A look behind Brookfest

Brookfest is one of the most anticipated events of Stony Brook’s year. The annual concert held in the spring features two to three musical acts performing for the stressed out students needing a break from finals and summer planning. Every year, the artists are announced months beforehand to garner attention on social media. When the concert comes around, students pack the chosen concert venue and sing along to the rock or rap act chosen by Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government. Something equally traditional about Brookfest is the backlash from students. The selection of artists for Brookfest has vocal approval, but also a vocal minority of those disapproving of the artists selected. Some claim it’s because of a lack of a certain genre (mostly rock), others say it’s because of a lack of relevant artists. Regardless, these unhappy students can be heard around campus and on social media.

For this year’s Brookfest, which featured the likes of rapper B.o.B., alternative rockers twenty one pilots, and emo-rock stalwarts Panic! At The Disco, the student voice was given the chance to be a bit more present in the decision. Months before the artists were announced, the Stony Brook Undergraduate Student Government sent out a Google Form containing a list of possible artists for the show.

“We wanted to get a general sense of what the Stony Brook community wanted to see in their concerts, because we knew that in the past we’ve always gotten reports that students…didn’t get their voice heard,” says Danny Chung, the Vice President of Communications and Public Relations for Stony Brook’s Undergraduate Student Government. Chung claims the Google Form was used to create a poll that would be “a good reference to give [USG] a sense of what [the students] might want.”

According to Chung, this year featured a more diverse line-up of performers but leaned on the presence of rock than rap. Previous concerts have featured rappers like Mac Miller, Wiz Khalifa, Lupe Fiasco and Kanye West in the headlining spot. While that may please the large number of rap fans on Stony Brook’s campus, it leaves others feel left out and their voices unheard.

According to Kenneth Myers, USG’s Vice President of Student Life, polls were posted on social media in the past that focused on genres and “usually, EDM [electronic dance music] and rap is usually the thing that comes out on top…but because that’s usually the most voted thing the people who want rock music never really get that option. Not until this year.”

Myers explained that the USG is normally time constricted when it comes to selecting the artist. Myers claims that the booking process started in January, noting that it is difficult to plan Brookfest at Lavalle Stadium, where the past two concerts have taken place, due to scheduling and high costs. Myers also mentioned how USG bylaws used to prevent any early planning of fall and spring events. This year, Myers rewrote the bylaws so all fall and spring events can be planned in the summer, allowing more time for potential artists to be fished out.

For those who missed out on the Google Form sent out this year, Chung points out that there has been a way for students to voice their picks for Brookfest artists; attending meetings held by the Student Activities Board. The SAB work with the USG to find the most popular artists in popular music genres on campus, and they take student opinion into account when it comes time to vote for artists to choose from. If students were unhappy with the choices for Brookfest, Chung recommends making their presence known more next time.

When the amount of votes from the Google Form were tallied, Chung said that “about, I believe, 1500 students that filled it out, and that’s only, what, 10% or the undergraduate students” submitted votes for artists that they wanted at Brookfest. Even with the Google Form as a step forward, Chuns believes that the work is never done when it comes to informing students.

“We just try to give [the students] more information to be transparent about what the procedure was and, maybe in the future if they’re going to be here for another year, how they can really participate and make sure that they can influence the decision that’s going to be made.”

Rest easy, Stony Brook students because the USG is listening. Next time, just try to be a little louder.

The numbers that hit hard

When it comes to news stories, what often attracts people is the headline or at least the first line of the piece. Sometimes that may be some dramatic, exquisitely written opening statement. Other times, it can just be a number that catches the eye. The latter case comes in the form of data journalism.

According to VOX, data journalism is just “journalism based off of data.” It is still reporting on an event, but the basis of the report is based on a new or collected piece of data. It’s an investigation of why there is a large or small number of something.

