Discovering Alley A

Sometimes, with all the hustle and bustle of people, it’s hard to notice the small changes while driving in downtown Columbia… and well a new street sign is no exception.

But nestled between Eighth and Ninth Street, more specifically right in between the building that houses the clothing store Breeze and an empty retail space, is a small alleyway where a new street sign stands: Alley A. It’s a street sign that has turned quite a few heads.

Behind this street sign is a story of how Columbia is growing and changing, and in ways some least expect it. After seeing the sign and the construction of a new business in the alleyway I wanted to speak with the owner of the realty business leasing the spaces out along the alleyway. Where did the street sign come from and how did the alleyway become known as Alley A? New businesses are moving into the alleyway, is this the beginning of a trend? Is a risk for them? What are the benefits? What does businesses moving into alleyways say about Columbia and its economic development? Dozens of questions formed in my mind.

After a little bit of initial research, I found the battle for naming the alleyways in Columbia started in 2007. Alley A is just the newest development in the battle. I hoped to get an interview with the realtor to find out what his personal stake and thoughts in the matter were.

It is clearly noticeable I only interviewed one main source, but during the time I put together this story I was working on a few other projects and had about 20 other interviews to conduct that week. Excuses, excuses I know; if I weren’t leaving town I’d probably work on it more. My ideal story would have included a few more sources and perhaps another angle to the story.

Originally this story started off as a broadcast story then became a print story. Finally I decided to make it a photo essay because it’s been awhile since I’ve worked on a multimedia project.

I’ll admit… this came out pretty weird, but it was my first attempt at a photo essay. It was also an attempt to try and turn a business story, and not a feature, into a photo essay, which made things a bit more difficult. Nonetheless, with the help of my still camera, flip cam voice recorder, Final Cut, and a Marantz I was able to put this together:

Can I at least have a cookie for trying?


New Technology And Its Effects On Education And The Textbook Market

Over the next five years, with the introduction of iPads, digital textbook sales in the US will make up almost 20 percent of new textbook sales. This could mean big changes for a number of people.

In a six minute piece (yes… I know… six minutes…) I explain how new technology devices, such as the iPad, are impacting education in higher education classrooms. I also explain how it is affecting textbook companies.

I realize the piece should have been split into two, but due to, well we’ll just call it a complication, this wasn’t done. I also wasn’t going for your typical one minute thirty second news package.

A few problems I ran into was for one, my voice. I had a sinus infection and barely had a voice (just in case you were wondering why I sounded weird). My main problem though was coming up with video to help tell the story. With only shots of the iPad and textbooks I found it difficult to give the viewer a good grasp on the information I was giving them. It can be very distracting when I’m talking about one thing and the video doesn’t exactly match up to what I’m saying. It was also challenging to find ways to present the statistics.

This story was done over the span of a couple of days, and if I had the chance I would go back and make plenty of changes. Since this isn’t possible, I hope as I cover different consumer/business/technology stories I will learn from my mistakes and improve on the things that make these types of stories great.

Read the script below:

“We capture that so we can show the students the formula that the instructors talking about.”

Educational Technology Director and Professor Marc Strid sees it everyday in the classroom…. students locking into new technology and using it for educational purposes. One of those tools is digital textbooks.

“They’re here right now and it’s just basically that the publishers have to get a better handle on the business model they’re going to use. I know that they’re already publishers that are doing this, renting the books. But I think you’re going to see that rather quickly as the devices are now ready for us to use.” –Marc Strid

With the introduction of the iPad this year, educators expect to see more and more digital textbooks in their classrooms. For Strid he sees this as a positive in the learning environment.

“I think well managed, and if they’re utilized for collaborative learning for instance in the classroom then they’re not a distraction, then they’re a tool.” – Marc Strid

According to Xplana, a web based service that partners with textbooks companies and publishers to create digital textbooks and e-books, digital textbooks currently represent .5 percent of the overall textbook market. By 2014, digital textbooks will represent 18 percent of all new Higher Education textbook sales. By the end of the decade, digital textbooks are expected to make up more than half of the entire market.

“10 years from now we project the e or digital textbook market to be much more than 50 percent, as high as 75 percent at which point the vast majority of all the learning materials out there will be digital and that not only revolutionizes what we call the publishing industry today, but we have a dramatic impact on the way we do university teaching.”- Rob Reynolds, Director of Product Design and Research at Xplana

Reynolds says the popularity of digital textbooks are starting to pick up for a number of reasons.

