The Frey incident challenges ideas about what Creative Nonfiction is because readers’ trust in the truthfulness of a purported piece of nonfiction was broken with the revelation that the author made up his story. Readers should not have to wonder if an author of nonfiction was creative with the truth. Are there degrees of truth just like there are shades of gray? In the Oprah Winfrey interview account, “James Frey: Five Years Later, Part 1,” we learn that “James has had time to reflect on one question he asked himself the day of that fateful Oprah Show interview: How did he get here? ‘I wrote a book, and I published it as something that it wasn’t, and I was dishonest in promoting the book,’ he says … Why publish the book as a memoir? James says that this was not his idea at first.” The way I understand this quote is that Frey admits his dishonesty in the promotion of his book as a memoir, but someone else suggested he do it. I think that, ultimately, the responsibility for falsely promoting his fiction as a memoir is his. He admits to his lie, but then attempts to lessen the lack of ethics in his action.
Is it ever okay to put a “spin” on an account? Not in news reporting. Philip Gerard makes a similar statement in Creative Nonfiction when he writes that he does not call creative nonfiction “literary journalism” because while literature can include fiction, journalism cannot. Journalists and reporters must report the facts – that is nonfiction. When you read a newspaper, you assume that journalistic ethics are part of the reporting and that the reporter has not put a personal “spin” on the truth. Putting a spin on something usually arises from bias or dishonesty in an attempt to make something negative appear in a better light. Alicia Webber wrote in her post, “Writers do have a tendency to twist the arm of truth at points in order to get a good story even if it means leaving facts out, changing events around, and even creating an idea that once it takes hold of the reader leaves them wanting more of the story, even if it is not completely grounded in facts.” Journalistic integrity does not allow for bias or dishonesty in news reporting and this is attained through the use of fact checkers and editors.
Can writing be partly true and partly fiction? Yes; historical fiction fits that description. Usually these types of accounts are based on real events with fictional characters and/or additional events blended in. Have you read Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut? World War II is the real event in the story, but many of the actions of the characters are made up. Another example of historical fiction is Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell which is a fictional story that takes place during the American Civil War. Morgan Brownlee wrote in her post, “I think that now-a-days people tend to lean towards books, stories and movies that are based on a true story. I think it gives the story more meaning and perhaps inspiration to the readers and viewers. So authors will write a story and slap the memoir tag on it just to get it published and/or boost sales and get positive reviews.” Sometimes movies and books are marketed as dramas based on true stories which may leave readers and viewers erroneously judging certain segments to be true when those segments are actually fiction. Historical fiction and dramas based on true stories are not the same as creative nonfiction.
What makes something fall into the creative nonfiction category? Gerard says there are five characteristics of creative nonfiction: “an apparent subject and a deeper subject,” “such nonfiction is released from the usual journalistic requirement of timeliness,” “creative nonfiction is narrative, it always tells a good story,” “creative nonfiction contains a sense of reflection on the part of the author,” and “such nonfiction shows serious attention to the craft of writing” (7-11). I think an example of creative nonfiction is a story told with its facts intact and undistorted, with underlying universal human interest. To give a more specific example, a police officer goes back to college part-time to get his master’s degree after 22 years on the force and is interviewed a few years after graduation. As part of his capstone project, he had created a program that clarifies the role of police in dealing with juveniles in distress. The writer needs to include the who, what, when, where, and why of the program, but can include creative components about a deeper subject, such as parenting juveniles with emotional disabilities. I think creative nonfiction is different than just reporting the facts. The facts don’t get distorted in creative nonfiction, but the presentation of the facts is where the creativity arises. What do you think creative nonfiction means?
+Every segment of http://www.oprah.com/oprahshow/James-Frey-Five-Years-Later-Part-1
+Gerard, Creative Nonfiction, Chp. 1 “What is Creative Nonfiction Anyhow?”