An example of this can be found in The Upshot, a section of The New York Times. A recent report claims that there are 1.5 billion black men missing in America today, primarily due to death and prison sentences. The Upshot uses collected statistics taken of the number of young black men in New York, Chicago and Philadelphia. The report also uses various graphs to give a visual description on the issue mentioned in the report, including a bar graph about the distribution of whites and blacks and a map of the United States highlighting where black men are missing the most. These pieces of data is given in various formats to express the issue in the report as many ways possible. In fact, each new subject the report highlights opens with a graph, with the written aspect breaking down the parts of the graph.

What makes this story proper data journalism is that it takes each piece if data and breaks it down to separate portions. This way, each element to the report is focused on and easy to understand, almost like putting together a puzzle piece by piece. Data journalism relies on numbers and figures to start a report, but one has to be able to research and investigate those numbers to highlight why it is something that is newsworthy.

Share crazy

Publishing stories is not enough anymore. With social media sites like Facebook and Twitter consuming the lives and souls of others, journalists who publish work online have to be reporters and promoters at the same time. The quality of your work still remains the most important factor of journalism, but how many page views and likes your story earns is now something a reporter keeps in the back of his mind.

In this class, I was encouraged to put focus on the social media presence of my assignments and blog posts. It was an interesting experience because I never had to put so much effort on the advertising of my stories before, because that’s what the whole experience felt like: selling my stories to friends on Facebook and faceless followers on Twitter. I had to create two attractive headlines each time I wrote a story: one for my actual story and another for the post on a social media site.

When I complete a big story, I whore my story out like nobody’s business. Share it on Facebook, post it on Twitter, tell my friends about it, the whole nine yards. Unfortunately, my stories do no attract many new followers. The most I earn for sharing my work is maybe a few likes on Facebook and favorites on Twitter from my classmates. Granted, I appreciate every like and share that I get, but it’s somewhat disappointing.

I think the problem is that I need to focus on promoting myself more on social media. Tell followers that I’m working on a “big story” and tease it out over time. I need to choose an interesting topic that will garner attention. Take pictures of stuff involving the development of my story and share it to keep interest going. When I finally finish and post the story online, my followers will have heard about it enough to actually read and share the story. It’s like promoting a fight or a movie, slowly teasing out small details until you roll out the red carpet for the main event to be showcased on. Basically, social media can help me turn the development of a story into an anticipated event to look forward to.

The freedom of acting

In interviews that I’ve read with various actors, I’ve often read them talking about the “freeing power” that comes from acting. Now since I’m leagues aways from talking to Hollywood megastars, I figure I try to find someone here at Stony Brook University who feels freedom in front of a spotlight. Her name is Katherine Gorham, a 20-year-old junior theatre major about to perform in Stony Brook Pocket Theatre’s presentation of the acclaimed musical Next to Normal. Ms. Gorham didn’t find the phrase so foreign, but not without some elaboration.

Invisible subjects, exceptional sound

A podcast is like an old radio show for a new generation. It’s audio of a narrative or story one might see in his or her daily life. But since the visual aspect is removed, podcasts have to be striking in their audio quality and storytelling. One podcast that produces great quality is NPR’s Invisibilia. This podcast covers various experiences involving psychology and brain science by presenting real-life encounters and stories involving unique situations.

Take “The Secret History of Thoughts,” their look at the random thoughts that pop into people’s heads and how they affect a person. Hosts Lulu Miller and Alix Spiegel have an entertaining chemistry, playing off each other as they talk about their subject. Spiegel and Miller are comfortable behind the microphone and their dialogue sounds natural, not scripted. It’s as if they are sitting next to you at a coffee shop talking about this over breakfast. The podcast itself also sounds very clean. The audio is crisp and clear to understand, both with their audio as a duo and their interview clips. The show uses audio clips from a segment with Dr. Miranda K. Morris, a therapist that specializes in third-wave therapy. As the hosts talk about third-wave therapy and how Dr. Morris believed that, “thoughts have no meaning at all.” As the hosts explain each part of Dr. Morris’ methods, they integrate a soundbite of Dr. Morris talking patients through a session, almost acting as a perfectly timed break between explanation to give audio representation. The more the listener hears the hosts talking, the more clear the visual in the listener’s head is. It’s a very proper way to create a podcast, in where you blend natural conversation with natural sound to create an authentic listening experience.

