Serial: Modern Investigative Journalism

This article was originally published in ZU News.

I recently decided to start listening to podcasts. Let me rephrase that. I recently decided to start going to the gym. While at the gym, I’ve been sifting through dozens of hours of podcasts accumulated on my phone, and working out a bit on the side.

I tried to listen to several podcasts that friends suggested to me from Pod Save America to Freakonomics, but none of them captured my attention nearly as well as Serial.

Serial is a podcast that deals less with news and current events. It delves into the story of two individuals with extremely curious cases.

Season one examines the story of Adnan Syed, a man who was arrested as a high school senior for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. Syed claimed he was innocent from the time he was arrested in 1999 and maintained this claim until today. However, the jury in his trial found enough evidence to imprison him for life.

Serial goes incredibly in depth into Syed’s story. The host, Journalist Sarah Koenig, spent many months on this investigation. She interviews many of Syed’s friends as well as a number of people who provide insight to his case. The story is intriguing and great to listen to on the treadmill.

In the second season, Koenig tells the story of Bowe Bergdahl, a soldier who became well known for deserting his unit in Afghanistan. She interviews Bergdahl a number of times as well as many soldiers from his unit and high ranking military personnel.

Koenig tells this story with little bias and examines both sides of Bergdahl’s story. Bergdahl claims he didn’t leave selfishly; he did it for the greater good. It’s fascinating to hear his side of the story.

What I love most about Koenig’s podcast are not the stories themselves. Don’t get me wrong, they’re interesting and fun to listen to. But the most impressive part is how deep Koenig goes into her investigation.

In the age of fake news, click-bait and news sources racing to get the story out as quickly as possible, it is truly refreshing to hear quality investigative journalism. Serial just has that element of months of research and in-depth interviews that you will not find in most news stories anymore.

I’m struggling to keep my gym motivation up, but knowing that I have something good to listen to while I’m there is always helpful. Serial is a must-listen for any podcast fans out there. I give Serial 4 out of 4 Jon Wallace heads.

Hungry Coug App Makes Managing Dining Points A Breeze

This article was originally published in ZU News.

APU students have always had the freedom to spend dining points across campus, but tracking how many points you have has always been a struggle. That is until Kyle Nakamura and Montrell Thigpen created the Hungry Coug app on Feb. 7.

The Hungry Coug app allows you to track the amount of dining points you have, alongside how many you should have for any dining plan. This means that you no longer have to guess if you have enough points, nor worry about spending too much, because the app tells you if you are over or under.

Hungry Coug is available on the App Store (iOS) and the Google Play Store (Android) for free. It has 831 downloads as of March 3. It only takes a couple minutes to install and set up, just logging in with your APU email and password.

“I think that the Hungry Coug app is very useful,” Garrett Davis said, a freshmen Christian Ministries major. “There was no way for me to keep track before the app.”

Davis said that he’s been cutting back on how many dining points he’s been spending, thanks to the app.

As well as tracking how many dining points you have, it has the dining hours of all restaurants on campus. This means you never have to walk to Mexicali at 9 p.m. only to find out it’s closed, just conveniently pull it up on your phone.

The last feature is a menu for each dining venue. It just takes a second to pull up and it has all the nutrition information for your food.

“I’d give it a solid four stars out of five,” Davis said.

Nakamura, a junior computer science major, started working on the app in April 2016.

“I spent my entire summer vacation learning Apple’s new programming language, Swift, adding new features to Hungry Coug as I learned,” Nakamura said. “I spent a long time deciding on what icons to use for the restaurants and designing the user interface on my own, which was difficult since I have no formal background in graphics and UX design.”

He designed the entire app for iOS by himself; however, he turned to a friend, Montrell Thigpen, to create the same app for Android. Thigpen, also a junior computer science major, had more experience with Android apps.

“He created the entire Android app based on my design, and we have been building the app together for the past month,” Nakamura said.

With no previous experience in app design whatsoever before starting Hungry Coug, Nakamura learned from an online design course called Udemy.

“Hungry Coug started as a way for me to practice my programming skills since this was my first iPhone app at the time,” Nakamura said. “I was motivated to create this app because of my frustration with the existing system for tracking my Dining Points and the process of checking how many points I was supposed to have in order to stay on track.

“Before Hungry Coug, I had to refer to an excel spreadsheet every day to see how many dining points I should have at any given time. My app updates and calculates everything automatically; no more spreadsheets, no more log-in screens.”

There was a brief problem between Nakamura and Thigpen with IMT, but it has since been resolved. They are now working closely with IMT to make sure the app is secure for all students.

“Feedback has been generally great. Students love it. Teachers love it. Hungry Coug is one of the hottest things on campus,” Thigpen said. “I think the best email we’ve gotten was from Shino Simmons, the Associate Dean of Students at APU, who congratulated our efforts and encouraged a partnership between Jefferey Birch (Chief Technology Officer) and James Jenson (head of IMT) on making Hungry Coug secure, fast, and reliable.”

Thigpen has previous experience in app design. He has made two other apps for Androids, including one that made it to the semifinal of Zuventures. He notes how this time was different.

“It’s really great to be working along side a real engineer. I’m excited for the future of Hungry Coug and other projects. I really hope this can illuminate the growing computer science program and its awesome instructors,” Thigpen said.