A few things that might be of interest

A few items have come across my inbox this week that I thought I’d post here in case you haven’t seen them. The first is a cautionary tale about an intern at The Wall Street Journal who was fired for fabricating sources in a story. The story has been pulled from the Journal‘s website, but was posted on Talking Biz News, along with a few comments. Poynter has a little more on the intern, Liane Membis.

Of course, then there’s this piece from Poynter about Jeff Meade, a sports writer for The Monroe Evening News in Michigan, who wrote a column outlining several of his ethical transgressions, including making up quotes when he lost his notebook and dating a source. Interestingly, the column appears to have been taken down from the MonroeNews.com website. I read it this morning (and now wish I’d taken a screenshot of it), but the links no longer work. It will be interesting to see if he keeps his job.

[An update: Poynter ran this follow-up on June 29, which includes a link to a cached copy of the original column.]

Then there’s this piece that ran on The Washington Post website that — once again — points to the issue that speed and quality journalism don’t always go together. In this case, both CNN and Fox initially reported that the individual mandate provision of the health care  act was struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court. In fact, it was upheld. But in the rush to get the “news” out, the journalists  wrote their reports without reading past the first page of the ruling. The errors were corrected, but I have to wonder if the public would have been better served by waiting for the few extra minutes it took to read page 2 of the decision.

[Another update: The Raw Story ran this brief, which includes a clip of The Colbert Show, on Colbert’s coverage of the error made by both CNN and Fox. The clip includes some of the footage from Fox and CNN programming on the day of the court ruling)

Finally, for those of you interested in issues about media ownership and conglomeration, the Project for Excellence in Journalism is out with it’s new report on ownership changes. It might be useful, and it certainly has some interesting data.

Watching what you Tweet

We were talking in class today about the importance of Twitter for breaking news, but it is important to remember that whatever you do on social media is being watched — and sometimes by your employer. I just bumped into this story on a site called TVNewsCheck that talks about Twitter and social media policies for NBC stations. Essentially, the bottom line is that anything you do, even on a “private” site, is considered company business and is linked to the company’s reputation.

Thinking pink: So called “pink journalism” and the byline gender gap

Much of the journalism community and blogosphere has been up in arms since the American Society of Magazine Editors (ASME) announced this year’s award winners (See here and here). No women (that’s right, zero) were nominated for the prominent categories of profiles, features, essays, columns or reporting. According to a study by Mother Jones, 67 to 75 percent of space in prestigious magazines went to male writers. It’s unclear why the magazine industry remains male-dominated when we live in a society where more women are getting degrees (in 2010, 55% of all college graduates were women) and holding professional and management positions than ever before. Is it because women just aren’t pitching award-winning stories? Or is it perhaps that women are being pigeonholed into writing about “women’s issues” or “pink” topics like relationships, sexuality, reproductive health and lifestyle? Are these the only topics that women are believed to have expertise and perspective on, and therefore are encouraged to write about?

But make no mistake that this woman-focused writing isn’t just as worthy of attention as any other topic. In fact, it’s the first type of story I’m drawn to. There are narratives of breast cancer survival, stories about surviving domestic violence, pieces on the struggle to have a career and a family, as well as stories about courage and comeback that are just as important as a piece on politics or war.

The way one professional sees it:
Erin Belieu, accomplished writer and co-founder of VIDA (Women in Literary Arts) said, “The National Magazine Awards have sent a pretty clear message.” “When it comes to a career in journalism, chicks should stick to writing about chicks.”

Twitter and the Marten Kudlis funeral

In class yesterday I briefly mentioned the decision by the Rocky Mountain News to use Twitter to cover the funeral of 3-year-old Marten Kudlis, who was killed on Sept. 4, 2008, when a car drove into the ice cream store that he and his family were in. The Rocky Mountain News live-Tweeted the funeral, and you can find the thread, dated Sept. 10, 2008, here.

This, of course, is not a great use of Twitter, though it can be used very well for breaking news stories, like the Hudson River plane crash in 2009. Here’s one story on the crash and Twitter’s role in covering it.

Are any of you using Twitter as part of your internships this summer? If so, I’d love to hear how you’re using it.

About our changes: Details on how quality journalism will continue


This is a short article written by Kevin Wendt, who currently serves as the editor of the Huntsville Times. Wendt will soon be vice president of content for the newly created Alabama Media Group. The article is an interesting breakdown of one newspaper’s staff cuts. It provides real insight into what kinds of jobs newspapers are scaling back. It also highlights why such staff cuts are necessary, and how the newspaper will continue to provide quality journalism in the face of a reduced staff and limited circulation. For students such as ourselves, the reality of job scarcity in the journalism industry is something we all must face, so this article sheds light on an important issue. It appears Wendt will provide weekly updates regarding these issues, so it may be of value to check his posts every now and then.

Colorado Springs reporter suspended for Facebook post

This story on the Poynter site caught my attention since it involves something that the reporter, Barrett Tryon, posted on his personal Facebook page. And it raises important questions about how much of a private life, especially online, a journalist can have. The National Labor Relations Board has some guidelines about what employers cannot require of journalists, and the Colorado Springs Gazette may be on thin ice here. Still, given how we all use Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and other forms of social media, it’s worth considering the case of Barrett Tryon and worth knowing more about what your employers expect regarding your “private” use of social media.

Fatal Distraction story

Here’s a link to “Fatal Distraction,” the Pulitzer Prize winning story by Gene Weingarten on parents who left their children in the car. It’s a gripping story and it’s incredibly well reported. As you read it, consider what kind of interviewing skills it took to get these parents to open up.

And after you read it, I’d be interested in your comments about the story and about what you glean from it that you might apply to your own journalistic endeavors.

For June 12

We’ll be talking about story ideas, background research, sources and interviewing on Tuesday. In order to be ready for that, I want each of you to find a non-breaking news story (print, broadcast or online) that you think is pretty good. Post the link to the story as a comment to this blog post. In a few sentences, be sure to tell us what you like about the story.

Now for the tricky part. I then want you to read two other stories that your classmates post — the one in the comment right before yours and the one in the comment right after yours. If you’re the first one to post, then randomly pick a story to serve as the one in the comment right before yours. As you read these stories — as well as the one you posted — think about how the writer got the idea for the story, examine the background information in the story and be ready to talk about what else you would have liked, and consider the sources that appear in the story and those that don’t (who should have been there that isn’t).

This shouldn’t take you too long, but it will be important in order to have a good class discussion on Tuesday. Thanks!