Long Island drivers suffering from pothole plague

Another brutal winter, another trail of roadway destruction left behind. This past winter in particular left Long Island’s roadways obliterated by cracks and potholes and Long Island residents desperate for repairs.

Five months into the year and Long Island is still fighting a plague of potholes. Due to budget restraints, budget cuts and time constraints, elected officials are having a hard time fixing these broken roads, leaving Long Island drivers, and their vehicles, to pay the ultimate price.

Potholes form when water seeps into roadway cracks and freezes, expanding the roadways with it, and then thaws, leaving behind a gaping hole where the frozen water once was.

PC: Emily Benson
PC: Emily Benson

According to a study by the Law Office of Michael Pines in San Diego, potholes are rated number 19 of the top 25 causes of car accidents. Potholes are also detrimental to any vehicle, and can put enormous strain on your tires, wheels, and suspension. A direct hit of a pothole can result in a loss of tire pressure/ tire air, and usually requires attention and immediate replacement.

According to analysis by TRIP, traffic on New York State’s highways increased 21 percent between 1990 and 201. In 2012 alone, around 213,000 vehicles used the Long Island Expressway daily between Exit 37 and the New York City line. With such an increasing presence on their roadways, Long Island’s roads are taking on even more wear and tear. Neglect of these increasing numbers will only lead to worse consequences for drivers and their vehicles.

Kenneth Schwier, service manager at Stony Brook’s Village Automotive Center repair shop, said that because each vehicle is unique, the range of damage that could happen to one’s car or truck varies from person to person.

Largely due to the large amounts of snow and ice from this past winter, Schwier says a higher number of cars than usual are coming in this year with problems caused by potholes or cracked roads. Schwier says there is a good chance that any damage done will be costly.

“We just had one vehicle come in from road problems and that was around $1,000,” said Schwier. “Officials are slow to fill in the potholes so they just sit there.”

However, elected officials are trying to battle these excessive potholes just as much as residents, but are losing due to lack of funding.

PC: Emily Benson
PC: Emily Benson

Glenn Jorgensen, Smithtown’s superintendent of highways, said that their budget has been getting slashed more and more each year. The amount got so low that Jorgensen had to request additional funding at the last board meeting, but even that won’t be enough to fix the roads that need the most help.

“Years ago we use to get $500,000, but the town board controller cut it down to about $265,000. This year they gave me $150,000 and I went through that pretty fast obviously and I had to request another $100,000,” said Jorgensen.

Each year, the Smithtown highway department lays out a road program listing all the major roadways that need to either be paved, micro sealed or completely reconstructed. The 2015 road program  has hopes of repairing roads in Smithtown, Kings Park, Commack, Saint James, Nesconset, San Remo, Hauppauge and Fort Salonga.

PC: Emily Benson
PC: Emily Benson

While patching and repaving these roads is important, experts say that the best thing that can be done for damaged roads is to prevent things from getting worse.

Former NYC Transportation Commissioner, Lucius T. Riccio, said neglect, not winter, is the primary cause of potholes in an interview with Newsday.

“There are many roads that get through the winter without potholes. That’s because they’ve been resurfaced on the proper replacement cycle and maintained,” said Riccio. “Preventive medicine is the best medicine for people, and preventive maintenance is the best medicine for roads.”

Stony Brook University officials say that they are taking prevention into serious consideration with their plans to repair campus roads.

Terence Harrington, Stony Brook University’s Assistant Vice President for Facilities and Services, said he has been surveying the campus roads and noting areas that need patching.

“To prepare for next winter we are continuously inspecting our roads and walkways for any major issues and repairing them before the issue becomes larger,” said Harrington.

PC: Emily Benson
PC: Emily Benson

For Long Island drivers, it does not matter how the roads get fixed just as long as they do.

“It’s definitely a safety hazard because you don’t want to damage your car but at the same time you have to be mindful of other drivers,” said Domnick  Raymond, a freshman psychology major at Stony Brook University. “I understand that there is a lot of congestion on these roads. I wish they would work on them more so safety could be better and it’d be a more enjoyable ride.”

Data Journalism Changing the News

What is data journalism?

According to analytics for fun, data journalism is journalism done with data. Pretty simple right?

To help explain this more, Simon Rogers, the date editor at Twitter, broke dow the key aspects with data journalism. To define it, he suggests that data journalism is about three things: telling stories with numbers, finding the best way to tell the story, and the techniques with which you tell the story.

