Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma

Since we were talking about interviewing trauma victims in last week’s class and since the Aurora shootings have been all over the news, I have been paying close attention to how reporters are interviewing victims of the shooting as well as the friends and family of those who died. I started looking for some online sources that could offer helpful interviewing tips, and I came across this site called the Dart Center for Journalism and Trauma. It’s a great resource. There are separate complete pages for interviewing victims of domestic violence, sexual violence, natural disaster, war and PTSD, as well as specific tips for interviewing children, veterans, and relatives of suicide and homicide victims. I took a look at the veterans page for my American Homecomings story, and its ideas for finding sources who are willing to talk was especially helpful. I found sources through Twitter (via @USParalympics) and through PR people for the Paralympics and Deptartment of Veterans Affairs.

A few valuable lessons I learned from the Dart Center website and my own experience interviewing for the American Homecomings project:
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1. Allow more time than you think you need. I waited too long to start finding sources for my story, so that in the final days I was calling anyone and everyone I could think of because I was worried I wouldn’t have a big enough variety of voices. Thankfully, several people responded to me two days before my deadline, so I was able to actually speak with several veterans, coaches, trainers and therapists. Still, the experience would have been less stressful if I had started researching earlier. Especially for sensitive stories, I think people need some time to decide if they want to participate before they respond to the reporter. Two people responded to me after the story was published, so I will only be able to have them as sources if I do a follow-up. In addition to allowing time to find sources, I would recommend allowing more time than you think you need for interviews. Even if I didn’t have a lot of questions planned, most of my interviewees were really interested in telling their stories. I was late to my internship one day because an interview I thought would be 10 minutes was 40 — which was wonderful for my story, but also taught me a lesson about careful planning.

2. Leave questions about traumatic events open-ended. Professor Skewes talked about this a little bit last Tuesday, and this strategy definitely saved my story. I interviewed two Paralympians, and since I had done my research, I knew a little bit about their stories. I was very nervous to interview them because I felt like my specific questions wouldn’t be able to get at the heart of the story, so I ended up going with the traditional “tell me a little bit about your story and how you got involved with ____ ” (in my case, adaptive sports). Thankfully, my two veteran interviewees were very willing to talk and were willing to discuss their accidents and their emotions with me. I had specific questions planned just in case the conversation started to die, but I don’t think I even asked most of them. Just by asking the simple tell-me-your-story question, the other questions I had and the issues I had hoped to talk about were answered.

3. Learn the culture and language of the topic as much as possible. I found it was helpful to know some military terms before starting interviews. When interviewing a veteran (and later, when writing my story), I made sure to have the background knowledge of what branch of the military the veteran served in, what was his rank, where and when he served, and, in the case of the Paralympians, the circumstances of the injury. To break the ice and relate a little bit, I often told the veterans I was from a Navy family (my dad is a retired commander). Many of my interviewees told me about the difficulty of returning to civilian life, so letting them know that I was familiar with the military lifestyle — even though I had not served — made a difference.
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If you plan to report on violence or interview trauma victims at any point, the Dart Center website is an excellent one to bookmark. I’m grateful to have come across it, and I will certainly use it in the future!

“App” Test: AudioBoo online recording device

In browsing some online journalism tools today, I came across this British site, AudioBoo.fm. It’s basically an online recording device with a focus on social media. You can record anything up to three minutes for free, and you can pay 60 British pounds per year for AudioBoo Plus to record for up to 30 minutes. When you finish recording, you can upload immediately to Twitter or Facebook. The site itself has a social media format — you can have followers and follow others as in Twitter and blogging sites, and you can chat with other AudioBoo users. You can also browse popular, featured or “trending” audio clips.

In addition to recording clips directly, you can upload audio files from your computer and share them on your social media sites through AudioBoo — so even if you forget to use AudioBoo during your next interview, you can link to it on your social media later.

In terms of “new media,” I think AudioBoo is a fantastic way to record interviews or even breaking news for immediate release to social media sites. It could work like a radio station, but instead of a constant stream that listeners have to “stay tuned” to, the content would be broken up into small audio clips which viewers would originally find on Twitter.

