Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Newsworthiness of Clinton-Obama dogfight

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are in one of the greatest political dogfights in recent history, so every aspect of their campaigns is highly scrutinized. Even things that would perhaps not be news in virtually every other situation make big headlines (such as Obama's ex-pastor's famewhoring comments on race--I'm looking at EVERYONE who thought that didn't belong on the front page today). Newsworthy indeed is Clinton's stance on Iran and her threat to obliterate one-time-Persia if said nation takes missile-related action against Israel, a nation to which the U.S. seems to have an unassailable alliance.

This lends more credence to the theory of the continuous Bush-Clinton political dynasty in the White House if Clinton should be elected, since her stance on Israel v Iran is remarkably similar to that of President Bush Part Deux (boy, he'll hate it if he found out I put a French word next to his name). Obama has accused Clinton of emulating the Republican president to very non-committal rebuttals from the New York Senatrix. -- Justin

The impacts of this continuous battle between the historically-important candidates (pigmentation and chromosomes go a long way toward rewriting certain encyclopedia entries) are various, but one thing is for certain: Conflict breeds interest. An Associated Press survey found that over 3.4 million new voters have registered for the 2008 election, including (per the AP story on the survey) noteworthy spikes among women and blacks. Theoretically, this would be a boon for Clinton or Obama in at least some estimation, but if the candidates continue to fight in such vitriolic fashion, voters could become disenchanted and either not vote or begin supporting another candidate. -- Justin

Monday, May 5, 2008

Bolles' killer to stay in prison

Not sure how many of you saw this, but one of the three people tied to the murder of Arizona Republic reporter Don Bolles applied, and then was denied, clemency.
Max Dunlap's plea on the grounds of poor health was denied Friday morning by the Arizona Board of Executive Clemency. He is 78 years old and won't be eligible for parole for another six years.

While hearing about an old guy rotting away in jail make me feel bad, reading the detailed stories about Bolles and the thoughts of his daughters today make me quickly lose all sympathy. Also seeing how much the whole thing means to people at the Republic (they ran a big B1 package the day before the hearing) makes me feel even less sorry. I knew the story of Bolles, and like many of you, walk by the posters of the Cronkite School's in-depth on his murder several times a week. Yet, I didn't know the gruesome detail of him remaining alive 11 days after his car exploded as he had three limbs removed. And though it's not a situation any of us would ever want to encounter, I must say that it's admirable that Bolles did such good work that people would want to take his life.

Republic story

Sportswriting showdown

Last week on sportscaster Bob Costas' HBO show, "Costas Now," there was a heated debate about the affect of blogs on sportswriting between Pulizter-Prize winning writer Buzz Bissinger and Will Leitch, the editor of deadspin.com, the Internet's top sports blog. Thought sports blog have often been credited with being obnoxious annoying, on this show it was Bissinger who came across as the angry, classless person. And even though he also wrote "Friday Night Lights," I have to say Bissinger is out of touch and wrong. Blogs in a certain way are becoming part of the fabric that makes up a writer.

Enjoy the footage...

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Getting Personal

Upon finishing JMC 366: Ethics and Diversity, our final assignment was to write our own codes of ethics. I thought this was kind of a cheesy assignment at first. Everyone knows the ethics. I recommend checking SPJ.org or RTNDA.org, if you haven’t already, for a couple of solid codes of ethics.
But, because I want to graduate this week, I went ahead with the task of writing my own personal code of ethics. I drew mostly from the standard codes of ethics and philosophers we had studied throughout the semester.
I had a really good time with it because it allowed me to explore and accentuate what I deem to be most important of the conventional wisdom and to expand on my own observations. I think it was a valuable reflection. I would correct some parts of it already, but I still think it was interesting.
I think, as editors ourselves (and reporters are the most important editors of their stories), we are the gatekeepers of ethics. Below I’ve pasted my code of ethics. I encourage everyone to try it as a drill.

The Quigley Society of Journalists (QSJ) believes that an informed, educated society is the true path to social justice, the revival of democracy and the avoidance of tyranny.

***Aggressively and Courageously Pursue Truth and Report it as Aggressively and Courageously as It Is Sought
* Never omit information that is relevant to the understanding of the facts.
* Seek new areas of truth, such as new sources or angles that others may have missed.
* Never lie or accept a lie as truth. Check sources’ statements for accuracy, as well as your own.
* Do not be afraid to alienate sources with tough questions.
* Report all information relevant to a story no matter how disgusting or disheartening the information may be to the public.
* Never withhold information because it may insight a negative reaction, such as alienating the public or motivating criminal acts. The public chooses how it reacts to stories. The truth is always the truth. It is not our duties to be protectors or law enforcers.
* Always provide context to stories that helps the public understand the relevance and importance of information that could be repulsive or confusing.
* Be transparent to sources and the public. Anonymous sources and undercover work should only be used when it provides the public with vital knowledge not otherwise attainable. All methods, reasoning and products of such practices should be divulged to the public when such information is no longer a detriment to the story. All information acquired in these manners should be provably true.

***Be Completely Independent
* Do not let editors, managers or other bosses dictate a message if accuracy would be sacrificed.
* Do not let the public’s emotions guide a story if it does not increase accuracy.
* Do not be afraid to quit an outlet that does not uphold your values.
* Never heed threats or take bribes or gifts of any sort unless there is an immediate danger of the loss of life.
* Never look at a source, such as a law enforcement officer, government or military officer or any other person, as someone to whom you owe allegiance or subordination. Journalists are observers.

