December 19, 2005
November 30, 2005
This week local and national media have begun focusing on the current issue of The Ledger.
The controversy can't be of the photo of two healthy young women lifting their shirts to reveal their sports bras, items many women wear without shirts during warmer weather. It's a good photo showing something other than blurry soccer player's backsides.
When Brani Chastain ripped off her soccer jersey exposing her sports bra on world wide television, it was "girl power." Professional male athletes regularly pose nude for calendars and magazines.
Our photographer didn't trick the women into posing. The soccer coach urged them to display their newly decorated sports bras for a photo. The editor even gave them copies of the picture. They merely commented that they didn't want to look fat in the picture.
I believe the controversy stems from the text.
I offered the headline "Goals Gone Wild" to replace "Rackin' 'em up," which would have made the campus go nuts. I wish we hadn't run the subhead saying "four good reasons..." However, I've written some stuff about being gay that surpassed the suggestive nature of that headline and no one said anything. Perhaps because as a society we tolerate and expect gay men to "ram it down our throat" so to speak.
This year as in previous years, The Ledger has published pictures of shirtless male athletes in skimpy shorts. No one said they were offended. The college's "dance team" certainly doesn't mind striking stripper-like poses in their skimpy costumes that look as if they came from Fredrick's of Hollywood, nor does anyone voice concern that student tuition pays for them to jiggle in front of parents, strangers, and sweaty male athletes, some of whom are B-l-a-c-k.
Two years ago as EIC, I chose not to publish pictures of a murdered student's funeral. I thought that was sensationalism. The staff did not agree but it was my call.
This was Josh's.
Would I have run the photo? Yes, but not on the cover and without the subhead.
October 28, 2005
I knew a copy editor who loved media pens. She squealed like it was Christmas morning when I returned from the ACP conference in Orlando with a 25 pens – all for her. On the final day of that conference, I asked conference organizers for extra name badges. They served our staff as reporting kits. They held our press passes, reporter’s notebooks, pens, and business cards.
A veteran of the journalism conference circuit, I’ve inadvertently started collecting reporters notebooks. I have about 75. Occasionally, I dig into my bag of swag and give a staffer a gift from the media gods. For many, a Knight-Ridder hacky sack or New York Times coffee mug goes a long way when it’s accompanied by praise for a job well done.
October 27, 2005
Steve Buttry's "Training Tracks," originated on the No Train, No Gain website. Now his blog comes from the American Press Institute (API) website and is mirrored on NTGNG, which also houses the archives. Steve welcomes e-mail from student journalists and compiled a list of newscoaches across the country willing to visit college newsrooms. For the CD ROM, Steve will send a disk of his handouts, which I've used in my newsroom and as a freelance journalist for The Kansas City Star.
Speaking of API, its Media Center Blog, morph, offers insight on convergence, new media and seeks innovation in storytelling. It strives to create a forum for guest bloggers.
One of my favorites simply because of the name is Grumpy Old Editor from the Observer-Reporter (Washington, Penn.) Grump A.K.A. Park Burroughs, offers insight into the reporting and editing process while combining the infamous quality editors have in excess. Student grumps will admire his random complaint in The Day's Gripe.
Copy Editors, or those who want to understand them, should visit Testy Copy Editor. Most of the discussion takes place on the site's message boards because most of the copy editors hate that journalists abandon style and grammar when blogging.
Of course, check out my Journalism Links on the right side of this page for other journalism sites that have created blogs and pod ... er ... nanocasting.
Also feel free to e-mail me about a specific issue and I'll devote a TIME OUT topic to it.
October 6, 2005
That phrase or one similar is said everyday in student and professional newsrooms across the country.
- Do you help others without taking over their projects?
- Are you frustrated at being ignored because you don't have answers and consequently don't have answers because you're constantly ignored?
- Does your passive-aggressive nature cause you to block the success of yourself and others?
Well, stop it.
September 28, 2005
We had this giant meeting with the president of the college, the vice-president of student services, the director of student life, our regular two print journalism instructors, adviser and staff.
It was supposed to be our regular staff meeting where we discuss the status of our current issue, address problems, planning the next issue, etc. However with the smell of bacon in the room and not wanting to grant prior review, we decided to turn the floor over to our visitors.