I tested AudioBoo by recording a VeloNews.com story about Bradley Wiggins at the Tour de France and posting it to my Twitter account. This strategy gave people a quick and easy way to listen to breaking Tour news without searching for it specifically on the VeloNews website. If a news organization were to use AudioBoo, I would recommend upgrading to AudioBoo Plus so as to not be limited to three-minute clips; on the other hand, that short time span forces long-winded journalists to be concise, which keeps listeners interested throughout the whole clip.

The only problem I ran into when using AudioBoo was that the loading of the audio clip after I recorded it was sometimes slow. I’m not sure if that’s a problem with my own computer or with the site, but I had to completely close out one of my recordings and start over because it was taking so long.

I tested AudioBoo on my laptop, but the device is also available as an app for Android, iPhone and Nokia. If you have a mic on your phone, tablet or computer, I would recommend using AudioBoo — because, as the site’s tagline goes, “sound is social.”

Image Editing for Magazines: Where Do We Draw the Line?

In this CNN story, Greg Botelho writes about a petition, led by 14-year-old Julia Bluhm, addressed to Seventeen magazine in an effort to get the magazine to offer one unedited photo spread per month. In the story, Botelho notes that, “Adobe Photoshop and other digital image manipulation programs are widely employed by professionals and everyday users,” especially in magazines and especially for female fashion models. Since we were talking about photo and video manipulation today, I wondered where magazine editors legally and ethically should draw the line when they “retouch” models in their editorials. Seventeen claims that it never has and never will manipulate the face or body shapes of its models in photos. The only edits the magazine regularly makes, editors claim, are things like “remove flyaway hair,” “smooth fold” and “make background blue.”

My question is: in a magazine of this nature, where posed photos of models are not news stories, is it okay to make certain changes to clean up photos? If you were the editor-in-chief of Seventeen, which manipulations would you say were okay and which would you say no to? Especially in a magazine specifically geared toward teenage girls who admittedly struggle with body image issues, I think the amount of editing a photo receives should be carefully scrutinized. The Seventeen petition included 84,000 signatures, all from people who believed the magazine Photoshopped its models unrealistically. If Seventeen has in fact never changed its models’ body or face shape (though it doesn’t mention face blemishes or skin tone), maybe the solution is to include a wider variety of body types in its magazine from the start.

We talked exclusively about news stories in our class discussion today, but since many of us are working for magazines right now, I’m really curious to hear everyone’s thoughts on photo editing for posed models and to hear your opinions on how Seventeen responded to this petition.

Sports Reporting and the “Erin Andrews Precedent”

I’m sure many of you have heard that famed sideline reporter Erin Andrews recently decided to leave ESPN to host a college football show on Fox Sports. All the news about Andrews got me thinking about the example she sets as a woman in the field of sports journalism. As a sideline reporter, her main job, according to Dave Matter in the link below, is to “look pretty while lobbing inane questions at grumpy coaches as they [jog] to the locker room.” She was obviously quite successful at getting access, but how much of that was due to her talent as a reporter and how much was due to her attractiveness? As a broadcast reporter, Andrews’ appearance necessarily played a role in shaping her “brand,” but as a sports reporter for print, I struggle with how much I can — or should — follow in Andrews’ footsteps.

My favorite sports stories are features based on more in-depth reporting, something that does require a certain amount of access. Still, I wonder if Andrews’ precedent makes athletes and coaches see female reporters as shallow sideline girls looking for a quick quote. There is an assumption that female reporters don’t have the same background knowledge as the men, especially with football and basketball. I have experienced this reaction in the past, trying to capture more than a second of an athlete’s time when I am the only female voice in a sea of tall, loud men. I’d welcome your comments about the best way to assert myself and show my worth as a sports journalist, and whether or not the “Erin Andrews precedent” is a good or bad thing for female sports reporters.

Here’s a story by Dave Matter of the Columbia Daily Tribune on Andrews: http://www.columbiatribune.com/news/2012/jul/03/take-two/

And here’s a 2011 story from the IU National Sports Journalism Center about gender diversity in sports journalism: http://sportsjournalism.org/sports-media-news/panel-women-sports-journalists-still-face-many-challenges/ (What do you think about the locker room controversy?)