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Posts published in “Day: August 20, 2013”

New Ways of Getting the News

By Kristan Hoffman

A few months ago I was coming back to Texas to visit my parents, and my dad asked me to bring a copy of my local newspaper for him. The Cincinnati Enquirer recently switched to the smaller “tabloid” format, and as a fellow publisher, my dad wanted to see how things had worked out.

Then he and I started talking about where people get their news nowadays. Each format — print, broadcast, online – has benefits and drawbacks. The key factors are accuracy of information, speed of distribution, and cost. Which reminds me of a saying: “Fast, cheap, or good. You can only get 2 out of 3, so choose wisely.”

When it comes to staying informed, I am definitely part of the Millennial generation, meaning that I mostly depend on Google or social media. For example, I learned about Osama bin Laden’s death via Twitter, and about the Boston Marathon bombing via Facebook.

I do catch snippets of the 10 o’clock news sometimes, usually after one of my favorite shows is over. However, while all formats contain a mix of stories, I find that TV focuses the most on “sensational” topics like robberies and shootings. Or they reel you in with teasers: What popular new toy might kill your child? We’ll tell you right after this commercial break, so don’t change that channel!

Print news, on the other hand, seems to be the most community-focused. Because of their built-in delay and their smaller coverage areas, newspapers aren’t trying to capture an audience with speed or general interest, but instead with quality and relevance. They try to keep us informed about what’s happening in our city, our neighborhood. Changes with the school district, what the congressmen are doing, new roads being built. The stuff that truly impacts our daily lives.

Talking about all of this with my dad gave us both a lot of good food for thought. His newspapers already have websites and Facebook pages, but he’s looking into other ways to make subscriptions convenient and timely for his readers. Maybe an email list so people can download a PDF copy. Maybe a Twitter feed.

Another innovation that social media has brought to news coverage is “common man reporting.” Through Twitter, Instagram, blogs, and other online tools, people can instantly broadcast their mobile photos and eyewitness accounts, sometimes before journalists even arrive on the scene. More valuable than any one individual’s testimony is the conglomeration of them all.

But just as easily as information is spread this way, so is misinformation. People jump to conclusions, often without the background knowledge needed to make them in the first place. And like a bad game of Telephone, things usually become more distorted with each transmission.

So the internet is fast but bad with details. Newspapers are specific but slower. Television is somewhere in between. Because there are pros and cons to each format, we consumers have to be aware of them when we choose where to get our stories.

Most importantly, technology may be changing a lot about the way news is reported, but hopefully all journalists will stay focused on and driven by the heart of why news is reported. It’s not about subscriptions, advertisers, or “getting the scoop.” It’s about empowering people through the delivery of relevant and accurate information.

Chamber hears reports on School Districts’ status

NORTHEAST – The annual State of the School Districts presentation, at the HICC Chamber luncheon last Thursday, was enlivened by an unscheduled visit by Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, and a presentation by Texas Children’s Hospital, announcing their new clinic in the Greenspoint area.

In her remarks, Jackson Lee emphasized her commitment to education in all the school districts in her area, and her work to earn STEM grants for them. She praised the legislature for reducing the required number of tests for seniors for graduation. She said that North Forest “had the ability to succeed,” and should have been allowed to. This was especially poignant since the previous North Forest superintendent, Dr. Adrain Johnson, was in the audience. She emphasized that “children are our first priority.”

This was followed by presentations by each of three superintendents on the status, and highlights of their respective school districts.

Spring ISD

Dr. Ralph Draper said his district had grown to 37,000 students, and with the development of the ExxonMobil campus on I-45 and the Springwood Village development, his district and others could look forward to continued growth pressures.

Draper discussed the new state TEA Accountability ratings, noting that they were very complex, made up of 4 indexes that were basically different from previous years, and most districts were trying to analyze them and work to improve their scores.

However, he did note that almost all of his campuses met the high rating of “Met Standard”.

Draper also said the goal at Spring was to imbue students with a measure of creative genius, as they would define it.

Klein ISD

Dr. Jim Cain made the presentation for Klein ISD. He noted growth to 48,000 students, a thousand more than last year, with expectations of a continued surge as ExxonMobil builds out their campus.

Cain said HB5 not only reduced the number of required tests for senior, but opened a number of “pathways” for their career choices. He noted that the state still had to deal with the “property rich vs the property poor” school funding formula.

Aldine ISD

Speaking for Aldine, Assistant Superintendent Archie Blanson reviewed the ethnicity of the district, and its growth to 66,200 students on 76 campuses.

He noted that AISD is hiring 800 new teachers this year, and all teachers will receive pay increases.

Aldine had disappointing results in the new TEA Accountability ratings, with only 73% or 50 of their campuses rated “Met Standard” and 20 campuses getting the “Improvement Required” rating.

Blanson said the district is holding weekly meetings to solve these problems, especially in the reading and writing areas.

In previous comments, Superintendent Wanda Bamberg had noted that schools could get a failing rating if they fell short in any of the four rating areas.

These are:

1. Student Achievement

2. Student Progress

3. Closing Performance Gaps

4. Post Secondary Readiness

Bamberg noted, as did Blanson, that the rating system is very complex, requiring study by her district to learn how to improve.

Blanson said the district has entered into a partnership with the private charter school YES Prep Academy, and will offer courses through them at hoffman Middle School.

He also noted a new INVEST program to evaluate teachers and reward them with performance achievements.

Blanson said one of the highlights of last year was the establishment of an Aldine Education Foundation, which has raised considerable money for scholarships to any college of a student’s choice, and awards of teacher’s innovation grants in schools.

The Aldine school district is financially strong, he said, with a Fund Balance now at $192 million.

The district opened one new school this year, the Davis 9th grade school. Last year they opened the new Davis High School.

In answers to questions, Blanson said that class sizes at secondary schools will be able to be reduced, with the new state funding.