Wednesday, February 27, 2008

News is a Conversation

Rebuilding Trust: What Newsrooms Are Doing details several strategies by the Spokesman-Review to restore trust and confidence in its publication.

One new tactic is meeting with the public at a local library to allow readers to give input on the paper's new ethics policy. The following are the most significant suggestions the public made at the last meeting:

-When the facts change materially as a story evolves, we should report the ultimate facts as conspicuously as the original.

-Reporters should not be allowed to bully a source into revealing information, especially when the source is not sophisticated.

-When there is very little new to report in an ongoing story, the paper should not publish extended stories that are mostly rehashing background details.

The suggestion that I got a kick out of most was the one from older readers suggesting that the newspaper "replace its photographs with line drawings and lithographs."

Another feature is The Transparent Newsroom, an online component with 10 blogs and live video streaming of daily newsroom meetings to help the public understand better the work journalism entails. An Ask the Editors facet is also included.

The most significant element that runs through all of these tactics is more reader involvement. Newspapers provide a public service, and it is to our benefit to listen to what our customers want, within reason. Sometimes, it can be hard to balance the interests of readers and the paper. Changing pictures to line drawings would diminish the paper's appearance and hurt the paper's ability to draw readers (especially younger ones, who may or may not be future subscribers) into a story. However, the suggestion that we report facts clearly is an essential part of conveying information successfully. Graphics can aid greatly with this, especially if stories have numbers that could be better displayed in a chart.

As a consumer of news, I also appreciate the Ask the Editor feature. The New York Times often has similar programs. This week, you can ask the graphics editor questions. Once, people could ask reporters in Iraq about their experiences there, which I found particularly informative. This direct communication is helpful since it lets the reader know they are being heard, thus allowing them to build more confidence in what a publication is doing.

Newspapers aren't taking digital age seriously?

I found this article on Romenesko. The author basically says that newspapers are falling further behind the curve online by understaffing digital media departments and continuing to treat their websites as afterthoughts. It brings up some pretty good points about how newspaper websites don't have the traffic-building expertise as digital pros like Google and Monster, and as a result are losing readership online. It's a battle newspapers simply can't afford to lose if they're going to survive.

I bring it up because The Arizona Republic is currently in the process of redesigning Azcentral and revamping the way Azcentral is programmed. I don't know for sure how the new system will work, but I can say that it apparently becomes more user-friendly (no manual HTML coding necessary) which should allow online producers and other staff members to upload content faster and with less possibility for error. They also get online editors into budget meetings and they help plan coverage alongside the print guys, giving input on how the website could enhance stories with multimedia packages such as embedded videos, slideshows, and even maps pinpointing where something happened.

It's interesting to see these changes happening. I think one advantage that Azcentral or any other state or county newspaper has over sites like Yahoo and Google is its local appeal. Arizona readers will go to Azcentral before other more popular news sites because they know they can find local stories that affect them. When Azcentral tries to go with big national news instead, it loses that appeal. People will go to CNN or MSNBC for election coverage, or ESPN for Super Bowl coverage, unless we can find a way to introduce an element to that coverage that those other sites don't have. For the election, maybe it's message boards where people can talk about the candidates and issues. For the Super Bowl, maybe it's photos or blogs that cover the event from the ground level. It's all about providing something that people can't get anywhere else. That will be the key to driving traffic as newspapers attempt to catch up to the online giants.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Fair headline?

A former editor of mine used to call using a headline like "Crumbling campaign" an act of sandbagging the subject -- and I agree. I don't care that there's an "analysis" label on the page: the effect that headline has on the reader is immediate, and it conveys a statement of fact, not opinion, in the reader's mind.

Power of a hed...

So there I was, pulling pages for Monday's class (we'll be talking about layered centerpieces) when I came across this page. "Yuckfest" -- how could I resist? And look at that slug in the pic! So while the page isn't particularly well designed, it did at least part of its job: it pulled me in. So here's to overgrown worms and cool heds.

Removing Online Comments

As editors, we are faced with the everyday dilemma of what is right and what is wrong? When we publish an article that is controversial, there is always someone who has to comment. Sometimes those comments go too far and offend other readers who are reading your newspaper or the newspaper's web site.

Sure feedback is good, but not when it causes a word war that could seriously end up hurting some people. Are we restricting free speech when we take these comments in forums off of our web site.

Poynter took this case into hand several months ago in a centerpiece that it did.

We also need to address the often challenging realities of publishing on the Web, including:

* Publishing in an electronic environment that can be accessed by anyone, virtually in perpetuity, is quite different from broadcasting a story once or publishing it on newsprint that eventually disintegrates.

