Melody Kramer

People Not in the News Commenting in Some Way On The News: Shannon Turner

03 Dec 2014 by melodyjoykramer

Meet Shannon. Shannon’s a developer who runs free Python classes for women in the DC area, to motivate women to participate in more hackathons. Shannon is one of the best teachers I’ve ever had — at any level. It’s really, really hard to teach code — and Shannon just has a gift. She also once brought chocolate donuts to my house and my dog accidentally ate them. Apologies for Sadie’s behavior.

I asked Shannon if she wouldn’t mind answering a few questions about her news consumption. If you don’t work in news and would like to participate, please let me know. To read the rest of the series, click here.

1. How do you get your news?

Almost exclusively from Twitter. I don’t have cable or any way to record TV at home anymore, so Twitter has become much more important to how I stay informed. My favorite thing about it is being able to curate hundreds of different perspectives from people all over the country.

I follow very few news outlets but many reporters and community organizers. Following reporters directly, I see stories start to develop before an article is ready for publication, which feels like I’m getting a sneak preview. And it’s a nice reminder that there’s an actual person behind the byline. It helps me feel connected to a reporter in a way that just reading their articles alone doesn’t do. For one, they’re more accessible. But it’s also about learning their voice, their issues, and being able to participate in a way that’s impossible with traditional media.

Community organizers are my personal favorites to follow though. They’re the most passionate and outspoken; they’re able to take a stand on issues and make a case; they’re not afraid to be vocal and loud and really plant a flag and say “this is what I believe in.” Community organizers are usually ahead of reporters by weeks or months and often drive the narratives that shape in the early days when reporters who haven’t been living it are still trying to hear all sides.

2. How do you take your coffee?

When I’m out, I take my coffee black. Hazelnut when I can find it; it reminds me of how my late grandmother’s home smelled when I was just old enough to form memories. At home, I add a little too much sugar.

3. Who’s doing it right in news?

Smaller media outlets seem to better avoid the false equivalence trap. Large, long-established media giants are so wary of being seen as taking a side or being biased that they contort themselves into presenting extreme viewpoints alongside mainstream ones and calling it balance.
But the way issues are framed is itself often biased. And there’s a lot of people who have figured out this weakpoint and are adept at exploiting it. It makes for weak, mushy “you decide” journalism and erodes confidence and trust in the institution. Personally, it drives me up a wall — and to different news outlets.

I still say Twitter does news best, if only because it’s the only place I can pull together hundreds of different reporters from across the country in one place. But it’s such an in-the-moment platform that if you’re not paying close attention, it can take time to get caught up. Vox has smartly capitalized on this as the “explainer” of all the things, even if it sometimes analyzes a story to death.

4. What’s the first news event that you remember?

The Oklahoma City Bombing is the first I remember clearly. For me, it was one of those events that gets seared in your memory and you remember everything: where you were, what you were doing. I was nine at the time and glued to the television. I had never seen anything like that before; I didn’t know people were capable of doing that to each other. It all just seemed so senseless. It still does.

5. What was the best thing that happened to you this week?

A few weeks back, I submitted my first app to the App Store and it was just approved today. I’m no stranger to creating websites; I’ve even made a twitter bot; but I’ve never had a mobile app in the App Store or Google Play Store until today. The app is for Rootscamp, an annual “unconference” for organizers. With an unconference, the agenda isn’t set until the day of the event itself, and it’s completely attendee-driven. The app will help attendees discover what sessions are being led and connect with other attendees they meet.

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