Social networking and new media enable communication that is pervasive, that may create memes, new language and thought patterns, and that can be used for personal, business and political agendas. An example of just how pervasive social networking has become is Mark Zuckerberg’s creation, Facebook, which is considered the third largest country in the world, according to the biographical Time magazine article. This pervasiveness comes with a price – loss of privacy – dear to some, not so dear to others as noted in the New York Times article, “Contest Winner: Even in Real Life, There Were Screens Between Us,” by Caitlin Dewey. About this article on privacy, Katherine wrote, “People are willing to give up their privacy and reveal things about themselves they never would reveal in real life because people have not lost their naïve sense of the internet yet. They still see the security blanket that is the distancing of themselves from real life but fail to understand that sometimes what they write or say over Skype can speak just as loud as actual words can.”
As for the use of online social networks and new media for politics, in the chapter, “Politically Connected,” from the book titled, Connected, by Christakis and Fowler, we learn that in 2008, Obama used online social networks to connect people who were proponents of his election and his proposed policies just as television empowered Kennedy to spread his political message. Decades separate the two campaigns, but both presidential candidates took advantage of available technology to reach the most people in the most effective way. A political meme comes from President Bush (senior) who said, “Read my lips. No new taxes.” People still use that phrase today, many years after it was spoken by Bush on television.
About how messages go viral, Lister says, “Anderson describes certain kinds of net based catchphrases and trends as ‘viral memes’, Internet phenomena that somehow ‘catch on’ in a particular subculture and spread round the world driven by fans’ excitement and pleasure” (200). A meme works on a subconscious level when we reference something without thinking that “it’s a meme,” but we also use memes consciously as an analogy or metaphor. Many events broadcast or published in the media might be popular, but if the popularity is short-lived that event thus does not get used as an analogy/metaphor. It disappears from widespread use.
Today’s memes can spread so much more quickly and further than pre-Internet days and even more so as media companies merge because of the global element of connectedness and social networking. Communication changes as technologies innovate, according to Gleick, “Words are the first units of meaning any language recognizes … As communication evolves, messages in a language can be broken down and composed and transmitted in much smaller sets of symbols: the alphabet; dots and dashes; drumbeats high and low” 74).
The possibility for a new language and ways of thinking to emerge as effects of social networking and new media are discussed in the podcast between Emma, Alan, and Michelle. Alan explains to Emma that she could understand his abbreviated email message because she knew the context of his communication: “My message was clear. What was unclear was the channel of communication. This comes up a lot in [Gleick’s] book — redundancy and why you need it and how much drumming is redundant.”
There has been a progression of communication through symbolic writing, “from pictographic, writing the picture; to ideographic, writing the idea; and then logographic, writing the word” (Gleick 32). How has this progression affected our thought processes, if it has? Are our thoughts now shortened and full of symbols like the text messages we write and read? Do we think LOL or do we visualize laughing? There now exists a generation of people who were born after the Internet became available for the public. This generation is fluent in social-speak, but that does not mean this generation has traditional communication skills based on face-to-face interactions.
It seems as though everyone is communicating through electronic social networks. Gleick writes, the written word, according to McLuhan, “offers only a narrow channel of communication. The channel is linear and even fragmented. By contrast, speech — in the primal case, face-to-face human intercourse, alive with gesture and touch — engages all the senses, not just hearing” (48). Relationships that begin in social networks may or may not survive an IRL meeting. New media, in conjunction with social networking, brings news from one side of the globe to the other. In conclusion, while digital technology pervades our lives – in the way we communicate with one another for social, political, and business purposes – societies around the world integrate its use in their culture.
Civic Engagement of the Women of Lewiston-Auburn in the late 1800s to early 1900s
By Denise Scammon, Arts & Humanities, University of Southern Maine Lewiston-Auburn College
I’ve been posting about my Independent Study project at http://literaryclubs.wordpress.com. I am writing an abstract for a presentation I am giving at the Thinking Matters conference at USM. This is what I have so far with a link to a similar abstract.
