Category Archives: newspapers

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.

Beyond the Newsroom: Blogging and Rethinking

Here are the top three ideas I left Day One of the Beyond the Newsroom seminar with: (The seminar is sponsored by the American Press Institute with The Poynter Institute.)

  • 1. Bloggers and Citizen Journalists are not the enemy. In fact, they could help strengthen newspapers’ bond with their readers and provide valuable content. So says John Wilpers, a veteran journalist who is now working as a consultant. He said journalists shouldn’t think of bloggers as replacements. Instead, think of them as covering something journalists don’t. Journalists are still needed, but so are bloggers. He noted that in his experience, some bloggers he has worked with became the best word-of-mouth advertisers for the newspaper. He convinced me.
  • 2. There are innovative journalists out there taking chances — and succeeding. Susan Goldberg, editor of The Plain Dealer, described how eight newspapers in Ohio share stories and work on projects together. What makes this surprising is these newspapers have different owners. Goldberg described how this sharing has allowed them to pay for state-wide polling and provide more depth of coverage on the state as a whole. They don’t share everything. If there is an area of competition, it remains. However, they do share stories daily and run the stories with the original bylines.
  • 3. There is not a one-size-fits-all solution for newspapers and online news providers. Butch Ward, managing director and faculty member of The Poynter Institute, noted that each organization is going to have to explore ideas and take a chance on those that might work for it. There is no easy fix to attracting readers and making money.
  • The seminar continues through Wednesday. I’ll post more highlights here later this week.

    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.

    Times media law article enlightens

    Here’s the good news: Some news organizations are not letting up on legal cases to get records and information.

    Here’s the bad news: Some are.

    Tim Arango of the New York Times wrote an excellent piece about how Hearst and the Associated Press are continuing to fight for legal records, even if it costs them.

    Unfortunately, he also writes that smaller news organizations — regional and local — have had to cut legal costs along with other costs. And the head of the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press told him that she’s hearing about hard times for media lawyers.

    I hope the Times continues to follow up on this issue. At a time when cost-cutting is the norm in the news industry, we must monitor how this cost-cutting is impacting journalism’s watchdog role.

    Kudos to the Times for doing just that.

    Media Law Case of the Week

    When is a libel threat really an attempt to muffle criticism, in particular press criticism?

    Journalists at an Italian newspaper, La Repubblica, argue that Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is trying to use his libel suit against the paper to do just that — shut up opposing voices, according to UK newspaper The Guardian.

    And what did this paper do that the Prime Minister did not like?

    La Repubblica has asked that Berlusconi answer “10 New Questions” about his relationships with several women — some of whom are reported to be prostitutes and at least one a minor.

    The Guardian reports that the Italian newspaper is trying to get 500,000 people to sign an online petition calling for press freedom by Oct. 3 and that newspaper editors in Britain, Germany, Spain and France have signed it.

    If you’d like to sign it, click here. To easily translate the petition from Italian to English, you can use Babel Fish.

    Group aims to help mid-career journalists, students

    Amy Moritz, sports reporter and blogger for the Buffalo News, was voted president-elect of the Association of Women in Sports Media recently. The Amy Moritz headshotAssociation works to promote diversity in sports media, including offering scholarship and internship opportunities. (FYI: This year’s scholarship/internship deadline for applications is Oct. 31.)

    Moritz took some time to talk to Journajunkie about ways she hopes AWSM can help both mid-career journalists and young journalists starting out and why a group like this is still needed in 2009.

    Q:  What would you like to do as president-elect?

    A: I would like to get involved in our mid-career grant program. With so many changes in the world of journalism (and public relations for that matter) many of us in our 30s and 40s are needing new skills. While there is no replacement for good writing and good reporting, the nature of HOW we tell the story is changing. And while that landscape is a bit unclear, there are ways that I feel AWSM can help its members be better equipped to use multi-media.

    Q: I see that AWSM does a lot to help students interested in sports-related communication careers. Can you tell us  a little about what you do and why?

    A: We think it’s so important to reach out to young women who want to get into sports communications, whether it be a form of journalism or public relations. In part, it’s our way of paying it forward because along the way, someone helped us out with an internship or scholarship. But also, we want to help talented young women get their foot in the door and get the experience they need. To that end, we’re working on grants to fully fund internships at media outlets as the industry feels the economic pinch and can’t afford to hire as many interns, if any at all.

    Q: What would you say to people who think and/or would argue that in 2009, we dont need a group like Association of Women in Sports Media?

    A: Just because things are better doesn’t mean that they’re good. Women still are vastly under-represented in management positions (especially as sports editors). And sadly, issues still do arise over the treatment of women in sports media. The case of Erin Andrews demonstrates that women still face barriers which can be not only detrimental to the ability to do one’s job but brings up safety issues as well.

    Q: What advice would you give journalism teachers about helping to prepare women and men for careers in sports media?

    A: Sports journalism is still journalism. The explosion of sports talk radio and various opinion and sports/entertainment shows can blur the line for students who think being loud with an opinion is the way to go. You have to have experience and credentials. Don’t succumb to the lowest common denominator. This would be the same for aspiring political journalists who watch the attack shows on cable news networks.

    At the end of the day, we’re telling stories that entertain, inform and perhaps inspire. The cliche that sport is a microcosm of society means that there are plenty of stories, and types of stories, to tell. And not all of them will be the ones that lead SportsCenter. In fact, the best ones are usually the ones that would never make SportsCenter.

    Q:  Is there anything youd like to say to journalism students or teachers?

    A: The advice I give is the same as the advice I received as a journalism student: Read as much as you can and write something every day. The medium is not as important as the ability to communicate what you have learned and observed, but take advantage of learning as many skills as possible.