“We are all aware of how expense textbooks in general are becoming, publishers are trying to take advantage of this by making materials available at a lower cost. One of those ways that publishers are doing this is by providing e-textbooks or digital textbooks and many of them provide digital textbooks about a 60, about 50 to 60 percent at the cost of new print textbook. Well a lot of students because of the cost pressures are taking advantage of that.” – Rob Reynolds

Although publishers are selling digital textbooks to students for half the price of print textbooks, CourseSmart and MBS Direct says only 20 percent of print textbooks are available in digital textbook format. As more titles become available, as more technological devices are introduced, and as the cost pushes students towards buying digital textbooks, rapid growth will occur.

“If you track trends right now, starting today you’re running over 100 percent growth per year. That’s very significant because at that point digital textbooks represent a significant piece of the overall textbook publishing industry that they pirate print textbooks sales significantly and they have a dramatic impact on how textbooks are actually created, distributed, ect.” –Rob Reynolds

Textbook companies and publishers are having to jump on board with the concept of digital textbooks. Currently digital textbooks are created at the end of the production cycle of print textbooks. This process could be reversed as the digital textbook market takes over, but it’s a delicate process.

“If you don’t do it at the right time and you get caught in the wrong part of the cycle, your costs are going to so far outweigh your revenues, you’re going to be losing revenue on your print that you’re going to have a lot of trouble. Some publishers could be really adversely affected, those who take advantage of it and get on the right side of it are going to be very successful.” –Rob Reynolds

Established textbook companies are also on the lookout for up and coming competitors. This world of digital textbooks is opening doors to new publishing houses like Flat World Knowledge and Lulu Existing.

“It’s every business, every companies job responsibility to keep up, to get ahead, and to adapt to the market. If you don’t you don’t make it.” –Rob Reynolds

Digital textbooks mean change for textbooks companies and change for students, but not every aspect of digital textbooks is so glamorous.

“We’re concerned about the digital divide where students are going to have the resources to buy both a laptop and an iPad. That’s why I’m excited about the possibility of having loaners or ones that could be provided to students that can’t afford to buy one.” – Marc Strid

“Some people don’t trust it yet, it’s understandable” – Ken Boehlke Microcomputer Sales Consultant

How is Apple pushing the concept of its new iPad and digital textbooks then?

“They believe this is a platform for delivering content more, less expensively to students, more interactively to students. It sounds like a win-win for the textbook publishers and for Apple.” – Mike McKean MU Associate Professor and Director of Futures Lab

Some industry analysts predict the iPad will sell more units than the entire e-reader market combined. The research group iSuppli projects Apple to sell more than 7.1 million iPads in 2010. Sales are expected to double to 14.4 million in 2011 and in 2012 sales will nearly triple to 20.1 million. By 2014 they believe students will most prefer the iPad and the upcoming Android tablets over any other computing device.

So as the rapid growth of digital textbook sales continues, Strid feels the excitement of what this could bring to student learning.

“Often times the benefit is not in an increase grade point, maybe it’s increased engagement in the classroom and maybe as a result of that they retain that knowledge a little bit longer, but we know students are engaged by these devices because we’ve done a lot of survey work and we know that they like more technology in their teaching learning process, so I don’t think there is going to be a resistance to that. I don’t think there is a lack of benefit by providing more technology in the teaching environment. I think it’s a win-win situation.” –Marc Strid

But in order for the win-win to take place, students, teachers, and the textbook industry will all have to adapt to these changes together at the same time.


News From Macedonia

Sometimes when you get so wrapped up in your own country’s media world, it’s really hard to imagine how other countries run their news stations. That was the case for me, until a few weeks ago when I was introduced to Slavica. Slavica is a reporter from Macedonia and for the past few weeks I’ve been working with her to put together a project about her experiences here at the University of Missouri. Since I’ve never had the opportunity to travel internationally, you can imagine how many questions I’ve asked Slavica about her country and how her station works.

I’ve learned a great deal from her, especially about how similar and how different reporting is here in America and there in Macedonia. The thing I found most interesting was the pressures journalists in Macedonia face from the government. American’s have a bit more opportunity to cover political stories without the scrutiny of the government and having the story kept from being run. As far as social media though, we are both on the same track.

