Tag Archives: journalism

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.



Learn New Journalism Skills for Free, Thanks to Knight

Are you a student looking to learn more about journalism or a journalism teacher looking to update your skills?

The Knight Center for Journalism in the Americas is offering free, online classes in mobile journalism and in investigative reporting this summer. Yes, I said FREE. All you have to do is sign up here.

The investigative reporting course, Investigative Journalism for the Digital Age, recently wrapped up but is still accessible online.  I took the investigative reporting classes, and I am glad I did. Although the introductory material won’t be new to many journalism teachers, there are great tips from investigative reporters and hands-on exercises on using Excel for database reporting. The course also includes great examples to show your classes and publicly available online resources for information. I highly recommend it for students and teachers alike.

Introduction to Mobile Journalism started June 30 and runs until Aug. 3, 2014. It is not too late to enroll. Among the experts teaching the course are Robert Hernandez, whom some of you on Twitter may know as @webjournalist or through #wjchat. I’ll be signing up for this course later today.

Hope to see you on the class Facebook page or forums! Trust me, the classes are worth your time.




I’m Back: Journalism and ‘the Academy’

I took a break from this blog because I didn’t think it mattered to people, particularly some of those who had power over my tenure review and over whether I got to stay at a job I loved. I tried to focus solely on what those people thought had “value,” and my blog was clearly not one of those things.

I made a mistake.

I’m sure this situation is not unusual to some of you who teach at colleges and are on a tenure track line. I shouldn’t have been surprised. After all, journalists, despite their important mission to inform the public and act as the public’s watchdog, are hardly treated with respect. But what I have come to realize is that I cannot let the views of some, regardless of their power, change what I do if I believe in it. It was true as a journalist, and it is certainly true as a journalism teacher.

I have a voice, and I am going to use it.

Thank you to all who have followed this blog.  If you left, I will work to get you back as reader. If you stayed, thank you; I will work to make it worth your time.

So stay tuned for posts about all things journalism, particularly as relates to teaching, college journalism, media law, and gender and the media.


Free Rodney Sieh

One helluva journalist is sitting in prison in Liberia. His name is Rodney Sieh. I had the great pleasure of working with him at The Post-Standard in Syracuse, NY. He’s sitting in prison in Liberia for printing the truth and not being able to pay a more than $1  million fine for it. I teach my students in Media Law class that the truth is the best defense in a libel suit because libel is false. Not so in Liberia, where truth and falsity appear to have little to do with libel.

Thankfully, there are ways we can show our support for Rodney. You can sign the petition to free Rodney at change.org. You can follow what is happening at freerodney.org.

My alma mater, Syracuse University’s Newhouse School, is getting involved. Roy Gutterman of the Tully Center for Free Speech is working to free Rodney. Here’s hoping Roy, and the voices of all concerned, hold sway.


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.

Zotero makes research, screen caps easy

If you don’t know about Zotero, your life is about to become easier.

Zotero is free software that helps you do research. It is a Firefox extension that allows you to keep PDFs, screen caps and citations. If you are doing academic work, it will even keep the citations in your preferred style (APA, for example).

Want to collect screen caps (images of web sites on your screen)? Zotero makes it easy. Press the Zotero button and it’s done. And, better than some other ways of screen capping I’ve tried, Zotero captures the full page. I can scroll down to the end.

The only negative to Zotero is it stays with your browser on your computer, so if you work on multiple computers, you’ll need to transfer work on a flash drive.

I’m working on a paper on college newspaper web sites and Zotero has already helped me do screen caps and get organized. If it can help me get organized, it can help anyone. 🙂

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?

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.

Dear President Obama …

The Buffalo News features a nice editorial on why President-elect Obama should make a federal shield law a priority. (A shield law is a law that protects journalists from having to reveal confidential sources. Currently, some states have shield laws, but there is no federal shield law. Check here to see if your state has one.)

The Society of Professional Journalists has also recently called upon Obama to support a federal shield law as he indicated he would do during the campaign.

With the economy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s safe to say that gathering support for a federal shield law is not one of Obama’s top priorities. However, it should be. If we are going to get this country back on track, we need journalists to hold people in power accountable. To do that, they need to know they are not going to face prison for reporting an accurate story with an anonymous source whom they refuse to reveal. Journalists want “change we can believe in,” too.

Female newscasters face same old battles?

WIVB-TV, Buffalo’s top-rated news station, fired a long-time morning news anchor this week. By all accounts, she was liked and had a good reputation. She was, however, not your typical female TV news anchor. Although attractive, she was not a young, slender, model-like woman. (See an older clip of Lisa here.)

My first thought was she was fired because of her weight. I was not alone. Posts to The Buffalo News’s Talkin’ TV blog echoed my thought. For example, one poster writes:

I don’t care if the person reading the news weighs 250 or 85, is 4″2″ or 6’6″. All I care about, is that they know how to read, and do it in a professional manner. Lisa Scott did so, for many years for Ch 4, and to get rid of her is stupid, stupid, stupid.

I realize these are hard economic times and journalists everywhere are losing their jobs. WIVB says Scott’s firing was part of a restructuring of the station. (Lisa wasn’t the only one to lose her job. Reporter Ellen Maxwell, who had worked for WIVB for eight years, and an internet manager lost theirs, too.) I also realize that salaries for new reporters are a helluva lot less than for experienced ones.

However, I can’t help but think about Christine Craft and whether things have really changed much for female TV anchors and journalists. More than 25 years ago Craft was fired from her job as a TV anchor following a consultant’s report that said viewers thought she was too old, not attractive enough and not deferential enough to men. She sued and initially won her sex discrimination case, although that judgment was overturned eventually on appeal.

For Lisa Scott and others like her, I can’t help but think that things have not changed as much as we would like.