News next: a journalism teacher's diary

February 8, 2011

Whose story is it anyway?

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 5:13 pm
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As far as Emily Whitmer is concerned, the journalist who devoted 8,000 painstakingly-researched words to re-examining the validity of shaken-baby syndrome is morally equivalent to the woman she believes abused her baby son and destroyed his brain.

Noah

In the lead article in the February 6 New York Times Magazine, Emily Bazelon, a lawyer and journalist who edits Slate’s legal column and its feminist blog, calls into question hundreds of child-abuse prosecutions for shaking infants, which is held to be responsible for brain damage, and often death, for some 200 babies each year. (more…)

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January 30, 2011

You can take pictures of federal buildings

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 10:51 am
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Federal courthouse, Foley Square, New York City

Federal Protective Service Information Bulletin of Aug. 2, 2010, emphasizes “the public’s right to photograph the exterior of federal facilities” from “publicly accessible spaces such as streets, sidewalks, parks and plazas.” It also states that in a field interview, “officers should not seize the camera or its contents, and must be cautious not to give such ‘orders’ to a photographer to erase the contents of a camera.”

In response to a successful lawsuit in October 2010, in January 2011, the New York Civil Liberties Union received a federal directive making it clear that photographers have the right to photograph federal installations from a public place, The New York Times reported on Jan. 27.

The Times includes this link, and suggests printing out the bulletin to show to officers who question you.

January 24, 2011

Lying has consequences: a cautionary tale

Robert Sgobbo will never eat lunch in this town again.

I was getting my Blackboard up to date for my j-school class and testing the links to on-line articles I thought students would find useful. When I clicked on one about the author Jonathan Kozol‘s current thoughts about the neighborhood schools he wrote about years ago in two books, this is what came up.

Article Removed

The Daily News has removed the article that was linked here because the writer, Robert Sgobbo, a former News freelancer, has admitted fabricating sources. As a result, we don’t believe our readers can rely on the accuracy of any of his work.

(more…)

December 12, 2010

Journalism school in 10 minutes and 39 seconds

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bernard L. Stein @ 10:33 am
Tags: ,

Thinking of going to journalism school? Now you won’t have to. And ladies, don’t miss the important information just for you at about the 5 minute mark. LOL

November 28, 2010

If it’s on the web you can use it, can’t you?

When a student in my Neighborhood News class posted a story on the Hunts Point Express website, I was surprised by the quality of the accompanying photo. Then I looked at the credit. The photographer was one of The New York Times’ best.

“That’s stealing,” I wrote to her. “Photographs are copyrighted, and can’t just be lifted and used.”

She replied: “I thought that that was okay. Ive seen that done before as long as credit was given to the photographer.”

Well, we’ve all heard of people who rob banks or mug old ladies, too, but that doesn’t make theft okay. (more…)

October 19, 2010

Sex in the Tribune Tower

Under new management, the Tribune executive suite had an Animal House atmosphere, according to The New York Times

The headline got your attention, didn’t it? Sex sells, and that’s undoubtedly why a front page article in The New York Times of Oct. 6 begins with a dirty story.

To set up his tale of how the Tribune Company, proud publisher of the Chicago Tribune, the Los Angeles Times, Newsday, The Baltimore Sun, The Hartford Courant and The Orlando Sentinel, destroyed some of the finest newsrooms in the country and collapsed into bankruptcy, David Carr describes an after-hours gathering of the company’s new chief executive Randy Michaels and some colleagues in a hotel bar.

After Mr. Michaels arrived, according to two people at the bar that night, he sat down and said, “watch this,” and offered the waitress $100 to show him her breasts. The group sat dumbfounded.

“Here was this guy, who was responsible for all these people, getting drunk in front of senior people and saying this to a waitress who many of us knew,” said one of the Tribune executives present, who declined to be identified because he had left the company and did not want to be quoted criticizing a former employer. “I have never seen anything like it.”