The nodding heads stayed quiet except to say they support our efforts and hoped we’d make an effort to get both sides of the story. President Carlsen made thinly veiled references to my columns, the nodding heads supported. He asked me straight out if the administration ever censored our newspaper. I told him no one has ever prevented us from printing stories. However, people censor us by not consenting to interviews, not responding to phone calls and e-mail requests and generally dragging their feet until publication day comes and goes. He raised his hand and waved me off.
I asked him with the Hosty v. Carter controversy, if he would sign a document saying he would never censor our paper. He said that he’d sign it in a minute. Like he’d refuse to sign in front of administrators and student journalists – one of which recorded the meeting.
Our editor in chief also hammered the point that opinions are not news stories. He also told them they could write a letter to the editor or guest column citing their concerns.
The bravest of the head nodders and a man I have learned to respect sent us a column the next day.
September 1, 2005
Without knowing they fired me, I extended my credit limit on my VISA to pay for class. When I came to campus the next day, my adviser, under direction of her supervisor, informed me I was fired the day before and even if I enrolled in the needed class -- I was still fired. I had to deliver the news to Josh, the editor in chief and the man who hired me, since they neglected to include him in the decision.
I enrolled in my class, reapplied for my job and researched college policy. I found out college employees can request an exit interview -- so I did. I spent the day familiarizing myself with 'policy,' gathering college-produced recruitment materials featuring my image and compiling my published columns critical of the college. I presented the package at my exit interview and stated for the official college record that this act serves as backdoor censorship. I also said I have nothing to lose and would pursue the issue as far as I could.
The next day my adviser sent me an e-mail saying I was rehired and my pay would not be interrupted by the week I was off staff.
It’s not over. The college will try to find another way to silence me and intimidate the staff. This abuse of power shows me they’re scared.
July 29, 2005
Now comes the transition from intern to freelance journalist which brings a whole new angle to newsroom relationships we've established this the summer.
July 16, 2005
- TMI - So many documents, budgets and plans; motions, discussions and votes; don't forget ranting residents. It almost makes me feel sorry for politicians -- almost.
- Q & A - Despite information overload, questions arose. As we moved through the agenda, I constantly revised my questions and list of sources to answer those questions.
- ID - council members have name plates but who were all those other people? Why did that old dude sit there for two hours? He wasn't even paying attention. Why the hell don't city employees say their names before they speak?
- PDQ - Absorb, process and interpret information. Quickly adjust and prioritize items for the story. Get those questions answered before council members finish grazing at the refreshment table and head for their SUVs. Quickly get to a computer and write the story for tomorrow's edition.
- AEQ - Josh usually covers this beat. He revitalized the meeting notes, as the paper calls them, raising reader interest. I felt pressure to equal his efforts while adapting them to my style. Besides a 200-year-old parasite at a competing paper decided to attend the meeting instead of writing his copy off the agenda and Josh's published article. I had to write tight, well-organized copy in order to deter him from plagiarizing my work.
At the next meeting the Roeland Park PD will present (and hopefully demonstrate) Taser technology in order to get the council to approve and allocate funds for it.
July 12, 2005
It’s easy to remember those who encouraged us though we must not forget those who challenged us.
June 23, 2005
I've discovered another way journalism helps me outside the newsroom.
As a member of my college's diversity initiative, I'm on the selection committee hearing presentations by diversity consultant firms. Sitting through hours of presentations, I realized how journalism prepared me to ask questions -- real questions.
"Since you said the initiative may to take 3 - 10 years, what specific steps will you take to reach students currently enrolled in two-year programs?"
"Aside from targeting students on campus from 9 a.m. - 2 - p.m, how will you reach students in evening and weekend classes, attending our off-campus sites, and distance learners?"
Restating source-provided information in the question offers him or her a chance to clarify, provide a better understanding and -- answer the question.
People, which most journalists are, like to believe they ask good questions, but they don't. It takes skill and an understanding of human behavior. Some ask questions for many reasons having little to do with the search for knowledge including to show their cleverness, to make statements, to be adversarial or to show favor.
When a reporter repeatedly says he or she didn't get good quotes from the source, ask to hear the questions. Before the reporter heads out to the interview
- Ask what the story's focus and the source's relevance.
- Ask about an interesting item found when researching the source.