* Limited resources (staff and otherwise) sometimes makes it impossible for us to resolve disputes involving a topic we addressed some months or years ago.

* Seeking justice for all stakeholders is a publishing standard to which we aspire but acknowledge we can't always meet.

So when do comments cross the line?

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Maybe he should apologize for bad grammar, too

This is from today's Romenesko:
Medill Dean John Lavine tells students and faculty he's sorry he used poor judgment. "I used a quote from a student in a letter I wrote in the Spring 2007 issue of Medill without naming the student. I should have asked permission to use the student's name with their comment about the IMC 303 class."

I added the boldface. Sigh.

Lab hours

Stauffer A232 has Macs and all the software we use in class. Open lab hours are Tue/Thu from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and 4:30 to 9 p.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. On Saturdays, bring your ASU ID and call the lab for someone to open the building doors. 480.965.7548. Don't forget that the public labs outside Stauffer have the software we use, too. You can access the J-server from Macs in Coor. Use the IP number that's listed over on the right rail of this blog (also in your syllabus).

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Spelling 101

I would think the first rule of editing is spell names correctly. However, it has been reported that very important presidential candidates have their names spelled incorrectly on a daily basis. One would think that if a word is going to be misspelled, though none should be, it would not be something as important as a name. These individuals who are making such crucial mistakes should have taken JMC 201 here. They would have been the students who received Es.
Too see the exact numbers and other commonly misspelled names visit The date of the post is 2/11/2008.

High school journalism at its finest

I just happened to StumbleUpon this and found it pretty funny. It reminded me a lot about my days on my high school paper -- but more importantly, the errors and content are just hysterical. I know my high school stuff was nothing to get excited over, but at least I never defeated a point I was trying to make with how poorly I wrote.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Picnic or dog fight? Semantics?

On Reuter's "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly" -- which posts reader complaints regarding articles or photos with errors and then corrects/apologizes/clarifies them -- one post regarding a blast in Afghanistan claimed the victims were at a picnic in the cutline when in fact they were at a dog fight.

The following complaint was fairly scathing:

They were not picnicing, they were murdering dogs. I hope you get your priorities straight, I usually rely on you for my news.

Chris F.

This error, which seems all too common, reminded me a lot of the reports right after Hurricane Katrina of a black person "looting" and a white person "scavenging." But at least Reuters puts their errors out there.

The G, B and U blog

Sports Journalism Jumping the Gun?

I am a huge sports fan and watch a lot of ESPN. A big story in the sports world lately has been the ongoing saga to get Jason Kidd traded from the New Jersey Nets to the Dallas Mavericks. The media portrayals that happened with this trade have happened lately with a lot of things in the news, especially in sports. ESPN wanted so badly to report the story first, they reported that the trade was official before it actually was. It was all over ESPN and on, and they were already interviewing players to get their thoughts on the trade. The reporters kept saying "their sources" were sure that the trade would get done and everything else was just a formality. Well, as it turns out, the initial trade didn't go through for a couple of different reasons. This doesn't so much bother me as the fact that ESPN doesn't seem to care when their reporting is wrong. They just came out the next day reporting that the trade hadn't gone through, without mentioning how they were wrong, leaving fans scratching their heads.

I guess my biggest problem is that there no longer seems to be accountability for these reporters. We are always taught to double- and triple-check our sources to make sure that the information we publish is correct; however, when you look at situations such as this, these people are constantly publishing things that are wrong. We are always told that the one thing a journalist needs to keep is their credibility. But are these people not still considered "experts" even after they're wrong? It just seems like in the "real world" reporting false information isn't such a big deal, as long as you come out later and correct yourself.

The last word ... period.

As further proof of the charming punctuation snobbery of New York City — and a sequel to my previous post about the semicolon — check out this old essay by comedian and author Steve Martin in The New Yorker. The title is clever: "Times New Roman Announces Shortage of Periods." He laments the demise of the period and offers ways around its usage with question marks, colons, ellipses and various other period-avoiding tactics.

What it all boils down to is this: you are not confined to any set system of punctuation.