Examples are the best way to have data journalism explained, and one of the best examples out there is the full text visualization of the Iraq war logs.

AP, the media site that started the visual, said they wanted to go a step further, by designing a visualization based on the the richest part of each report: the free text summary. The problem was that AP then had to somehow visualize thousands of written documents of data points.

PC: Screen shot
PC: Screen shot  

Above is a picture of the 11,616 SIGACT (“significant action”) reports from December 2006. Each dot is report is a dot.

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AP quoted making putting the data together in order to help their audience understand the information better than if it was just numbers on a page.

“Visualization is metaphor. Certain details are thrown away, other are emphasized. The algorithms used to produce the visualization have their own sensitivities and blind spots. Without understanding these, a viewer will make false inferences.”

Because data journalism is so hard to define and so broad in the definition it already has, data journalism doesn’t have to stop at charts like these. Data journalism could be a moving charts, re-adjusting pictures, anything that helps get the point of numbers across in a way that isn’t just with numbers.

Semester of Social Media

Social Media. What is it good for?

I mean other than posting some killer selfies on Instagram or venting about sleeping through your first class on Twitter. What benefits does it offer?

When I was a senior in high school, I took a journalism class and he forced everybody in the class to make a Twitter.

“You don’t have to use it,” he said.  “But I encourage you all to learn how to use Twitter, because you will use it so much in this profession.”

I looked at him and thought of only two things: Bull. Shit.

And naturally, I was wrong.

And then after hearing again at the start of this semester of the wonders of Twitter, I thought to myself, okay, I need to get out there more. So I spent most of my time this semester trying to expand my presence on Twitter.

Over the semester I have gained some followers to my Twitter account. *Cough cough* shameless Twitter account plug *cough cough* It was not all at once, but I found that gaining followers was focused around one main thing: being present.

If I tweeted 8 times a day, I might gain a follower or two. If I tweeted once or not all, I got squat. I also found that Tweeting many times a day over several days lead to even more followers. But this is almost common sense: the more I tweet the more my name is out there the more people might read my stuff and like it and then BAM they follow you. Okay no it is not that simple, but it something along those lines I am sure.

I also found that I got more favorites on things that we’re funny/ embarrassing. For example, the time I got a boot on my car because paying parking tickets are hard.

It was a struggle, but I got seven favorites and two retweets. Well wort the price of the tickets.

I tried to apply this kind of humor to tweets about the news, or event coverage I was doing. Anything journalistic, newsy or serious that I found most students would just scroll over on their timeline. Because lets face it, most college kids don’t read the New York Times everyday, but if you tweet their headlining with a funny caption, people might stop, laugh, and then be more inclined to read it.

I did this a little bit when I went to go see Ann Curry speak at Stony Brook a few weeks ago. I tried to make the tweets a little humorous so that students would want to follow my live coverage of the event and then, just maybe, become informed on things they didn’t know before. (disclaimer: there is cursing. I hope that’s okay for class.)

Stuff like this got me more favorites and retweets than if I wrote something without humor or without any spice.

Hopefully I will continue to grow in followers, spreading the words of journalism, and my own stupidity, one tweet at a time.

Freedom isn’t free for resident assistants

Have you ever felt the need to stop somebody from smoking too close to a building? Or seen someone smoking weed and called to report it? What if one of your hall mates is being loud, do you write them up?

If you have had to any of these things, then you are probably a resident assistant, or RA. You also then know that this does not even begin to cover the list of duties and responsibilities expected of students on the job.

Being a resident assistants comes with many perks. For Stony Brook University RA’s, students receive extra money to the university bookstore and free housing in the building they are staff for. A lot of students sign up to get these perks, but then realize how much more work is being asked of them.

Brianna Cahill is a sophomore resident assistnat at Stony Brook University, and having done the job for a year, is an expert on the ins and outs of what it takes to effectively be an RA. Something that is a lot harder than the University gives on.

Serial and Start-Up: two great podcasts

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Serial is a podcast series that tells one long story over the series of an entire season
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StartUp is a series described as “what happens when someone who knows nothing about business starts one.”

I personally do not listen to many podcasts, so when I sit down to listen to podcasts for this assignment I did not know what to expect. I remember a little bit of what Serial was like from the small piece of it we listened to in class. I remember being pulled in by how much the piece sounded like a story you could listen to off audible. Naturally then when I was suppose to be listening to the podcast for nat sounds and podcast techniques, I found myself submerged in the story, to distracted by my fascination of what was going on to pay attention to anything else.

