. Say you’re walking down the street and you see me walking towards you. You smile and you wave and I see you and I smile and wave and when we get closer together we hi-five and I pull you in for a bro hug and even though that’s a little weird for you, you’re cool with it cause we’re such good friends.

“Hey Chris,” you say, “What’s goin on, man? How’s your life?”

I laugh heartily, arms akimbo like a genie, and say “Simply splendid dearest friend. And what an auspicious occasion for our twain tracks to intersect as my satchel is abounding with delectable ephemera and other such pleasantries! Let us feast like the kings of yor, my proprietor of such friendshiply delights!” After staring at me in silence for a moment, you punch me in the face for talking like a fucking idiot and you walk away.

Don’t pull out the big words cause you want to sound smart or more like “a real writer,” whatever that means. That’s not to say you shouldn’t use florid language. If you can wield the language well, like a Zadie Smith or a Jonathan Lethem, then more power to you. It can come out as some truly pleasurable reading. But the truth of the matter is, those people are geniuses and the rest of us are not. Words are tools used to convey meaning and feeling. If you’re not a professional contractor then it’s probably not the best idea to pull out the concrete drill and start boring away at the walls. So leave the fancy talk to the fancy people. Write with your own voice.

While this is my favorite piece of advice, all of his points have merit for fiction, or non fiction, if you want to write well. Of course, if I was going to add my two cents it would be “keep it under 500 words” but that’s what editing on the Internet will do to you. Anyway, check out the full post and don’t ever send me a shitty story again.