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A True Champion of New Media

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They say, if you want it bad enough, you can get it—you just need to put in the work. Well, Evan Brunell is one of those special people.

A native of Sturbridge, Mass., Brunell has paved his own road to success against pretty steep odds.  He founded MVN.com (Most Valuable Network), which was an online sports website, when he was in high school. Unfortunately, in December of 2009, the site had to close down.

“I got into sports at a really early age…My parents put me in sports camps and sports leagues,” Brunell said. Until the age of 10, he attended a private school an hour west of Sturbridge, which gave him a lot of down time. “To pass the time on the bus rides, I read–so I became a sports fan and a reading fan,” he said. For Brunell, reading was the easiest way to gather information because he is profoundly deaf. That means that without his implant, he cannot hear a thing.

Brunell’s younger brother, Cal Brunell said, “when you think about Evan, you think about sports and the  Sox.”

Along with MVN, Brunell has a Red Sox blog Firebrand of the American League and a Twitter account.  His blog has received praise from several media outlets including ESPNBoston.com and from several well-credentialed writers. “It’s amazing how many club officials read … Fire Brand of the American League,” said Peter Gammons, the former Boston Globe Red Sox beat writer, ESPN baseball expert analyst and three-time National Sports Writer of the year winner.

Brunell said he wasn’t trying to do anything drastic with his websites. “I wanted a voice out there,” he said.

Kyle Banks, a 2009 Northeastern University graduate knew Brunell from way back in junior high through their time as undergraduates. Banks remembers how Brunell’s passion for sports and isn’t at all surprised at how far he’s come. “He always had a love for sports, particularly baseball,” Banks said.

Banks is no stranger to the new wave of Internet media himself. As an undergrad he had a radio show on the school radio station, WRBB, whose call sign is 104.9 FM. The show “Right In My Mouth Radio,” was accompanied with it’s own blog to try and reach a greater audience. Since the show, he and some friends began a new blog project, Corporatethuggin.com, which is a blog that publicly shows what kind of stuff a group of 20 something year old guys e-mail and talk about daily and then their take on the news.

Though the genres of their blogs are completely different, the desire to grow an audience remains the same. Banks said:

“The way the internet has evolved, people go to big named places to get their news.”

Banks said. For news, people go to CNN.com and for sports they’ll log on to ESPN.com.

The concept of small market blogging became popular in the last five to ten years. Banks points out that Brunell started at the right time and found success because he could grow and adapt as technology became a bigger part of news gathering and its dissemination.

It is these new mediums of technology that has made Brunell who is today. “New media opens the playing field so much” said Cal with respect to his older brother. Most of the people following Brunell’s blog didn’t know Brunell was deaf until the local paper published an article pointing out all he has done despite his disability, Cal said. He said he saw that article as a tribute to his brother’s work ethic.

Brunell never uses being deaf as a crutch. To get in touch with the Sox’s newest draft picks for example, Brunell logs on to facebook and quickly becomes their friend. This way, as they make their way through the farm system and become bigger names, he has already established a basis of communication. Brunell said, You’re getting in touch with them when they’re 17 or 18 and they haven’t been jaded yet by the media.  This allows him to get in on the ground floor and later on he’s not someone completely new to them, and he think that helps.

Though his first trip to Fenway Park was in 1995 when Mo Vaughn and Jose Canseco were the most popular Red Sox, he truly became a fan the following year, 1996. Brunel said that his passion for the team changed to rabid fan when they traded for Pedro Martinez in 1998.

It’s still tough for Brunell to do what he loves. He can’t just go into the locker room with a tape recorder so he’s a bit of a throw back reporter with a pad of paper and a pen writing down everything.

His disability certainly did not affect his knowledge of sports or his ability to write. “I became a sports writer because growing up liking sports and liking to read and then write, when I was thinking about a career in college I was like, I like sports, I like writing, I may as well write about sports,” he said.

So far, as Brunell puts it:

“My talent has out shown my limitations.  Maybe the day will come…but I’ve been able to push through it so far.”

His disability has made Brunell the kind of person who continually looks for new ways of success. Rather than being afraid of new technology like some journalists, Brunell embraces it and takes advantage of every opportunity as soon as they present themselves.

From the moment he got his college e-mail he created a facebook account and he was on Twitter before most people.

Currently Brunell works for NESN. He continues to do what he has always done: read and write. His passion is evident from the moment you meet him. “I define myself as a driven individual who uses all means available to him to do the best job possible,” he said.

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Journalistic Entrepreneurship

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Dan Gregory, a faculty member of the School of Technological Entrepreneurship at Northeastern, as well as the faculty advisor for the venture accelerator IDEA at Northeastern graced our class today. His enthusiastic words highlighted how the perils of disruptive technologies change the scope of a business discipline.