Mr. Michaels, who otherwise declined to be interviewed, said through a spokesman, “I never made the comment allegedly attributed to me in January 2008 to a waitress at the InterContinental Hotel, and anyone who said I did so is either lying or mistaken.”

Does anyone else feel queasy about this anecdote? The reporter bases it on two anonymous sources; Michaels says it never happened. How does Carr, who wasn’t there, know the story is true? How do we? (more…)

September 4, 2010

Telling readers how you know what you know

Four or five years ago, while I was still editor of The Riverdale Press and before The Press had a website, I bumped into a reporter from a daily newspaper that shall remain nameless. He complained that The Press was so slow to go on-line. It made it so hard to steal its stories, he said.

When I responded that it didn’t seem to slow him down much, and mentioned several Press stories that had wound up in his paper without any mention of where they had first appeared, he responded smugly and seriously, “Hey, it’s all about serving the reader. As long as we get them the news, right?”

Slowly, times are changing, as news organizations face the fact that readers have so many sources of news, and have the ability to give search engines key words and ask them to push references to them into their mail boxes or rss feeds. Lift a fact, and you’re likely to find that readers will know it, and some may even ridicule you on-line.

What with the profusion of amateur and professional bloggers and newspaper and broadcast websites, editors are confronted with questions about just whom to credit and when. If you as a reporter get a cue from a blog but go on to turn a skeletal or incomplete or even inaccurate story into a rich, complete and meaningful report, do you credit that blogger? If so, where and how?

This fall, the Associated Press tried to answer questions like these with a new set of guidelines for credit and attribution. They’re worth reading and thinking about.

August 4, 2010

Who crucified Shirley Sherrod?

My cousin Ed is a syndicated cartoonist and winner of Hunter's Aronson Award for Social Justice. Here's his view.

My father used to say it took two to produce a news story: one to report and write it, the other to tell him when to stop. He was trying to teach a lesson about deadlines, but his observation also illuminates the truth that reporters hardly ever know all there is to know about a story.

Journalistic judgment calls for knowing when you know enough. But if that’s so, is the corollary also true: must reporters and their editors also decide when they don’t know enough? Is there a point at which a news organization shouldn’t publish what it knows? (more…)

July 7, 2010

Hardy perennials: how do you write about what everybody knows?

It’s 103 degrees out as I write this. So every newspaper website and tv station is running a story about the weather. We’ve all read these stories, again and again and again. The heat wave; the cold snap; the hurricane/tornado/wind storm. The run-up to the election. Graduation. They’re stories that have to be written, but that can be so tedious to read, and to write. And they’re stories you know the competition is writing, too. So how do you set yourself apart from the pack?

The Times did it with an amusing piece that took off from a cliche–“hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.” Was it really?

The Boston Globe’s media columnist surveyed his domain and offered a tip sheet on keeping the heat wave story from wilting.

Some good examples of how to cover an election without writing as though it was a horse race come from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. Student reporters fanned out all over the city to collect man-on-the street reports from far-flung neighborhoods, writing about and videotaping first-time voters, immigrants, young people, people in nursing homes, even political meet-ups in bars. A far cry from either policy wonk analysis or poll-driven winners-and-losers reporting.

Perhaps the most famous example of making an ordinary story extraordinary is Jimmy Breslin’s account of the funeral of John F. Kennedy. Knowing that every news outlet in the world would be covering the obsequies, Breslin turned his back on the body lying in state, closed his ears to the dignitaries’ eulogies, ignored the grieving family, and instead wrote about Clifton Pollard, the man who dug Kennedy’s grave.

May 2, 2010

The dust bin of history

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bernard L. Stein @ 10:28 am
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In debates over the path journalism should take, I am on the losing side. Classicist, old-timer, fuddy-duddy—whether the label is flattering or unflattering, it still describes someone who is unwilling to move with the times by acknowledging that in the age of the 24-hour news cycle, speed trumps nuance and even accuracy. (more…)

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