More about the project….

Throughout the duration of this project I was essentially Slavica’s “photog”. The final project Slavica will put together is a 10-minute video giving insight into what she’s learned while being here since the fall. The final video will be broadcast by her station and shown at the National Embassy. Once it is done I will definitely post it!

While shooting for this project, we also put together a few packages to air at her station back home. The first package talks about Obama’s visit to Macon, Mo. on April 28 and how students at KOMU covered the event. She also talks about how his visit affected Missourians. Much of the footage comes from the actual KOMU newscast and some of it comes from things we shot. Since I don’t speak Macedonian we worked together to edit the package. We laughed our way through it, and she told me what shots to use and I laid them down!

View the video below or click here to see the aired version on Slavica’s stations website! And if you speak Macedonian you are in luck! Sorry I don't have the translations for these videos...

Although Slavica thanked me a lot for helping her with her project, I think I can say I gained just as much from her (learning about journalism in her country!) as she did from me!


Littlest Patients Treated For Profits?

Like many, I’ve always hated going to the dentist. I can’t stand someone prodding around in my mouth or the numbing shots you must get before a procedure. Call me a baby, but getting my wisdom teeth out was one of my worst dental experiences. I’ve decided next time I get a procedure done like that like, I will definitely be put to sleep. I can’t say I will ever forget the sound of my teeth crunching into pieces and being taken out of my mouth.

Now, you can’t help when you actually have to have a procedure done for the right reasons, but what happens when dentists go too far? Back in December I attended the dentist for a normal routine checkup. They told me I had eight cavities that needed to be filled. Going along with it, I had two cavities filled. For months the tooth I had filled bothered me. I decided to go into another dentist to see what they had to say. Turns out I didn’t have eight cavities…only one. The one that was filled may not have even been a cavity, but now I may have to get a root canal to stop the pain.

From these dental experiences, I’ve wanted to do a story on dentists taking advantage of their patients for money. I know it would be tough, especially to find the right people to talk to. So when I saw 20/20’s “Littlest Patients Mistreated for Profits?” I couldn’t resist watching to see what their approach on the story was.

20/20’s “Littlest Patients Mistreated for Profits?” really opened my eyes to the horror in which some little dentist patients are subjected to during their visits. 20/20 took a unique angle to the story and showed how one dentistry chain, Small Smiles Dentistry For Children, takes advantage of its patients to pull in more money. For various reasons, I feel this was a great investigative piece that brought viewers into a world they may have never known about.

Some of the video 20/20 used showed little kids strapped to a table, squirming, and screaming throughout their procedures. I’m not quite sure how they obtained the video, but I did feel this was a time where video spoke louder than words. I feel this was a very smart choice on 20/20’s part to use this video. The fear in the little child’s screaming moved me, as I’m sure it would any viewer. Small Smiles Dentistry claimed they strapped the children to the tables so the dentists could perform the procedures without the children squirming around. What’s worse is, the parents weren’t allowed into the rooms because the dentists felt it would be too much for them to see. 20/20 showed us what took place in the room and how the children came out afterwards. One 5-year-old boy’s mother explained how her son came out of the room drenched in sweat with blood coming out of his mouth. The dentists had given him 16 baby root canals, filling nearly his whole mouth in crowns. 20/20 provided us with pictures and video of this. Once again the video spoke louder than any words that could have been said.

I found it interesting how the interviews with the children and parents took place. 20/20 gathered them in a room and talked with them together. I felt this was a really smart move as well. The parents and children were able to play off each other’s words, giving me more information than I’m sure a one on one interview would have. I also felt they had a fair amount of interviews. They spoke to several children and parents, former employees of Small Smiles Dentistry, a doctor/dentist at one of the chains, and many others involved. Each soundbite 20/20 chose to use magnified the emotion of the story significantly. This I feel like, was due to good interviewing by the reporter.

Overall I really enjoyed how 20/20 put this piece together. I feel it was informative and also drew the viewer in with its video. They had great nat sound, wrote to video well and the story had a really good flow.

I may hate going to the dentist, but after watching this piece I can’t be more thankful I never had to go through what some of these kids did. With stories like these, it really goes to show that journalists truly must be watchdogs for the public and bring to light issues such as this one.

Copyright © Tara Grimes
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