His previous work brought him in contact with many journalists. Gregory posed the question, “What is it that you could lend a company that is growing and emerging?” Together we came up with a short list of qualifications that we as journalism students feel as though we posses: the ability to write well and clearly, a knowledge of how to gather information, the ability wot work on deadline, communicate clearly, understanding of new technologies, and good question asking skills.

Upon reviewing the list, Gregory exclaimed, “writing well, oh my God! That puts you in a select group of about 5% of people.”

Technology is something that as an entrepreneur you cannot be afraid of. He said that it’s the people not the technology that eventually wins the day for start up companies.

For me, my blog, at its current state, is a perception on sports and modern media outlets and consumption. I don’t know if what I’m doing right now has the potential to manifest into a company because it’s not specific enough. Additionally, if I were to focus only on sports, I’d be competing with the personal blogs of newspaper reporters across the country and with established sports media outlets like Sports Illustrated and ESPN.

Personally, I’m not sure I want to start my own company. My work skills are such that starting something completely new, to borrow a line from Austin Powers, “just isn’t my bag, baby.” I enjoy working with an established team and taking an existing and functioning project to the next level.

Written by lhpious

April 14, 2010 at 3:23 pm

The Comment Section

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It is becoming more and more popular for consumers of news to have an outlet to make their voices heard by the general public and by the papers/publications they read. Unfortunately today’s world poses an interesting dilemma for the media outlets: should those commenting be forced to use their real names or can they continue to do so anonymously?

Though it has not been proven in a court of law, there is one glaring incident in Cleveland, Ohio with the Cleveland Plain Dealer where making people post under their real names would seem logical.  A Cuyahoga County judge, Shirley Strickland Saffold, is currently suing the paper for $50 million because the paper traced her anonymous comments regarding court cases, some of which she sat as the presiding judge for, and published her identity.

One noteworthy individual, Howard Owens, the editor and publisher of TheBatavian.com, wrote on his personal blog how it’s extremely important for news agencies to only let individuals comment using real names.

For me, it’s an interesting predicament. I feel as though the internet is a different medium than print and is therefore afforded different regulatory standards. I am not, however, trying to say that individuals commenting on online stories should be afforded any less constitutional rights of privacy then they would otherwise be given if they were writing a letter to the editor of the New York Times or Boston Globe.

I think that if the only way for people to comment on your site is to do so by using their real name then the comment sections will shrink. This is because we have become accustomed to doing things anonymously via the internet, but as every person of my generation can tell you, nothing you do on the internet is anonymous. Some computer nerd can figure out your IP address and a bunch of other stuff which would identify you and only you as the person making the comments.

Personally, I’m not one to comment on web sites and I don’t really read those sections anyway. Occasionally I’ll glance at the stuff written at the bottom of a funny YouTube clip because it’s usually “laugh out loud” hilarious.

Keeping the identities anonymous is fine with me as long as somewhere in the fine print the news agency states that they reserve the right to find out who you are for whatever reasons. It doesn’t bother me that they may bury the exact line on page 57–if they say it somewhere, then by clicking the box, I’m stating that I’m okay with whatever they say.

And if you make some erroneous comments, then be ready because there’s some computer guy sitting in a basement or a nice executive office who has the tools to find out who you are without breaking a sweat.

Written by lhpious

April 12, 2010 at 3:37 pm

NewsTrust

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In class this week we were lucky enough to have a member from NewsTrust, Mike LaBonte,  come and speak to our class. NewsTrust is a web site that links its users / visitors to news articles from all sorts of publications around the globe. The beauty of this web site is that there are reviews written about every article linked as well as comments.

One thing that I really like about NewsTrust is that they rate their reviewers. If you are new to the site, like I am, the reviews I make are not weighted as heavily as those done by others who have been members for longer and reviewed more articles. This way the other users can gauge the reviews made by certain individuals–after all, some people are always extremely cynical and their reviews should be taken with a grain of salt, but there are also those who always give everything high marks, and news consumers should be aware of that as well.

Each NewsTrust user creates their own personal profile where you can see all the articles they’ve reviewed. I’ve found, that after looking at “My Profile,” I’m generally easy with my reviews of articles.

For me, however, NewsTrust just doesn’t do it. I prefer to read an article and then I automatically have my own feelings about what I’ve just read. This site is all about sharing one’s personal opinion on the journalism of a particular story or news outlet–and I don’t care for that.

I also did not like the content on NewsTrust–there is no variety in the articles. Everything, in my opinion, is political. I’m much more into sports or some other form of entertainment, NewsTrst has just five subjects: World, U.S., Politics, Business, and Science / Technology. Out of those five, I would say I’m interested in the United States and World issues, and that’s it. Then, instead of sifting through people’s comments to find one that may be credible, I would look to someone I already know and trust regarding that issue and ask them their opinions based on the facts of an article.