Suns to play game outdoors

The Phoenix Suns announced that they will play an exhibition game against the Denver Nuggets outdoors in October of this year. This is a great idea. And the NBA could use it. Sports that are played outdoors bring a different atmosphere to the game.
Roasting in the bleachers at a baseball game in the summer or chanting "Defense!" with tens of thousands of other fans in a frigid football game in Decmber in Buffalo.
TNT who will broadcast the game will definitely benefit from this rare event. When the NHL played an outdoor game on New Year's Day this past January, the ratings NBC drew were the highest an NHL game received since February of 1996. Fans can relate to a game play outdoors as most fans after high school play at their local parks opposed to a buffed hardwood floor. Instead of pending court dates for crooked referees and debating questionable moves by NBA higher-ups fans will be able to look forward to something different.
(Posted for Scott.)

Punctuation appreciation; the semicolon smiles

Only in New York would a rather mundane ad hanging high in a subway car get press because of its use of punctuation. New York City residents outrank us Phoenicians in style, culture, music, nightlife and now grammar. Here's the story; it appears — where else? — in the New York Times. The article illuminates why many writers compose sentences sans semicolons; most never learned how to use one. Son of Sam killer David Berkowitz, the article says, could use semicolons with perfection, but most Americans are unfamiliar with the punctuation.

As a refresher, use one somewhat like a comma; usually a semicolon provides a different kind of pause, though. The AP Guide to Punctuation suggests a semicolon provides a shorter pause than a period, but a longer pause than a comma. It also suggests to use them sparingly, calling the stacked period-comma "too formal" for most readers. "It can subdue a blizzard of commas," the guide goes on.

Going back to the article: it blames the further demise of the semicolon on e-mail and texting. And in this modern age it usually isn't used for anything more than a wink — ;)

Monday, February 18, 2008


There are a number of copy editing jobs being outsourced to India too... just take a look at this Web site:

New York Times to lay off 100 people from newsroom

The New York Times has recently announced that it will cut 100 people from its newsroom in the forms of layoffs and buyouts and by not filling spots that have emptied up. This is just part of a pattern of newspapers who are either cutting back or laying off editors (a lot of the time, copy editors...) due to the increasing pressures of the media market.
I don't know how many of us are planning on going into the reporting avenue or the editing avenue, but regardless, these layoffs are only likely to get worse as the Web continues its popularity with how people get their news.
What can we as students do to prepare ourselves and make ourselves marketable for a job? I'm not sure there's a clear-cut answer to that, but I can only hope that the market improves sometime soon... (not likely).

Bored Editing Student

Editing practice outside the classroom!

One student brought his talents to work, altering a restaurant sign before his shift, said Doug Fisher, the student's teacher.

We should take a hint and eliminate editing errors from our c0mmunity.

Dumb and Dumber: Are Americans Hostile to Knowledge?

This article in today’s New York Times discusses the seemingly popular trend towards anti-intellectualism, which is described in Susan Jacoby’s book “The Age of American Unreason.” It brings to mind the role of journalists as informers of the public, but what if the public doesn’t care?

I found this statistic particularly disturbing: “…a 2006 National Geographic poll that found nearly half of 18- to 24-year-olds don’t think it is necessary or important to know where countries in the news are located. So more than three years into the Iraq war, only 23 percent of those with some college could locate Iraq, Iran, Saudi Arabia and Israel on a map.”

I’m not a wiz at geography, but I think it’s our job as global citizens to be more aware of our world, and not just what immediately affects us. I guess it also speaks to the importance of graphics to show readers where these stories are happening, since I doubt most would bother to look it up if they’re just browsing the paper or the Internet.

The article also mentions preoccupation with infotainment and the “pervasive culture of distraction.” Hard news and newspapers in general are struggling for competition amid new gadgets and media. I think it’s a problem if your sole source of information is “Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?” but how do you make people want to be more aware?

Sunday, February 17, 2008

AP video you can embed -- and note the context given in this Kosovo independence story

As you know, AP is a "membership" organization, meaning those who join share their content, with some restrictions. I am fascinated that AP is now offering embedable video -- meaning there are no restrictions and no fees associated with its distribution. And I was delighted how much explanation -- some backstory, actually -- is included in this short piece to bring people at least somewhat up to speed on what happened and in what context.

Journalism and Blogs

As a class, we are all partaking in the blog entry phase. Whether it be photo, broadcast, print or even public relations, we are all journalists in some sense. Here are few tips on how journalists can use blogs as a stepping stone to becoming better writers.

Get out there.
Make a list of your connections, e-mail them your URL, and then impress them. Use strong writing and interesting subjects to make a good first impression with users.

Provide unique material. See what's already out there and provide content that satisfies a need not being met already.

Create a series that could be useful to a specific audience. He suggests for a medical blog a series like "If I have (enter illness this here), then I should do (enter recommendations here)." Create weekly posts filling in the blank with different topics. After several posts, you'll likely have a robust resource that could climb higher in the Google's page rankings.