- Ask to brainstorm questions with you.
- Ask to hear follow-up questions.
- Ask how he or she will ask responsive questions like "Oh, really?" "What happened then?" "How does that work?"
June 20, 2005
“In your temporary failure there is no evidence that you may not yet be a better scholar, and a more successful man in the great struggle of life, than many others, who have entered college more easily.”
June 7, 2005
June 5, 2005
Josh sent me an e-mail yesterday informing me The Star published my story last Wednesday. That's something I should have found out from someone at my bureau.
Yes, I'm pointing out a half-empty glass while reminding everyone lemonade comes from lemons. Despite my Debbie Downer demeanor in social settings, this negative and slightly paranoid quality helps as a journalist.
I'm working on a story about local organization celebrating its 30th anniversary. At the event, I found myself in the path of the mayor of Kansas City, Kan. Taking a deep breath and a small step to the left, I stopped him in his tracks and fired off a few questions about the urban core, immigration and the unified government.
Unfortunately, in my haste I forgot to press record on my voice recorder. With handwriting as bad as an editor's, my notes read like a first grader's handmade Mother's Day card. So I either paraphrase the mayor or follow up the quotes with a phone call Monday.
June 3, 2005
When I interviewed for the internship my nose for news immediately told me something was wrong. Disregarding this instinct, I let things slide. Pushing forward (and my doubts aside) I accepted my post with its limitations. After all, I'm just an intern and they know what they're doing, right?
"The word 'slave' is so degrading. Why don't we call you
New Yorker magazine Feb. 16, 2004
Yet even before our internships officially start, Josh's supervisor gave him a desk, e-mail, voice mail and server access. Josh is already being published, working choice story assignments, becoming familiar with the software and most important -- he's learning. Josh is a good man and after a year of overcoming management's obstacles at The Campus Ledger, he deserves a chance to shine.
My difficult conversation comes from knowing the inequities of our internships. Three years of college newsroom management experience taught me that a supervisor cannot treat every staff member the same.
Having researched and written style guides and policy manuals, I know they set the minimum standard. Conversely, they don't set the maximum level of supervision and guidance either.
Individuals in different departments with various levels of experience demand specialized attention. Treating everyone equally is not the same as treating them fairly.
I, like other interns, simply want the basic tools others have to do their jobs. We want to learn the minimum standard so we can exceed it. We want the same chance to learn and shine.
June 1, 2005
My friend, Josh, also serves as an intern in the Neighborhood News section though he works in several bureaus in the Johnson County area. Our internships, through our college's journalism department, don't officially start until the summer session begins June 6 however he's already gotten some work published.
I, on the other hand, had my first assignment exiled to the editing Phantom Zone from which copy rarely returns.
Well, if anything, I'm resourceful.
May 29, 2005
May 19, 2005
According to the Detroit Free Press, sports columnist and newsroom superstar, Mitch Albom, and other columnists for Free Press wrote several columns without properly attributing sources to other media, writing about events they never attended and fabricating events.
A few lessons from the latest journalism controversy:
- JOUR 122 - We know columns are not news or features but we should hold them to the same basic journalism standards as the rest of the paper. Also, sports gets away with a lot we don't tolerate in other sections of the paper. A sports round up is not a story. It is an extended sports brief. Sports uses clichés and inserts opinion. Yet, for some reason we make exceptions for this section based upon what we think readers want. Sports news should hold the same standard as a regular news. Sports features should be treated like a regular feature. And sports columns should meet the requirements of columns, commentaries and editorials on the opinon page.
- "Lifting" quotes is stealing - Just because they are words and not $20 bills doesn't mean we should excuse the practice.
- Attribute, attribute, attribute - I used to feel guilty about being an attribution tyrant by insisting reporters attribute information not commonly known fact by the reader. But this year I've come to embrace my inner tyrant and I'm glad we emphasize attributions.
- Be a skeptical editor - Ask the reporter where he or she found the information. If you don't see him or her working off notes or off a recorded interview, ask to see or hear the information. Newsroom superstars are not above the editing process or the copy desk. Experimenting with a new style is great. But a reporter must know the rules in order to creatively break them.
