Category Archives: great stories

Watchdog story on the courts

A few months ago I wrote about an initiative at the Democrat & Chronicle in Rochester, NY, to have a watchdog team tackle hard issues — a prospect I was skeptical about given the job cuts and mandated time off at Gannett, the D&C’s owner.

Today, however, I must admit a watchdog story by David Andreatta on the fact that some court documents in Monroe County are never filed (as they are supposed to be) and sometimes are seen by no one but the judge, even after the case is done, is a great watchdog story.

Is it a sexy story? No.

But is it one that matters? Yes.

It’s the kind of story that newspapers need to do. They need to hold public officials accountable. My only complaint about the story is that I wish it had been a little clearer about why the average citizen should care about this. It does try. Andreatta writes:

The rules demand that all documents considered by judges be filed with the court clerk.
Yet some court papers are never filed — and therefore unavailable to the public — because they are submitted directly to judges who return them to the parties when a decision is made.

I don’t know if the average person realizes the implications of this paperwork “oversight.” How are we, the public, to judge our judges if we don’t know how they are coming to their decisions? If we can’t see all the documents, how can we tell? How would we know if anything questionable or shady went on? We have no way to judge.

Sometimes, I think in the name of objectivity, journalists miss a great opportunity to inform our audience. With all that’s going on in today’s world, people don’t always have the time to connect the dots. I think journalists need to do that for them. That’s how we can take being a watchdog to a new level.


Multiple platforms mean great journalism on crash

Like many, I’ve been following coverage of the crash of Flight 3407. And like many, I have a special interest — I live an hour from Buffalo, I lived five minutes from the crash site until six months ago, and I know many people in the Buffalo region.

To say I have been impressed with the coverage done by Buffalo journalists would be an understatement. It’s Sunday at 1:40 and the manifest with the names of those aboard Flight 3407 has yet to be released by the airline or the authorities. The Buffalo News, however, has been updating its list of victims since Friday. The list is simply a list of names now because The News has done short vignettes on the victims it knows about. But on Friday, that list inc luded a sentence or two about each victim and was updated throughout the day and night. It was powerful, personal and, it goes without saying, great reporting.

Editor & Publisher noted that “CNN cited updates from the News online reports, starting two hours after the crash.”

How did the News gather all of the information for its stories? Editor Margaret Sullivan told E & P that 50 to 75 people were working the story Friday. Some of those people came about there information the old-fashioned way:  talking to people face to face or working the phones. At least one reporter, Stephen Watson, turned to social media like Facebook and Twitter, where he issued a polite, sensitive request for any information about the victims or family of victims.

The News also did a terrific job with multimedia, putting up photos, videos, audio and slideshows of the people and the crash.

The News was not alone in its stellar coverage of this tragedy. WGRZ-TV Channel 2 in Buffalo, a Gannett company, also did superior work. The channel streamed its broadcast live Friday so those unable to get the Buffalo coverage on their TVs could see and hear what was going on. When I was watching it Friday afternoon, some 5,000 people were watching the streamed broadcast along with me. Amazing. The anchors, Jodi Johnston and Pete Gallivan, spoke directly to the web audience during commercial breaks, often reading comments that were posted online and talking about them.

I cannot close this praise of the work of Buffalo journalists without mentioning WIVB-TV‘s Lisa Flynn‘s insightful, probing questions. She asked at least five questions, all of them wonderful, at yesterday’s press conference with the National Transportation Safety Board, which was aired live here in Rochester, NY.

While I praise these journalists for all their fine work on this tragedy, I’m sure they, like us, would rather they had not had to cover this at all.

WGRZ-TV’s multimedia coverage of crash

WGRZ-TV in Buffalo has had amazing multimedia coverage of the plane crash in Buffalo that killed 50. At its site, you can watch local TV coverage live as well as get updates on everything from some of the names released to a Facebook group formed for people to come together to support one another.

When going to commercial, the anchors are continuing to talk to online viewers, addressing them directly and telling them what is coming up next. Right now, at 10:54 a.m. Friday, more than 3700 online are watching the live feed.

Education official uses own typos for good

What a great idea for a news story.

The BBC reports that England’s Schools Minister is now asking students to pay more attention to proofreading and using his own error-ridden blog as an example of why you should be careful.

I bet if education reporters in the United States looked at communication from school officials it wouldn’t be too hard to find typos and errors. Why not do a story about it?