News next: a journalism teacher's diary

October 2, 2011

Why did The Times change its protest report?

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 12:26 pm
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What do you think? Did this story change because 20 minutes after it was first published the facts on the ground had changed?

Was the second version a row-back? That’s journalism jargon for an effort to quietly correct a mistake in the facts, the angle or the tone of a story without acknowledging that anything was wrong with the earlier version.

Or was the change, which is accompanied by the introduction of the byline of The Times reporter who is stationed at Police Headquarters, what the many people who posted this on Facebook allege: an example of the newspaper’s bias against the Occupy Wall Street protest?

The Village Voice interviewed City Room bureau chief Andrew Newman for The Times’ response, but expressed skepticism about it, noting that the later stories eliminated a passage that said police allowed demonstrators onto the roadway.

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September 16, 2011

Tips on taking notes

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 6:55 pm
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Photo by quinn.anya/licensed under creative commons

Want to know what to do when you’re interviewing someone who talks faster than you can write? how to get that great quote that can make your story? how to avoid burdening your story with too much quotation? or even opinions on the best notebook and the right kind of pen?

A colleague at the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, Indrani Sen, has been collecting tips on taking notes. She put them in a handout for her students, and I thought I’d share them with you.


Note-Taking Tips From Professional Journalists

The best reporters return from every assignment with a notebook stuffed with quotes, information and sensory detail — the raw material we need to build a story. But how do we fill those notebooks? One of the most difficult skills for new reporters to pick up is also one of the most basic — note-taking.

Every reporter has his or her own systems for note-taking, which start with some nuts-and-bolts decisions: Reporter’s notebook or steno pad? Ballpoint or roller ball? Shorthand or cursive? To record or not? Try a few combinations and figure out what feels most comfortable for you over a long day of reporting.

It’s hard to over-emphasize the importance of solid notes. As well as providing the material for your story, your notes are also your documentation of your reporting process. Your editors or professors may on occasion ask to see your notes. They don’t need to be tidy, but they do need to be complete — if it’s in your story, it should be in your notes or your research. Your notes should also provide avenues to verify information and quotes — phone numbers, email addresses, website urls. Your integrity as a journalist rests not only on your finished product, but also upon your reporting process and your ability to document that process.

In 2007, I asked some friends to explain their note-taking systems and offer tips. Please add your own in the comments below! (more…)

August 5, 2011

Leading with your best punch

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 3:43 pm
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Daily News cop house reporter Bob Kappstatter posted this little anthology of classic tabloid leads on Facebook, saying they were “left many years ago by overnight reporter Tom Raftery, a true Daily News legend.”

Read ’em and weep. Read ’em and chuckle. Read ’em and learn. (more…)

July 8, 2011

Another reason to distrust the news

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 10:28 am
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Many readers see journalists as living a more privileged life than they do. That’s one reason for the growing distrust of big media. An off-hand characterization in a recent story in The New York Times demonstrates that readers are right to detect a gap between their lives and the lives of those who bring them the news.

Anthony Weiner's Congressional portrait

For his story on the resignation of Rep. Anthony Weiner, the New York Congressman caught in a lurid internet sex scandal, Metro reporter Raymond Hernandez spoke to friends of Weiner’s wife Huma Abedin, who described her as worried about the couple’s financial future, since she is pregnant and he has never held a job outside of government.

Reintroducing the subject later in the story, Hernandez writes:

“Neither Ms. Abedin nor Mr. Weiner earn lucrative salaries.”

The silence of the editors gives consent to this description. Would you, or most New Yorkers, agree?

As a member of Congress, Weiner earned $174,000. According to the Plum Book of federal jobs, as Secretary of State Hillary Clinton’s deputy chief of staff Abedin, who is 35, would be paid at the GS 15 level, which would make her salary somewhere between $123,827 and $160,886.

A public school teacher in New York City earns $45,530-$100,049; full-time faculty at the City University’s senior colleges are paid from $42,837 to 116,364.

Weiner represented Brooklyn and Queens where the median household income is $42,932 and $54,671, respectively, and per capita income is $22,959 and $25,268, according to the census. The couple reside in Washington, DC, where the comparable figures are household income $58,906 and per capita income $40,846. Nationally, household income is $50,221 and per capita income is $27,041.

I don’t know what a reporter at the New York Times is paid. I think journalists should be well compensated, so I’m glad that at a relatively junior level, a reporter can regard people who earn six times the median per capita income as people of modest means. But a reporter shouldn’t be so far divorced from the life of his audience that he forgets that many would envy this young couple’s wealth.

That thoughtless lack of empathy poisons–if only by a drop–the relationship between reporter and reader.

July 7, 2011

Sex and the New York Post

Filed under: None — Bernard L. Stein @ 6:04 pm
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Strauss-Kahn's mug shot

When the case against Dominique Strauss-Kahn collapsed, the New York Post piled on with a bombshell claiming that the hotel chambermaid who accused the former head of the International Monetary Fund of raping her was a prostitute.

The story begins in textbook fashion:

Dominique Strauss-Kahn’s accuser wasn’t just a girl working at a hotel — she was a working girl.
The Sofitel housekeeper who claims the former IMF boss sexually assaulted her in his room was doing double duty as a prostitute, collecting cash on the side from male guests, The Post has learned.

Leads make promises. This one asserts categorically that the housekeeper was a whore. Does it keep the promise? Does the Post really know what it says it knows? (more…)

February 20, 2011

Let’s be careful out there

In the six years that my students have reported for The Hunts Point Express, no one has been a victim of a crime, but the women reporters have been victimized by crude remarks, whistles and catcalls. Some have responded with anger; some with fear. Some have pushed forward aggressively; some have retreated in shame.

Reporting from an unfamiliar place always has its risks, and the risks are especially acute for women. (more…)

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…)

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.

December 12, 2010

Journalism school in 10 minutes and 39 seconds

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bernard L. Stein @ 10:33 am
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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…)

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