I would call that a tall-tale sign that the podcast is pretty freaking good.

The Serial Podcast is hosted by Sarah Koenig. The premise of the podcast is that it isn’t a new random story every week, but one story per season. The Serial team follows a plot and characters wherever the story leads them, and the audience learns the new information as the story unfolds.

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Serial host, Sarah Koenig, helps tells long, investigative stories. PC: YouTube

StartUp podcast is organized much differently. StartUp is a mini-series of podcasts about how to run a start up business and tips and tricks about running and business successfully.

The series is hosted by Alex Blumberg, the CEO of Gimlet Media and award-winning radio journalist. He was a producer for This American Life and the co-founder of Planet Money.

Serial’s podcasts are long and are focused around investigative journalism and in depth reporting, while StartUp is a podcast series are shorter, 20- 30 minute pieces focused on business advice and strategies.

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StartUp host, Alex Blumberg, hosts a podcast series about the ins and outs of running a new business. PC: StartUp Website

Even with these differences, listeners can see the similar techniques used by both companies to have successful podcasts.

Both Serial and StartUp have succinct intro music that people can associate with the podcast. There is also good use of music to transition between different topics and interviews.

There is also good variation of music, darker tones when the topics got darker, lighter music when the topics were more easy going. There is also good use of nat, background noise. Simple things like the ringing of a door opening, laughter of a group of students, or opening and closing of drawers in an office.

Above all, both podcasts are informative but in a way that is entertaining and intriguing. The voices of the hosts keep you awake and attentive, both in the tone of their voices but also how they are able to pick topics that will keep an audience entertained. Or can present a podcast in a story format that keeps listeners coming back for more.

I just wanted the office.

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When I was a freshman in high school, my dad, brother and I went to visit my Grandmother at her nursing home. It was September, and I had just joined my schools newspaper, The Journal. Knowing this, my dad turned to my grandmother and said, “Emily just started writing for her schools paper. She’s going to be the next big journalist!”

To this I responded, “Hell no.”

Thank God for my grandma’s lack of hearing or I would have heard a thing or two about using curses. But whenever someone asks my why I went into journalism I think of this scene. Me sitting cross legged, in my ripped jeans and converses while my dad boasted about how I was going to be running CNN after attending all  three of my papers meetings.

I always loved writing, creative and fiction writing mostly, so when I went to the first few meetings of The Journal I was ridiculously lost.

Of course all I had done was attend meetings. When I finally wrote my first article, I watched it get ripped to pieces line by line by my editor. After this I decided I was going to join theater instead.

Until I saw the office.

The office, in all honesty, was disgusting. It was old, it was small, it smelled like moldy cheeetos and dirty coffee. However, it had a long table for meetings, a dry erase board for tracking articles, and comfortable office chairs, complete with wheels for bumper- chair fights. It was the official meeting room of The Journal’s staff writers and editors, exclusive only to them. No students, no teachers, no administration, and no rules.

I wanted to get into that office. No, I needed to get into the office.

By sophomore year I was a staff writer, and by my senior year I was an editor. I don’t remember when, but somewhere along my four year journey in the Journal I completely forgot about why I even joined. Yes I enjoyed writing, and sure I dreamed for the glorious office, but I stuck with journalism because I fell in love with it.

Of course now, writing five articles a week on top of classes and homework, there are times I question my sanity in choosing journalism. But I could never regret my decision to do journalism, because I could not see myself doing anything else.

Stony Brook mens lacrosse game (YAYYY! MORE SPORTS!)

This Sat., Feb. 28 come cheer on Stony Brook’s mens lacrosse team in Lavalle stadium against Fairfield University.

Tickets for the lacrosse game are currently on sale on the Stony Brook Athletics page.  Tickets are free for Stony Brook students with valid student ID and $10 general admission for all other attendants.

This is the mens fourth game of the season, and currently stands with 2 wins against Manhattan and NJIT,  and one loss against St. Johns.  According to the Stony Brook Athletics website, this is last home game for mens lacrosse until Mar. 14 against UAlbany.

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This event would be great to cover for a photo story. Sport events are naturally great for photography, while it is difficult to capture what is happen because of the constant movement, but there is a large attraction for sports photos among sports followers.

Sports games are also good events to live tweet at and give constant updates on whats happening. Live tweeting photos  and videos from your phone will add to the content of your story when putting it together after the game.