Another example of Invisibilia’s expert craftsmanship can be heard on “Fear,” their episode that tries to find ways to live without fear. Since the subject of this podcast is the presence of fear, the podcast has a different atmosphere. The podcast episodes use instrumental music to segue between narratives of the show. In “Fear,” the music used is creepy and more haunting to emphasize how serious the subject matter of the episode is. Miller and Spiegel also sound more serious and somber discussing the subject matter. Adding that to the same clean and understandable audio, both from the hosts and the natural sound. Even when the show mixes sounds, it sounds like a perfect combination. There is a segment of the podcast where an interview with Greg Downey, an Associate Professor at Macquarie University, comes onto the show. Here, the show mixes Downey’s interview clips, a background musical score of light string instruments and the hosts breaking up each of Downey’s talking points. The audio is never poorly mixed, the hosts interject at just the right point and the music is subtle enough to not distract the listener from Downey. This is an example of a podcast juggling three different kinds of audio delivery into one seamless flow of information, making for an engrossing look at the things that scare us around the world.

What do you want to do when you grow up?

I hated that question.

When I was younger, it was very hard to find something productive that I was really passionate about. I didn’t like sports, school was boring and I wasn’t really a fan of the outdoors. One thing I adored, then and now, were stories. Whether they be fact or fiction, tall tales or small stories, good writing has always captured my attention. I read about young wizards, unfortunate orphans, rebellious teenagers, damaged souls and mad geniuses. It wasn’t just school readings that crossed my path: comic books have been a pleasure of mine. Teachers would catch me buried in issues of The PunisherUltimate Spider-ManRunaways and Watchmen, but it’s hard to keep excited about long division or biology when the Green Goblin was holding Peter Parker’s girlfriend hostage over a bridge in my backpack. My imagination was set on fire by these crazy stories that would cross my eye and I was determined to write something that would be as exciting as what I was reading.

Choice scholarly reading. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler
Choice scholarly reading. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler

“I want to write stuff.”

Before you get the idea that I would just do nothing for days on end, I was visually stimulated. Movies, television and video games fascinated me, as if the daydreams in my head came to life and nobody told me about it. I was shocked to learn that someone thought of sword fights in space before I did, or how life as a pop culture nerd in school could be so funny, or how awesome it would be to play the ultimate soldier. But as I got older, I started to focus on the writing of these visual spectacles and started expanding my tastes, specifically on movies. The writing that grabbed my attention on screen were acts of betrayal, threat, taunting, rebellion or just general madness and the bizarre. The more movies I watched, the more I saw to marvel at: fist fightscar chases, gun showscamera work, cinematography and the all around creation of a movie. From there, it’s all I could talk about. Some samples of my opening statements in daily conversation were:

“Did you see this…….?”

“I saw the coolest thing the other day….”

“Remember inwhen….?”

Everything about Goldfinger was pitch-perfect entertainment. The style, cinematography, acting, writing and cool flow was engrossing. My favorite movie of all time for being entertaining. It’s the best example of movies made at their best.

Movies weren’t enough for me, as music started to become more of an obsession. My weekly budget would be diverted to buying CDs. Two bookcases were the only way to contain my collection of music. Different styles and genres provided soundtracks to my day, something to make moments better. Excited for the weekend? You bet. Met a cute girl today? Oh yeah. Pissed off about something? Ugh, obviously. Hanging out with the crew? Sure thing. Depressed? Yeah, sure. Feeling like a king? YOU KNOW IT! Just as I dug deeper into movies, I submerged myself into the layers of music. It takes many repeats to hear how deep the Weird Fishes go, the foreign time change for the girl in the red light, the disturbing narrative of an obsessed fan or just the insane precision on an wacky instrumental track. It’s like looking at blueprints for a skyscraper or machine, or the breakdown of a chemistry equation. Listening carefully to all of the moving parts was fascinating to me.