In the late 1800s, woman’s clubs were a source of education, power, a sense of solidarity, and tools for civic engagement. As women have gained more equality and access to higher education and better pay, membership in these clubs has dropped. Utilizing the historical collection of one such club’s documents and photos, this study examines the value of female citizenship and the cultural contributions made by the Woman’s Literary Union to its local and global communities. The approach is interdisciplinary, drawing on theories of interpretive community, female citizenship, media communications, and cultural studies. The study includes cataloging, digitizing, and archiving WLU’s collection and making it accessible to members, researchers, and scholars. Acquiring funds through grants for the creation of a digital collection, museum exhibits, and scholarly texts for public education is part of this study. The use of social networks and traditional media will be incorporated in a campaign to raise awareness of the club, its collection, and its civic engagement. The results of increased club advocacy will reveal whether club membership is positively affected.
As part of my course work for World History & Geography 2, I have to write a three-page autobiography to introduce myself to my classmates. Here is an excerpt from it.
I am an undergraduate in the Arts & Humanities program at the University of Southern Maine’s Lewiston Auburn College. This semester marks the 11th consecutive semester in which I have been enrolled in courses, taking two courses per semester. This is the first semester in which I am undertaking an Independent Study course, making me a full-time student. I am very excited about my research and studies for that course. The topic is flexible at the moment, but includes working with a non-profit organization to archive, preserve, and digitize their documents and photographs which reach back to the founding of the organization in the 1890s. Can you imagine the history in those documents? I would love to see the documents incorporated into local school curriculums from fourth grade and up. Along the way, I plan on researching the role the organization played in the community and civic engagement, such as the creation of the area’s first school playgrounds, and also credit for the implementation of citywide spring cleaning trash pick-up goes to this organization. I plan on researching grants to fund these projects as well as for renovation/maintenance of the organization’s home office. I also plan on helping the club update the tools they use to reach out to members – both established and potential – through the use of social media and other digital technologies. This project will take more than one semester and I am hopeful that I will accomplish my goals. I would love to hear from anyone about their Independent Study experience. One classmate told me that it did not work out for her because she had poor time management skills.
When I’m not in school, or studying, I work full-time as an editor at the Sun Journal in Lewiston. I am the managing editor of the Special Sections which is a function of the Advertising department. You may see the products that I produce if you read the newspaper supplements that are inserted in the newspaper. The supplements all have themes and the content for them comes from many sources which funnel through me. Supplements are also known as tabloids and in the newspaper industry they are known as tabs. Some tabs, such as the Balloon Festival tab, are almost entirely filled with editorial content and photos supplied by the organization’s committee. One-time supplements – usually a business or organization celebrating an anniversary, open house, grand opening, or renovation – contain editorial content supplied by that advertiser. Sometimes an independent contractor (freelancer) is needed to provide the editorial content, in which case I hire a freelance writer/ photographer/ videographer to work with the advertiser.
When Special Sections uses the services of an independent contractor to produce editorial content for Special Sections supplements, the freelancer retains the copyright. The newspaper is purchasing first-time publication rights from the freelancer and permission for publication in any and all of its newspaper/ online products. Advertisers and others who wish to use the freelancer-produced editorial content in products not affiliated with the newspaper – content for which the newspaper has paid the freelancer – must contact the freelancer directly for that permission and possible payment to the freelancer. That is because the newspaper has paid for the use of that editorial content in its newspaper/online products only. The newspaper is not paying the freelancer to provide marketing materials for the advertiser.