- Feed off feedback - The learning lab/newsroom allows us to examine ourselves (though we need to do a better job of soliciting reader feedback). Newsroom culture can help keep refocus renegade journalists while coaching reinforces good reporting. Our work with student journalists doesn't just produce a good product, it produces good reporters.
- Know and enforce ethics - A clear and enforceable code of ethics helps address these kinds of issues. My campus paper, The Campus Ledger, has an effective code of ethics as it is based on professional standards, and our college's personel policies and the student code of conduct.
- Codify unwritten rules - As our campus papers progress by incorporating professional standards, we need to evaluate, eliminate or codify unwritten rules and standing policies especially for situations like getting quotes from a televised press conference or quotes making the media roundtables that cannot be attributed to the original source (though who wants to use recycled quotes?).
- Peer review - Honor the integrity of the newsroom and respect the reporter in question by establish a formal process for reviewing situations like this. Don't wait until you have a kitchen fire to learn how to use a fire extinguisher.
- Newspapers aren't textbooks - We learn from reading and modeling good writers but when something doesn't sound right, go back to your journalism roots and verify. As we adapt good journalism from news media, learn how to spot and avoid bad journalism.
- As journalists our words are our currency - And thanks to some journalistic jackasses of late, the reader's trust costs more everyday.
I've come to the conclusion that the Free Press, a very well respected news organization, is screwed up. But they're screwed up in a way most news organizations are.
Fixated on the product and catering to newsroom superstars, managers ignore -- or worse, countermand-- procedures set in place to ensure quality.
As writing coach and an award-winning collgiate journalist including Journalist of the Year, I've had my ass kissed this year. But I've also had it kicked when I didn't produce to the minimum standard.
No one is above an edit.
April 17, 2005
Miguel Morales, managing editor for The Campus Ledger, was named College Journalist of the Year by the Kansas Associated Collegiate Press at its convention in Wichita April 10-11.
The paper also won 19 individual awards.
Morales has worked as reporter, writing coach and editor-in-chief for The Ledger.
“I always knew one person could make a difference. It’s encouraging to know that sometimes that one person gets recognition,” Morales said.
In addition to Journalist of the Year for two-year schools in Kansas, for which he won a plaque and $250, Morales also won five individual awards.
Writers from The Ledger swept the feature category as the paper won first, second and third place. The Ledger received a bronze medal in the overall category. Other individual winners include:
- Second Place – Miguel Morales, feature writing and headline writing Kevin Mimms, editorial writing
- Third Place – Miguel Morales, feature writing; Joshua Seiden, sports column writing; Dane Talley, news writing
- Honorable Mention – Miguel Morales, editorial writing;Lisa Ash, single ad design; Robert Heishman, news photography; Kevin Mimms, sports feature writing; Shanxi Upsdell, column writing; Aaron Whitebread, sports column writing
March 13, 2005
February 3, 2005
January 8, 2005
Fans of reality TV know politics play a huge part shows like "Survivor," "The Apprentice," and to a lesser degree in shows like "The Real World" and "American Idol."
However this year producers weary of creating instant celebrities that overshadow their shows, i. e. Darva Conger ("Who Wants to Marry a Millionaire"); Evan Marriott ("Joe Millionaire"); and Omarosa ("The Apprentice" season 1), began shifting focus.
- Spain's version of "Big Brother" has housemates memorizing the 325-page Eupoean Union Constitution and explaining it to an elderly Polish woman.
- Showtime brought us average citizens competing for the chance to run for president in "American Candidate."
- An Israeli TV station is producing "The Ambassador,"where contestants will vie for the opportunity to travel the world salvaging Israel's ravaged image.
- Iraq's al Sharqiya television airs "Labor and Materials." Former Baathists rebuild war damaged housing and supply new furniture donated by viewers as part of their zakat or one-fifth of the income Muslims give to charity.
However those craving real political machinations and integrity; triumphs and tears; ceremony and informality; have one network with three branches devoted to satisfying us.
- C-SPAN covers the House of Representatives
- C-SPAN2 covers the Senate
- C-SPAN3, a digital cable network, covers national events and extended history programming.
You won't see Senators Barbara Boxer and Hillary Clinton swap families or remodel each other's family room. But you will see that soldier confronting Rumsfeld about scavenging for armor, the 9/11 Commission, and Jon Stewart waxing poetically about fake news.