Post frequently. When users come to your blog and find something new, they'll find there's a reason to keep checking back for more.

Here is more on this column posted by Ellyn Angelotti:

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Northwestern dean responds

via the Chicago Tribune...

John Lavine, 67, told the Tribune on Wednesday that the quotes "came from real people," though he couldn't recall whether they were provided by e-mail or during face-to-face conversations.

He defended his use of anonymous quotes by drawing a distinction between a news story and a "letter" to alumni in a magazine.

"Context is all-important. I wasn't doing a news story. I wasn't covering the news," Lavine said. "When I write news stories, I am as careful and thorough about sources as anyone you will find. ... This is not a news story. This is a personal letter."

Lavine said he takes notes in a reporter's notebook when he meets with students and also receives student feedback by e-mail, but he said he couldn't provide the e-mails because they had been deleted.

"It never dawned on me that I would have reason to keep them," he said.

"I am not about to defend my veracity," he later said.,0,5864109,full.story

- Wow, is this guy feeling the heat or what? But it's for good reason. In the dean's case, he is the leader of a journalism school, a renowned one at that, and should always exhibit the methods and ethics that are preached to his students, regardless if it's a letter or news story that is being published. If it's an alumni magazine, that means it's being sent to a host of journalist, who would expect to nothing but professionalism from their former school. To me the dean looks like a hypocrypt, not to mention I side with those against the curriculum change he implemented that requires journalism students to learn about advertising and marketing. There is a wall of division between the newsroom and advertising in the professional world so why is it being blurred at the educational level?

Journalists' Valentines

The winners are in! Make sure to check them out.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

J-school student calls out dean

A columnist at the Daily Northwestern called out the dean of the Medill journalism school, one of the top J-schools in the country, for fabricating a quote for the school's alumni magazine. Click on the headline above for a link of the story or read below.

At first mention, it sounds like a pretty gutsy move by the student to call his dean a liar, but if you read towards the bottom of the story it explains how the student went about investigating what he believed before putting it in print. Bang up job by him to do his homework. I found this via Romenesko so hopefully we'll hear if the dean has a response.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Why we're all really in it...

I stumbled upon this while doing other work for another journalism class. 

I can't exactly disagree- I mean, how many times have you sat at the computer all day at work "researching ideas?"

Monday, February 11, 2008

Shaq coming to Phoenix not so bad

A lot of people are wondering whether Shaq coming to the Valley of the Sun is a good thing. The 7-foot-1 phenom has taking the nation by storm and now has created a stir in our own Phoenix.

For many, the trade seems to be something gone horribly wrong. Trading a young all-star forward for an old injured center seems like a bad deal to just about anybody. But for me, it is the greatest thing in the world.

As a member of the media, having Shaq come into is awesome. Gone are the days of Shawn Marion's one liners of "you know what I'm saying." In comes the hilarious and unpredictable O'Neal, who is probably the most entertaining figure in all of sports. People in the media will eat what he has to say up.

Valentine's Day Short Writing contest

Roy Peter Clark at Poynter is running a contest. Here are his rules:
You will be limited to three lines of text (one or two is acceptable), and a total of 10 characters, as in "Hubba hubba!"

You may enter in any one of three categories (or all three):

Journalism love: "Nice Lede!"
Presidential candidate love (or hate): "Huck - a - bee."
Or generic love or lust (rated PG-13, please): "My space?"
The winner in each category will receive one of the new paperback editions of the book "Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer."

For more info on how to enter (tight deadline on this one), go to his column at Poynter.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Backstory schedule for presentations

Wednesday, March 19
Leah: Ethnic and political unrest in Kenya
Matt: Electing a U.S. president in 2008
Monday, March 24
Amanda: Rising health care costs
Chris: Benazir Bhutto assassination and the current situation in Pakistan
Monday, March 31
Jacki: The sub-prime mortgage crisis
Love: Texting-while-driving laws
Wednesday, April 2
Michael: North Korea and nuclear capabilities
Scott: Continuing famine and malnutrition in Darfur
Monday, April 7
Jeff and Justin: Human growth hormone: not just a sports issue
(Need to divide the topic ahead of time so you’re each responsible for one aspect.)
Wednesday, April 9
Kimberly: Super Bowl coverage resources and issues
Dan: Turmoil in Chad
Monday, April 14
Steven: Pollution, Beijing and the Olympics
Shannon: Who is Hugo Chavez?