I maintain lists of independent contractors, assignments, and payments. I submit invoices to the vice president of Advertising & Marketing (my boss), as well as the Payroll department. I have kept track of freelancer payments from 1996, before I was hired as editor. For themed supplements such as Weddings, Women, Health, Family, and others, after discussion with the editorial team, I decide what topics to assign to the freelancers. The budget allows for at least two or more freelancer-produced articles per supplement. The topics are based on the theme of the supplement, to be sure, but also taken into consideration are the advertisers of that supplement. For example, if family counselors usually advertise in the Family supplement, a freelancer could be assigned to write on a topic such as teen depression, including quotes in the article from at least three sources. Advertisers are allowed to submit topical articles that adhere to Special Sections guidelines. The editorial content is meant to be interesting and useful for our readers. The inclusion of quotes from local experts gives the articles a local flavor and more authority. The number of pages in a supplement is determined by the number of ad inches sold.
I edit stories for grammar, spelling, and to make sure the AP Style guidebook is followed as closely as possible. Also, I format photos in PhotoShop, adjusting for the best print and web versions. Text, photos, and videos need to be entered in the Content Management System. When a supplement is designed for the print version, I become a paginator, which means page designer. Pages are designed following the Special Sections Design styles as closely as possible. Adjustments are made as needed. I notify the advertising department design manager of missing or problematic ads. I also check the print schedule to make sure that the supplement is scheduled to be printed by the press room and that the day it is being printed is the day after I plan on sending the pages to the PrePress department. A copy of the supplement is printed so that the Advertising department can proofread it. Every extra set of eyeballs help.
When the supplement has been okayed, I export the pages to a folder that prepares the pages for the plate making process. I must view each page digitally and check that everything on the digital version of the page looks as it does on the print version. When each page is approved, my job is finished. The next step in the workflow is PrePress, the department that makes the plates that will then go to the press room. I send an e-mail to Advertising advising them that the pages have been sent to CTP so that they don’t make any more changes to ads in the tab because it will be too late. I also create digital versions of the tabs and upload them online. This is not done automatically and it is time consuming so I won’t go into the details here.
I took World History & Geography I last semester and the reading assignments have changed the way I think about history. I appreciate the social and cultural context of historical events more now than prior to taking the course. I am now able to look at patterns that repeat themselves throughout history, such as the evolution of some hunter-gatherers into a more settled agrarian society, which then expanded under the influence of technological innovations, more food, increased population growth, cities, specialized careers, etc. Along the way, I have been paying attention to gender, race, and class. I find this way of learning history to be of practical importance and hope to glean knowledge that I can apply to my research project.
For example, I searched the New Universalist site and found this article, “The power of the cooking pot,” which is a recap of an interview of activist Ashwin Desai by Holly Wren Spaulding. The article can be found at http://www.newint.org/features/2003/09/01/ideology-necessity/ if you are interested in reading it. This article relates to peaceful activism by an entire community. Desai says, “Many people on the Left are very cynical about community movements because their militancy is not palpable – they’re not storming the barricades… what we are doing is building a sense of neighbourhood, a sense of community which is as effectively anti-World Bank as any demonstration or resolution coming out of an NGO workshop.” One of the community movements revolves around the fact that women are paid wages that do not meet poverty levels; they cannot pay rent. So they continue to work for the low wages, but don’t pay rent, forcing the government to deal with its own laws that allow factories to pay women so little.
People are tired of talking and want action: “People are ready for activism. Delivering free basic services by reconnecting water and electricity. Building structures of feeling by sharing resources.” Can you imagine if all problems could be solved peacefully? Desai concludes the interview: “Part of building community movements is unlearning old ways of doing things.” This is the same as saying we need to learn new ways of civic engagement.
From the Journal of World History, I read the article, “World History and the History of Women, Gender, and Sexuality,” by Merry Wiesner-Hanks. You can find it through EBSCO. The article examines the disconnect between how “world historians see women’s history as a matter of families and private life; women’s/gender historians see world history as area studies and world-systems theory” (54). Because the non-profit organization which is part of my Independent Study is a women’s organization, I read the article hoping to find information that I could use in my research. I found a quote from Gerda Lerner that has piqued my interest in learning more about her. She wrote that more research is needed that “’focuses on the activities, thoughts, and experiences of women,’ and that also constructs theory that develops a ‘new paradigm for an egalitarian history of men and women as agents of history’” (58-59). This statement about developing a more comprehensive history that equally examines the roles of men and women is what I hope to accomplish when I start writing about the lives of the people who participated in civic engagement through the non-profit organization with which I have partnered.