I remember hearing this in a roller rink when I was five-years-old, and everything about the song fit the moment. The swirling synthesizers and rocking guitar matched up with the flashing lights from the ceiling and the upbeat sounds coming from the arcade in the corner. The lyrics of wanting a place of paradise separate from stressful reality have applied to me then and now. It’s my favorite song of all time because no matter what I’m doing, the song makes me think of that one fine day of hammering buttons, eating pizza with my friends and skating along to the lights and sounds.

“I want to write about entertainment.”

The question of “what” was answered, I just had to figure out “how.” I didn’t know if I wanted to write for entertainment or about entertainment. How can I deliver something? All I knew was that I was a great writer and I knew too much about movies, music, television, video games and comics. My teachers and parents told me to do some research, and I found the writing and talking of some true inspirations: Peter Travers, Joel Siegel, Joe Morgenstern, Rob Sheffield, David Fricke, Dave Haslam and John Harris. These guys talked and wrote about music, not like a school assignment or a regular newscast, but in a conversational manner. It was as if they were right in front me talking about pop culture while waiting for lunch. This was also how I wrote and how passionate I was about these nerdy topics. I asked what these guys do for a living, and I heard the word “journalist” thrown in every time. There it was, the key word to put on my resume and to have a definite answer to that god-awful, groan-enducing question.

“What do you want to do when you grow up?”

“I want to be a journalist….I want to be a entertainment journalist”

A second look at Winterfest

Whether it’s putting pen to paper or snapping photos, a journalist has to report on an event. In that sense, Maddy Marcus and Emily Benson did an exception job covering Stony Brook University’s Winterfest on Feb. 28. Benson and Marcus used photos to create a visual breakdown of each part of the event and traditional reporting to talk about what went on during the event.

Photo Credit: Maddy Marcus
Photo Credit: Maddy Marcus

Marcus and Benson break down the elements of Winterfest into nine highlights. The duo accompanied each highlight with one to two brief paragraphs on how the highlight was featured at Winterfest. Benson and Marcus provided different photos for each highlight, including the low environmental shot of the ice rink under the “Ice Skating” highlight or the depth of field shots used in the “Prizes” highlight. Some of the shots had a bit too much exposure from the light in the background, like the shots used in the “Massages” highlights. Other than that, the photos used in the blog effectively showed what went on at Winterfest.

Photo Credit: Maddy Marcus
Photo Credit: Maddy Marcus

Writing-wise, Marcus and Benson do a solid job of reporting on what happened at Winterfest. The duo broke down certain parts of Winterfest that they thought would be interesting or appealing to note. Their descriptions are short and to the point, describing how the highlight they chose was represented at Winterfest. The duo also writes in an engaging way, adding some humor into their writing. They correctly acknowledge how much students value free food in the “Food” highlight (“Two of the greatest words every college students can hear”). However, the blog could have used one more edit as the grammar needs to be improved. For example, in the “Prizes” highlight, the “even” that starts the second sentence in the second paragraph needs to be capitalized, the “9” under the “Massages” highlight needs to be spelled out and the quote used under the “Ice Skating” highlight needs to be reworded because it’s too long and awkward.

All in all, Marcus and Benson provided informative photos and engaging writing to report on Winterfest. If anyone missed out on the event and wanted a look at what they missed, this blog is a fine place to check out.

RockYoFace brings music to the masses

By Ian Schafer, Jon Winkler and Bridget Downes

College life can take up a lot of time for many students. Classes, clubs, internships and jobs keep the students of Stony Brook University running around every week. Every now and then, the students have a chance to lay off some steam and express a side of themselves not seen in a classroom. On March 2, Stony Brook’s campus music showcase RockYoFace hosted an Open Mic Night in the University Cafe. Various students performed for a crowd looking for a night off from grades and grief.