Perhaps I’m too cocky or arrogant, but I feel as though the time I’ve spent as a journalism student has taught me what is or isn’t good journalism and why an article lacks substance or sufficient proof. I don’t need a site to tell me what the truth is or what is missing from a given piece.

Written by lhpious

April 9, 2010 at 11:41 pm

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Database Journalism

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Matt Carroll

Matt Carroll of the Boston Globe came to explain the concept of database journalism to our class. Carroll, an admitted computer nerd pointed out that working with numbers is something that journalists typically don’t like. Seeing as journalists tend to be more English/History versus Math/Science, Carroll understands where they’re coming from, but emphasized the fact that great stories can be found by just examining raw data.

“Data can compare people and towns and then lead to questions as to why things are the way they are,” he said.

Carroll’s first example was regarding a story he did on the topic of gun licenses in Massachusetts. After analyzing all the data he was able to plot his findings. Among the plethora of graphs, Carroll went with a map of Massachusetts with all the information available by county by just scrolling over that section of the map. He also pointed out that the graphs you decide to use vary on the information you’re trying to portray–Carroll recommended many-eyes.com, a great web site, which offers an extensive array of graphs for a given project.

Unfortunately, for all the benefits of database journalism, there are some perils attached. You have to be careful, he said, because you may sometimes mess up the numbers and then the results won’t make sense. He used an example of car accidents by hour that he did. Carroll couldn’t figure out why there were so many accidents occurring at midnight–the he realized he’d mixed up 12:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m.

It’s little mistakes that are treacherous to a journalist working with databases. “It’s all about the numbers, and you have to be careful with them,” he said.

Written by lhpious

March 31, 2010 at 7:45 pm

Pru-rific

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For anybody coming to Boston, there are two buildings that stand out: the John Hancock building and the Prudential building. Though be careful, if you’re in Beantown, don’t say Prudential, just call it “the Pru.”

On the 50th floor of the Pru there is an observation deck called the “Skywalk Observatory” and its windows circle 360 degrees–in my opinion, this observation deck offers the best view of Boston.

One of the great qualities of the Skywalk is its availability. They’re open seven days a week from 10:00am-10:00pm during the summer hours (April- November) and for their winter hours  (November- March) they’re also open seven days a week from 10:00 am- 8:00 pm (but not on Christmas day).

Admission varies: Adults are $12.00, children under 12 are $8.00, seniors (62+) are $10.00, and if you have a valid college ID it’s also $10.00.  These rates include an audio tour, a multi-media theater show, and a Dreams of Freedom museum. Active duty military and those with a dependent ID card receive free admission, as well as those with a valid MTA card.

The Skywalk is a thrill to go to because the elevator you take up 50 floors is one of the fastest you’ll ever be in. And since nobody in their right mind would deliberately walk up 50 flights of stairs, these speedy elevators make this attraction absolutely handicap accessible.

Written by lhpious

March 28, 2010 at 3:39 pm

AS.com

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If you’re like me, well, then that’s a plus.

All kidding aside, if you’re a sports fan, and an read and understand Spanish, then I’ve got the web site for you.  AS.com is a wealth of athletic knowledge and if you have any interest, then they’ll satisfy your urge. A word of warning, however, is that this site is mainly Spanish (and European) focused, so most of the content is regarding Spanish soccer and Euroleague Basketball.

If you go straight to their home page, it’s mostly about soccer, or fútbol, with a few other stories on other sports. However, if soccer isn’t your thing, then don’t be discouraged because there are plenty of other options. Just look at the top of the page for the drop  down menus and you’ll be able to chose from: tennis, basketball, motor sports (F1), cycling, and others, as well as an opinion and blog sections by respected AS writers. AS also  incorporates video clips from various sporting events to see the weeks best goals, dunks, etc.

One thing I love about this site is that it’s a local site. Like I said a few weeks ago when I spoke about globalpost.com, there’s no reporting like local reporting. I firmly believe that if you have the chance to read the local viewpoint of a situation or event then you are reading the best version of what happened. By reading AS, I’m reading the Spanish perspective on Spanish soccer, on the country’s best tennis player, Rafael Nadal, on Spanish cyclist or Spanish racers. I have the opportunity to read about what these people feel passionate about, and that truly reflects in the writing.

If I could change something about the site, I guess I would have to say that it would be nice to have content in my first language, English, but as one of my classmates brought up, English content would detract the local angle aspect which, in my opinion, makes AS a great news source.

Written by lhpious

March 26, 2010 at 9:19 am