Tag Archives: future of journalism

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.

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.

Godspeed, fellow journalists

Many, many of my fellow journalists from my days at The (Syracuse) Post-Standard are taking the buyout that was offered and going their separate ways.

I don’t blame them. The buyout includes a year’s pay to employees with at least seven years experience. Those staying are facing pay cuts of 5 to 12 percent on top of having to contribute 25 percent of the cost of their health benefits.

I realize the reality of the industry and the economy. But I feel sorry for the people of Central New York. Whether you read The Post-Standard or not, if you are a Central New Yorker, your life has been impacted by it. The journalists at The Post-Standard have monitored and held politicians accountable. They have reported the good and the bad. Now this newspaper is going to have to try to do the same work with far fewer people and with a huge loss in the institutional knowledge and local history.

Godspeed, fellow journalists.

Knight News Challenge winners may help students

Twitter is abuzz with the announcement of the 2009 winners of the Knight News Challenge, a project that funds news experiments with the goal of helping communities.

Some interesting ideas got funded — ideas that have the potential to help journalism teachers and students.

My favorite is DocumentCloud, a non-profit effort by the New York Times and ProPublica to offer an online place where the public can access and share documents. Very cool. Can you imagine the stories students can do if they can easily access documents? FOIA and FOIL requests are great, but even if you get what you want, they take a while. The DocumentCloud documents will be there for the taking, and hopefully inspire journalism students to add to the collection. What a great learning experience.

Other ideas funded also lend themselves to classroom use. Take Mobile Media Toolkit, an idea to make it easier for people to get the applications and tools needed to do reporting.

One of the things I like best about this is it has the potential to allow my journalism students to get excellent experience without having to spend a fortune. I teach at a state school, and we simply don’t have the resources that larger, private journalism schools do (and quite frankly, neither do most of our students). Thanks, Knight News Challenge and Knight Foundation, for an effort that could help many future journalists.

Applications for the 2010 Knight News Challenge start being accepted in September.

What are you still doing here? Get to work on that application! Journalism students everywhere need you. 🙂

5 Things Newspapers Could Learn from ‘Paperboy’

I recently took a walk down memory lane and revisited the 1980s arcade game Paperboy, which spawned many “remakes” and versions released for video gaming systems including some around today. Today I’d like to offer you five things newspapers could learn from that game.

  1. Get the news in your customers’ hands. Paperboy does whatever he has to do in order to get the newspaper to his customers. Avoiding pedestrians and break dancers? No problem. Zombies? No problem. Newspapers outside the game world should also go to any lengths necessary to get their news to their customers. I don’t know how newspapers can do that when they are hacking their staffs apart. There are few left to do this work.
  2. If someone does not read your newspaper, hit them over the head with it. In the 1980s arcade game Paperboy, the paperboy vandalizes the houses of non-subscribers. In other versions of the game, Paperboy receives points for getting the newspaper to hit certain targets in non-subscribers’ yards. While I’m not advocating vandalism, newspapers need to  figure out a way to get non-subscribers to see the paper. If they never look at it, they won’t buy it. And if they do look at it but can get the exact same product for free online, why pay? If you want people to pay, you have to offer them something they can’t get for free and show them it so they want it. The paper version has to have something different than online OR you have to start charging for online stories like you do the paper version.
  3. Celebrate your successes. Tell your readers (whether in print or online) what you do well. When Paperboy gets a week’s worth of newspapers delivered successfully to his customers, a banner headline pops up proclaiming this. While newspapers shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back for simply delivering the paper, they should spend more time pointing out to readers what they do well. For example, why don’t newspapers remind readers that the journalists are the public’s eyes and ears? This is simplistic, but what about the occasional reminder along the lines of this: “You’re busy. You have to juggle work, family and a million other tasks. We understand. You can’t be there, but you care. We will be there for you and tell you what you need to know. Just like we have been for decades.”
  4. If you move too slowly, you will be pushed in a direction you don’t want. When Paperboy did not move quickly enough to deliver the news, he was pushed by winds or swarms of bees. Newspapers have been slow to react to the online transition. The longer they wait, the longer they don’t take chances, the more likely they will be pushed in a direction they don’t want. It may already be too late, but I hope not.
  5. Above all, stay alive. Paperboy had to avoid everything from traffic hazards to tornadoes in order to stay alive on his delivery route and get the news in people’s hands. Newspapers have to battle financial problems that threaten to kill the industry. Paperboy did what he had to do to avoid his obstacles. Newspapers must do the same. If keeping the news organization alive requires new ways of thinking and taking chances, do it. If keeping the news organization alive means putting most of your effort into the online, not paper, version of the product, do it. If keeping the news organization alive means being different and going out on the proverbial limb all by yourself, do it. Be like Paperboy. Be brave. Or you’ll lose your job.

