Category Archives: journalism standards

Proof Journalism STILL Matters

Journalism matters.

Journalists are still working to hold those in power accountable for their actions. They are still “giving voice to the voiceless,” as the Society of Professional Journalists Code of Ethics prescribes.

For anyone who doubts that, take a look at the New York Times story on a sexual complaint at Hobart and William Smith Colleges and the changes it is causing.

Case in point: A group of U.S. Senators from BOTH political parties have agreed on at least one thing — Something has to change. Colleges need to be held accountable for how they handle sexual assault complaints. There should never be another Anna, the name of the gang rape victim in the Times story.

The bill the senators have proposed includes requirements for sexual assault investigations and financial punishments for colleges who fail to follow the rules. 

If you have yet to read the Times story, I urge you to do so for two reasons: It is good journalism and it is written by Walt Bogdanich, a multiple Pulitzer Prize winner.  I wouldn’t be surprised if he won a fourth Pulitzer Prize for his work on this story.

I’m going to be using this story as an example in my journalism classes. Old school journalism — interviews, records, verification and story-telling — still make a difference today. Just ask Anna.

 

SCOTUS Coverage Mistakes Point to Bigger Issues


By now, almost everyone has heard about the big “goofs” on CNN and Fox News today. And no, I don’t mean Wolf Blitzer and Bill O’Reilly.

Erroneously broadcasting what the Supreme Court ruled did not happen only because CNN and Fox raced to be first with the decision. It happened because the people “reporting” the decision probably shouldn’t have been in that position.

Repeatedly CNN’s reporters and anchor referred to getting the news from a “producer” inside the Supreme Court. I have to wonder about that producer’s background. Was that person REALLY the best person to do the job? Anyone who has taken a law class knows that summarizing a Supreme Court decision is rarely — if ever — easy. One cannot simply read or listen to a few graphs on the first page (or even pages) and grasp the answer. Yet it is difficult not to think that that is precisely what CNN and Fox News did today when covering today’s court decision. We need journalists who are educated and know how to cover their beats. J-School 101: It’s more important to be right that first. You would never see NPR’s Nina Totenberg making this mistake.

I’m not blaming the producer(s) for this either. They probably shouldn’t have been there to begin with, but that’s not their call. I blame a pervasive media system in which the bottom line financially trumps everything, including getting the story right. Experienced, qualified reporters who would not make this mistake cost money. And they may not know social media like Twitter. But they would have gotten the story right and saved companies embarrassment.

I would like to believe that newspapers would not have made a mistake like this. (Yes, I know about Dewey vs. Truman.) When CNN got it wrong, I turned to nytimes.com and got accurate information. Newspapers are more likely to have beat reporters who understand how to cover their stories. With all the job cuts newspapers have faced, there can’t possibly be as many beat reporters as there once were. But at least there are some.

We need good journalists. Period. The CNN/Fox News “mistake” is only a small preview of what’s to come if we as a culture don’t start valuing journalism.

Seminar to focus on newspaper newsrooms

Starting tomorrow, I’ll be blogging and tweeting (@marducey) from the Beyond the Newsroom Seminar being sponsored by the American Press Institute and The Poynter Institute.

The seminar focuses on ways newsrooms are tackling providing quality journalism in cash-strapped times. Speakers include author and media blogger Jeff Jarvis of Buzz Machine, and Charles Lewis of the Investigative Reporting Workshop.

I’m looking forward to learning about ideas being worked on in the newsroom trenches and to sharing that with you. I’d be remiss if I did not thank the James H. Ottaway Fellowship program for making it possible for me to attend API’s seminar.

If you are a jounajunkie like me, I encourage you to check out the American Press Institute’s offerings. In addition to opportunities to learn about the newspaper industry, the group offers a number of fellowships to make its programs accessible.

What does lack of sex assault coverage mean?

The silence is deafening.

It sounds cliche, but I can think of no other way to describe the astounding lack of local media coverage of a reported sexual assault of a College at Brockport (SUNY) student by three men. The student was walking home on a village street and assaulted, according to reports.

The college media are covering it, as you can see here. But I have yet to see any mention of it in the mainstream media that covers the area. By the way, the mainstream media are located only about a half-hour away — less if you don’t drive at peak times.

How many days have passed? FOUR.

The College at Brockport did the right thing and made its students aware of the situation with a Campus Safety Alert e-mail. Thank goodness it did, because the community certainly isn’t learning about it through the mainstream media. (In the interest of full disclosure I will tell you I teach at The College at Brockport.)

