Tag Archives: journalism ideals

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.

 

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.

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.

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.

Name 14-year-old accused of shooting cop?

A police officer in Rochester, NY, was shot in the head while walking away from a group that police had questioned but not arrested.  Three days later, a 14-year-old turns himself into police, according to police and judicial officials at a press conference. They did not name him during the press conference.

The child (and to me, a 14-year-old is a child, not a man) pleaded not guilty to first-degree assault and second-degree attempted murder. Although charged as a juvenile, his case is in adult court and his name was in The Democrat & Chronicle’s news story Feb. 4 and his photo was on the web site. His face and name were also all over R-News, WHEC-TVWOKR-TV and WROC-TV.

The child had been in trouble with the law before this and had not reported to the people supervising him since April 2008, according to the D&C. The D&C’s editorial board is right to ask, “How is it that a 14-year-old can go for nearly a year without reporting for adult supervision as required?”

I’m not sure, however, that the D&C and other Rochester area news media are right to use this child’s name and image. He is innocent until proven guilty and he is 14. Just because journalists have the name and image does not mean they should use them.

The shooting has been an emotional story that has gripped the Rochester, NY, region. Prayers, donations and messages of support for the police officer and his family rightfully abound.

My concern is that, after the media coverage, this child, regardless of the verdict, will never be seen as anything but an attempted cop killer. Some of the people posting reactions to today’s D&C story are already calling for the death penalty and talking as if he has been convicted. This child has already been sentenced for life.

A valiant effort

The students at the campus newspaper I advise faced a world of tech hell the past 48 hours. Their server crashed and died. Then they found out the backup server also failed. A tech guy put together a makeshift system for them and the people from the company who publish the paper said it should work for outputting the pages. Unfortunately, they were wrong.

After hours of trying to tweak and resend the pages, the editor in chief and executive editor were faced with a horrible decision. Do they put out a print edition with horrible photos and poor quality, or do they cancel the print edition and put out only an online edition?

They chose to do the online edition only. It was a hard choice, but in the end, they didn’t want to put out a bad paper. It was a decision that I think nearly broke some of their hearts.

Their experience highlights some of the best of journalism. If it was going to be bad, they wanted no part of it. They want quality. I hope these standards stick with them throughout their careers and they never settle for less.