Note: You may switch times with each other, but you need to let me know at least a few days ahead of time. Thanks.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Vintage Emergency Cheese

"Mike Huckabee on YouTube" is an example of what I was telling you about in class. This is one of James Kotecki's earlier videos -- complete with a pencil puppet. If you need a memory jog, James does video commentary on now, which was where you saw him in class.

Pats steamed over Spygate story's timing

"I just talked to one of my Patriots sources who said several members of the organization were furious with the timing of the report in the Boston Herald indicating a club representative filmed the Rams' final walkthrough before the 2001 Super Bowl." -'s Matt Mosley

I thought this was an interesting ethical issue to look at. The Boston Herald chose to release the controversial report right before the Patriots played probably the biggest game in the history of the franchise. Naturally it created an unwanted distraction for the team and they were upset about it. And obviously the Patriots went on to lose the game. Should the Boston Herald have held off?

I don't think so. The problem is that there will never be a "good time" for the Patriots to deal with these accusations. Had the Patriots won the Super Bowl and the Herald waited to publish afterwards, the Pats would have complained that the timing put a cloud over their celebration in an attempt to cheapen their undefeated accomplishment. Had the Herald waited even longer and allowed the Pats to celebrate, it would be damaging its own credibility by holding the report for so long. And the Pats would probably still be upset because the off season is a very busy time for teams to revamp their rosters.

Also, this issue had been following the Patriots all season after they were caught filming the Jets in their opening game. The story may have been a new development, but questions about the Pats' integrity were going on long before.

I think it's just a good example of the media playing its watchdog role. People might say this is just a game, and the spying only results on the outcome of a game. But it's not just a game; it's big business. There's a lot of money involved in the NFL, and if there is foul play going on (especially the league commissioner destroying evidence) it needs to be rooted out. One of the media's purposes is to expose wrong doing.

Reporting the primaries

It's 12:30 a.m. and I'm still at the AP bureau in Phoenix. I just finished reporting the presidential primary voting results for Maricopa County. It was quite the rush - not so much the part about incessantly clicking the refresh page on the county recorder's Web site, but being the first source of information for news outlets across the country.

My task was task to monitor the Maricopa county recorder's Web site and retrieve election results as they were updated. We read digits straight off the screen. My only immediate accuracy check was the person on the other line at the AP Elections Center, who repeated the numbers back to me. I had a contact down at the Arizona secretary of state's office in case something went wrong, but everything flowed smoothly. It took four hours for 100 percent of Maricopa's 397 precincts to report results. Pima County's results still are not available in full.

Arizona was an easy call for Clinton and McCain, though I was again reminded of the danger of making an early decision when AP had to recall their race results for Missouri. Originally, they stated Clinton as the winner, but then Obama pulled ahead for the victory. Reporting too early in an effort to be the first comes with the danger of being wrong and thus eroding credibility. Back in the 2004 presidential race, the AP was lauded for holding its tongue on calling the winner of Florida, while other news outlets went ahead with calling inaccurate results.

All in all, a rewarding experience.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A journalist's right to vote

I was reading this morning and came across this article talking about whether journalists should vote in the primary elections. While I realize that this is an issue of conflicts of interest in specific beat reporting, I thought Kelly McBride made an interesting point when he quoted Denver Post editor Greg Moore, saying, "He said he would not prohibit folks from attending, but that he would prefer they hold back."

Is this something we, as student journalists, should start doing even now, in our formative years? This is personally the first time I'll be voting in an election (the last time there was a presidential election, I was still in high school), and I want to milk it for all its worth ... but as a journalist, albeit a student journalist, is voting and political affiliations something I need to be worrying about even now? I know that many of my j-school peers are publicly involved in Young Democrats and College Republicans; is that something they shouldn't be doing right now either? What kind of line is there to be drawn for people who are in the field, but not yet in the field?

Read the whole article here:

Here's another link to the Denver Post thing:

Saturday, February 2, 2008

No Wikipedia for French reporters

Here's an interesting story from London about how the Agence France-Presse, the oldest press agency in the world surpassing even AP and Reuters, is now barring its reporters from using Facebook and Wikipedia as sources. I couldn't find any rules that were issued by US papers to their reporters, but I'm sure they exist and are probably fairly common. The two sites are classified under virtual sources, which many papers have written rules and ethics codes about. This story came out just this year, which makes me wonder what took them so long to decide since Wikipedia has become so popular.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Another for the "wrong pronoun" file

"The differences between Barack and I pale in comparison to the differences that we have with the Republicans," Clinton said.
Ack! Ack! Ack! Not that a misused "I" bothers me at all...