But what happened to the local mainstream media?

I started wondering how on earth they could miss this big of a story and came to only one conclusion: the impact of the job cuts in the reporting industry are showing.

The Democrat & Chronicle, the local daily newspaper for this area, cut at least 59 jobs last year alone. It’s a Gannett company, so it also instituted the now-famous job furloughs.

The TV stations, with all due respect, appear to have been pretty thinly staffed since I arrived here a year ago.

So is missing the sexual assault of a college student the only thing the mainstream media have missed? I doubt it.

My hope is that as more and more stories are missed, media companies will realize they must hire more staff.

My fear is they simply don’t care.

Quinones talks diversity with college students

John Quinones discussed diversity in the newsroom and the world.

John Quinones discussed diversity in the newsroom and the world.

He was a migrant farmer and the first in his family to go to college.

His work has helped save children around the world.

His face is familiar to many TV watchers, but his journey to network journalism may not be as well known.

John Quinones, ABC journalist of “20/20” and “Primetime” fame, spoke today to hundreds of students, faculty and community members at the Ninth Annual Diversity Conference at The College at Brockport (State University of New York). He told them that he wanted them to take one thing from what he said:

“If I could make it to network television … then anything is possible,” he said.

After hearing the story of his life and career, it is difficult not to believe him.

He spoke of his upbringing and the hard work it took to make it to the network. He said his goal was to be a good journalist and “to tell stories that reflected the Latino population of San Antonio.”

“I was a good reporter who just happened to be Hispanic,” he said.

Being fluent in Spanish helped him get a network job at ABC reporting in Central America. But he still had to work his way up the network and prove himself worthy of prime time. Along the way he has raised public awareness about poverty and injustices all over the world.

He noted that we all have biases, and we need to recognize them.

He also said that TV news is getting worse, not better, when it comes to diversity. He thinks that perhaps if more people of diverse ethnic and racial backgrounds were producers and news executives, that could change.

He urged students to work hard and not listen to those who tell them that they cannot do it.

“It’s all about shining the light on the darkest corners of the world.”

It’s difficult not to be inspired by the words and life of John Quinones.

Continuing coverage of the Buffalo crash

These aren’t stories I want to read.

However, I can’t help myself.

The Buffalo News is continuing to do an outstanding job covering the aftermath of the fatal crash of Continental Connection Flight 3407.

Case in point:  Today the News published the name and story of the final previously unnamed passenger on the doomed flight, graduate student Dipinder Sidha.

Throughout the days, weeks and months following the crash, the News did not give up on publishing the stories of those who died in that day — despite the fact the some names were not released by the airlines or, in some cases, the families.

The News’s coverage of the National Transportation Safety Board’s hearings on the flight includes stories on the event and the families, an animation of the flight’s final minutes, a live webcast of the hearings and links to NTSB reports on the crash.

It’s a multimedia treasure trove of all one might want to know about the doomed flight. It’s a great public service for all those, whether in Buffalo or elsewhere, who were gripped by the crash.

One can only hope that such public acknowledgment that the crash might have been prevented will lead to changes in training and staffing of airline pilots.

Good job, Buffalo News.

Citizen Journalism standards published

The Huffington Post has published standards for citizen journalism.

It is, in essence, some of the basics taught in Newswriting 101 classes across the nation.

Case in point:

1. MAKE SURE YOU HAVE CHECKED FOR SPELLING AND GRAMMATICAL ERRORS.

One of the items on the list, however, is something that even “professional” journalists sometimes forget to do.

4. IF YOU MAKE A NEGATIVE, FACT-BASED ASSERTION A PERSON OR ORGANIZATION, YOU NEED TO REACH THAT PERSON OR ORGANIZATION FOR COMMENT.

Just a few weeks ago, I watched a local TV newscast lead with a story on a BOCES tutor accused of having sex with a student. At no point did the reporter even mention trying to get a comment from the tutor or the tutor’s lawyer.

How does that happen?

I can guess how. You are putting together a story on deadline. Parents and school officials are easy to reach. The accused is not so easy. But that doesn’t mean journalists shouldn’t try to reach the accused and let the news audience know that.

Congrats to the Huffington Post for making its standards clear and explaining some basics of journalism to those who didn’t go to J-School but want to report. Making these processes clear can only help journalism.