***Be Part of a Diverse Community
* Keep an open mind. An independent journalist is not afraid to change his/her own – or accept others’ – perceptions. Cooperation, negotiation and argument that uphold or enhance accuracy of stories or the codes in this document are essential to our field.
* Treat everybody with honesty and respect.
* Find the humanity in every story.
* Include diverse views of the meanings of information from experts and other members of the community.
* Cover diverse ethnic and cultural issues and use diverse sources in ordinary contexts where diversity is not the issue.
* Include all stakeholders in decision-making.
* Avoid using sources who are trying to block members of the community from accessing others. For example, call the company president rather than a crafty PR officer or other gatekeeper hired to stonewall or deceive.

Breaking the Rhythm

I was reading a very good story in this morning’s paper about two families brought together by an organ transplant. I don’t usually read too many of the long, mushy features, but I built a rhythm with this one. It was a touchy subject, and I enjoy reading how reporters handle those. This one was handled very well. However, about midway through the second column of a four-column by 8-inch jump, I stumbled. The sentence read: “He had been in three comas and, without a transplant, had only months to live without a transplant.”
As reader, this is just the kind of trip-up that usually makes me to stop reading. It doesn’t nullify the effort by the reporter, but it’s almost like I need that rhythm to keep my attention, so I move on. This time I finished the story because it was that good. The point, however, is that everyone agrees that lying or other dishonest practices are the worst that someone can do in our field, but bad editing is also a prominent threat to credibility. Luckily, most reputable newspapers and reporters build credibility over time that makes these slip-ups tolerable. After all, one paper can publish hundreds of stories in a week. As Billy Joel says, “You’re only human,” (He actually messed up in the studio recording of the song and kept the fumble in).
But such editing mistakes are something to think about in a world where formats and audiences are rapidly changing, and it will be up to us to build those new senses of credibility.

Where in the World is Janet Cooke?

Well, I don’t have much more than Christopher on the search for old “Cook-it-up” Janet Cooke. I decided to check on some background-check Web-sites, and though I was too poor to buy the reports, supposedly there are recent records of her in Toledo, Ohio, which is promising because it’s her home town. There is also a record in Ann Arbor, Mich. I am pretty sure it is the correct Janet Cooke because of an eerily detailed profile of her background that I have pasted below as a quote, since it’s so short. I had read, however, that she made up going to Vassar, so I don't know how accurate all of the information is. However, I was able to confirm that my Janet Cooke did have the relatives listed.
I tried to call the Washington Post to see if they have kept tabs on her, but no one called me back.
If you want to check your friends' (or sources') Arizona criminal records, check out the Arizona Supreme Court Web site: http://www.supreme.state.az.us/publicaccess/notification/search.asp

If they do produce the Cooke movie, will you all watch it?

Father: Stratman Cooke

Mother: Loretta Cooke
Sister: Nancy (younger)
Boyfriend: Mike Sager (ex)
Husband: Joe Phillips (div.)
High School: Maumee Valley Country Day School, Toledo, OH (1972)
University: Vassar College
University: BA, University of Toledo

The Washington Post 1979-81
The Toledo Blade
Bloomingdale's counter clerk
Pulitzer Prize for Feature Writing for "Jimmy's World" (1981), voluntarily returned
Risk Factors: Asthma, Dyslexia

as written on http://www.nndb.com/people/679/000115334/

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Are we a bunch of 'incognizant racists?'

I recently read a book called, White News: Why Local News Program Don’t Cover People of Color by Don Heider. In the context of two local, state-coverage news stations – one in Albuquerque, N.M. and the other in Honolulu ¬– Heider explains that news programs often fall into a cycle of “incognizant racism” when covering non-white races and ethnicities. That is to say, they are not openly racist, but still perpetuate stereotypes, sometimes without even realizing it. For his study Heider goes to the local news stations were he observes and interviews many different levels and races of newsroom employees and non-white viewers and community members. In Honolulu, Heider observes coverage of native Hawiians, Samoans and Asian-Americans, and in Albuquerque, he does the same for mostly Native Americans, but also Hispanics.
Heider finds is that the coverage of these “people of color” is almost always in the contexts of crime and ethnic festivals. Heider also finds that when coverage of important issues to these ethnicities does occur, it is usually from the points of view of the most eccentric and vocal activists.
Geography, Heider says, also isolates the coverage of ethnicities because, though their communities are within reasonable distances from the news outlets, they are often perceived as being far away, due to their isolation and exclusively ethnic populations. The perceptions that crimes occur unchecked in a lot of those areas add to the problem..
History – and reporters’ lack of knowledge of it – join into Heider’s theory. When covering ethnic communities, such as Indian reservations, reporters often know nothing about the history, culture or customs of the people they are covering. How can they portray anything essential to a culture, if they know nothing about its historical context or overall significance?
Heider writes that research and building relationships with these communities are the first steps toward solving this issue.
Another of Heider’s observations is that decision-makers are almost all white, if not male. All of the news, no matter how diverse the writing staff or anchor desk might be, funnels through less than a handful of people with their own agendas.
I have been taking a look around, and I have seen relatively few people darker than I (not counting my legs). How many do see?
How do Heider’s scenarios play out in coverage of ethnic groups in our state?
If you get a chance, the book is a good read. It has a lot to offer, even if you consider yourself culturally aware. A lot of us know it’s happening, Heider tells the how and why. And because of the places Heider chooses to observe, it a refreshing break from the same-old black/white, Latino/white examples. But it’s also clear to how it applies to any people of color.
It’s also only about a hundred pages long. I read it in a day, and I’m a slug.

Heider, Don. White News: Why Local Programs Don’t Cover People of Color. Lawrence
Erlbaum and Associates, Inc., 2000.