Newspaper boxes in museums

I took my daughter to the Strong National Museum of Play recently and noticed a couple of newspaper boxes like this in the exhibit for Sesame Street.

Museum of Play May 2009 048Five years ago, I wouldn’t have thought much of this. But today, with the current state of the newspaper industry, the sight of a newspaper box in a museum struck me as eerie. I couldn’t help but wonder if this was where newspaper boxes — and indeed, newspapers as we know them — were going to be. Not in our homes and in our hands, but in a museum exhibit.

My 4-year-old knows about newspapers. (How could she not when her mom used to work for one?) But it’s hard not to wonder if in the not-too-distant future children will be asking their parents what that box with the paper in it is when they tour exhibits like this. Five years ago, I don’t think it ever would have occurred to me that newspapers would be in the shape they are now. It’s not that much of a stretch to think that five years from now boxes like this will be gone for good — except for in museums.

Hero emerges in journalism hearings

I watched the Senate committee’s hearing on the future of journalism yesterday from my computer at work. Well, watched isn’t the right word. It was more listened to.

What struck me most about the hearings were two points:

  • The so-called “new media” folks testifying at the hearing are dreaming if they think citizen journalism can make up for having a news organization with the power and money to have reporters dedicated to stories, issues and people. (Can you image coverage of foreign affairs?) I’m not saying the news organization has to be paper based, but news organizations are essential. We can’t count on citizen journalists alone.
  • David Simon, former Baltimore Sun journalist and current Hollywood writer/producer, articulated so well what some of us print and former print journalists think. (For his full transcript click here.) One metaphor captured it precisely for me:

“The very phrase citizen journalist strikes my ear as nearly Orwellian. A neighbor who is a good listener and cares about people is a good neighbor. He is not in any sense a citizen social worker. Just as a neighbor with a garden hose and good intention is not a citizen firefighter. To say so is a heedless insult to trained social workers and firefighters.”

Thank you, David Simon. Thank you.

Best of the Blogs for Teaching Journalism

I’m starting a new occasional feature here focusing on some good reads for journalism teachers. I will be sharing these blog posts with students in my journalism and web design classes.

Gina Chen’s Open Letter to Newspapers at savethemedia. She writes about what she wants from newspapers from the perspective of a newspaper reader, not a journalist. It’s excellent.

Mark Luckie’s Why Journalists Should Learn to Code at 10,000 Words. It’s difficult for journalism students to understand why knowing HTML and CSS might give them an edge. After all, it’s the story that matters, right? Luckie does a great job of explaining why coding matters.

Erica Smith’s Multimedia Toolkit:  55 Sites You Should Know About at graphicdesgnr. This will save me hours — literally — and give me lots of cool new tools to show my students.

Thanks to all for making the life of this journalism teacher a little easier and for making classes more interesting and relevant.

Random Thoughts on a Friday

Here are some random journalism-related thoughts and notes:

A blog I love: Ted Pease’s blog, Today’s Word on Journalism. Perhaps one of my favorite posts was one of this week’s words, “fish wrap,” in which a Facebook user opines about why he reads the paper. The words Pease chooses are cleverly linked to his point, and he finds great stuff.

Good journalism: Today’s New York Times has a story on new Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand’s (D-N.Y.) past as a lawyer for tobacco giant Philip Morris. New York Gov. David Paterson appointed Gillibrand to fill Hillary Clinton’s seat. This is important information for her constituents, who had no say in her representing them, to know.

Hope: Laid off reporters and editors from The Seattle Post-Intelligencer are trying to start web sites with in-depth journalism. They are working on ways to fund the sites. God speed. We need in-depth journalism now more than ever.

Over and out: The Buffalo Newspaper Guild voted in favor of a plan that will save jobs in exchange for employee give-backs and cost savings.

“No one is happy about the numerous families hurt by The News’ cutbacks,” said Phil Fairbanks, chairman of the Guild bargaining committee on the BNG web site. “Everyone in our union sacrificed to save jobs. Our hope now is that management will do its part to put the paper on firm financial footing and avoid future layoffs.”