The crowd at the University Cafe for the Open Mic Night. Photo Credit: Bridget Downes
The crowd at the University Cafe for the Open Mic Night. Photo Credit: Bridget Downes
Tweaking the soundboard  to make sure levels are set for the Open Mic Night. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler
Tweaking the soundboard to make sure levels are set for the Open Mic Night. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler
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Joe Schultz got his first didgeridoo from his father when he was 7. Photo Credit: Ian Schafer
Joe Schultz, a 20-year-old economics major, playing the Didgeridoo at the start of the Open Mic Night at 9 p.m. Schultz has also performed for the SBU Belly Dance Troupe and the TEDxSBU 2014 talk. Photo credit: Jon Winkler
Joe Schultz, a 20-year-old economics major, playing the Didgeridoo at the start of the Open Mic Night at 9 p.m. Schultz has also performed for the SBU Belly Dance Troupe and the TEDxSBU 2014 talk. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler
Chris Ehrich, a 19-year-old linguistics major, and Tony Gordon, a 20-year-old multidisciplinary studies major, perform as the duo Wonderfjul as the crowd captures their music. The duo covered two songs by Panic! At The Disco: "Always," and "The End of All Things." Photo Credit: Jon Winkler
Chris Ehrich, a 19-year-old linguistics major, and Tony Gordon, a 20-year-old multidisciplinary studies major, perform as the duo Wonderfjul as the crowd captures their music. The duo covered two songs by Panic! At The Disco: “Always,” and “The End of All Things.” Photo Credit: Jon Winkler
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Tony Gordon of Wonderfjul belts it. Photo Credit: Ian Schafer
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Amanda Jayne plays a solo set of original songs. Photo Credit: Bridget Downes
Amanda Jayne's
Amanda Jayne’s Takamine acoustic. Photo Credit: Bridget Downes
Amanda Jayne, an 18-year-old theatre arts and history major, singing solo on acoustic guitar. Photo Credit: Ian Schafer
Amanda Jayne, an 18-year-old theatre arts and history major, singing solo on acoustic guitar. Photo Credit: Ian Schafer
Don Uccellini plays a solo set with his hollow-bodied Gretsch. PC: Bridget Downes
Don Uccellini plays a solo set with his hollow-bodied Gretsch.
Photo Credit: Bridget Downes
Don loves the bright lights.
Don loves the bright lights. Photo Credit: Ian Schafer
Nelson Pascuzzi, a 21-year-old mathematics/philosophy major, reciting a poem in relaxed fashion
Nelson Pascuzzi, a 21-year-old mathematics/philosophy major, reciting the poem “I am Shaun Gannon,” in a relaxed fashion. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler
Mary Garvey sent the crowd off with her ukulele  performance.
Mary Garvey sent the crowd off with her ukulele performance. Photo Credit: Ian Schafer
Nice hat.
Smiling for the paparazzi. Photo Credit: Ian Schafer
The crowd at Open Mic Night enjoying Nelson Pascuzzi's poetry
The crowd at Open Mic Night enjoying the atmosphere and music. Photo Credit: Jon Winkler

A look at Indian culture with SBU Taandava

Stony Brook University often hosts events that showcase different international cultures. Next Saturday, the Wang Center will host an event showcasing a visual spectacle meant to support those less fortunate. Taandava, Stony Brook’s Indian Classical dance team, will host the Jana Seva show and dance to raise money for the homeless and elderly citizens of India. The opportunity to see a portion of a different culture is something worthy of a news coverage, specifically a photo gallery.

Since this event is a viewing experience, it shouldn’t be reported by just using words describing what happened. If a reader wants to experience what really happened at the event, using photos that show happened at the event over time make the reader feel as if they are experiencing the event in real time. Showing photos of the event set-up, backstage, audience members and the dancing covers all elements of the event. Showing the photos of the dancers, their movement and their attire would highlight a different type of culture on display. The focus of the story would be on the dancing, so most of the photos would be of the dancers and the audience reaction to it. The story is about the showcase of a different culture, so the visual appeal would be photos of the different culture.