What is the work flow in the Special Sections department?
A list of newspaper supplements is created by the Advertising department. Each supplement has a theme. Some supplements are linked to an event and thus are required to be published on a specific date. This list of newspaper supplements is the Special Sections calendar.
The content for these Special Sections supplements comes from many sources which are funneled through the editor.
Some annual supplements are almost entirely filled with editorial content submitted by an organization. Examples include, an event committee could supply the entire content – stories and photos – for an annual event such as a festival, a fundraising event, or a trade show.
One-time supplements – usually a business or organization celebrating an anniversary, open house, grand opening, or renovation – contain editorial content supplied by that advertiser. Sometimes an independent contractor is needed to provide the editorial content, in which case the Special Sections editor hires a freelance writer/photographer to work with the business.
When Special Sections hires an independent contractor to produce editorial content for Special Sections supplements, the freelancer retains the copyright. The newspaper is purchasing first-time publication rights from the freelancer, and permission for publication in any and all of its newspaper/online products.
Advertisers and others who wish to use the freelancer-produced editorial content in products not affiliated with the newspaper – content for which the newspaper has paid the freelancer – must contact the freelancer directly for that permission and possible payment to the freelancer. That is because the newspaper has paid for the use of that editorial content in its newspaper/online products only.
The Special Sections editor maintains a list of independent contractors, assignments, and payments. The SS editor submits invoices to the VP of Advertising & Marketing, as well as the Payroll department.
For themed supplements such as Weddings, Women, Health, Family, and others, after discussion with the editorial team, the SS editor decides what topics to assign to the freelancers. Budgets may allow for two or more freelancer-produced articles per supplement. The topics are based on the theme of the supplement, to be sure, but also taken into consideration are the advertisers of that supplement. For example, if family counselors usually advertise in the Family supplement, a freelancer could be assigned to write on a topic such as teen depression.
The editorial content is geared toward the audience. The inclusion of quotes from local experts gives the articles a local flavor.
The number of pages in a supplement is determined by the number of ad inches sold.
So far we have editorial content from organizations, advertisers, and freelance-produced. The remaining content comes from press releases, news stories, and feature articles from editorial content subscription services.
The Special Sections editor works with the SS calendar to make sure editorial content is procured for every supplement. Freelance work is tracked and submitted to payroll.
The Special Sections editor edits stories for grammar, spelling, and to follow the AP Style guidebook as closely as possible. Also, the SS editor formats photos in PhotoShop, adjusting for the best print and web versions. Text and photos need to be entered in the Content Management System.
When the supplement is designed for the print version, the Special Sections editor becomes a paginator and page designer. The SS editor notifies the advertising department of missing or problematic ads.
A copy of the supplement is printed so that the Advertising department can proofread it. Every extra set of eyeballs help.
When the supplement has been okayed, the Special Sections editor exports the pages to a folder that prepares the pages for the plate making process. The SS editor must view each page digitally and check that everything on the digital version of the page looks as it does on the print version.
When each page is approved, the Special Sections editor’s job is finished. The next step in the workflow is pre-press, the department that makes the plates that will then go to the press room.
PART 2: Web version
That’s what I do for the print version.
The web version is a list of articles found in each supplement. Click on the article title to read the entire article. When entering stories and photos in the CMS, a web version is created simultaneously.
Online readers can leave comments below each article.
A PDF version of the print edition is also uploaded and can be found on the newspaper’s website.
Stay tuned for our new Special Sections website coming soon. The new site will integrate community-building features with behind-the-scenes and contact information.