It often seems as if the news media value being first more than they value being right.
The growth of social media and increased demands for journalists to post news quickly raises the question, “What should media’s role be?”
In coverage of the Boston bombing and the Sandy Hook shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, for example, the news media put out stories immediately, and most were completely incorrect.
The Slow Journalism Company, however, is hoping to change that.
Slow Journalism produces a magazine called Delayed Gratification, which takes stories “after the dust settles” and publishes them, according to its website. Each issue compiles stories from weeks or months earlier that tell what actually happened in a news event less the hype and bad reporting.
Michelle Hassler, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor and former state editor at the Lincoln Journal Star, said that this is a good opportunity for people to see the whole event.
Hassler also said journalists need to back away from this “get-it-first mentality” and play more of a curator role.
“If journalists could step back, explain the issues and put them into context,” Hassler said, “people could understand the full scope of the story a lot better.”
A more productive method of covering the issues would be to explain the context and outline all sides, she said, and highlight what is new with those stories.
According to Slow Journalism, today’s “ultra-fast” news tells audiences what’s happening in real-time but rarely tells what it means.
“We take time to do things properly,” the Slow Journalism Company wrote on its website. “Instead of desperately trying to beat Twitter to the punch, we return to the values we all want from journalism – context, analysis and expert opinion.”
In the past 10 years, newsrooms and journalism, as a whole, have completely changed. Hassler said a journalist is now required to not only report, but also to tweet, blog, photograph, video and often self-edit. Journalists are sometimes evaluated on their speed than they are on their writing and reporting skills.
Someone will always be faster in getting the breaking news to the wide audiences. But not everyone has the training, resources and capabilities of constructing a well-researched article that explains the issues using a wide variety of sources and documents. And that’s where journalists, good editors and effective websites and print editions come in.
Yes, news media need to put a focus on their digital presence in today’s world, but they don’t need to put a focus on being first over effectively informing the public. Journalists are trained watchdogs not simply live tweeters. In order to remain relevant in today’s world, news media need to offer the public a product it can’t get via social media.
_By Natasha Rausch
But Cooper was originally going to tell a different story.
If it weren’t for a well-timed question, a burning curiosity and his editor, Cooper wouldn’t have told the story that sparked investigations and discussion of Nebraska’s prison system.
Readers would’ve read a different story entirely.
Five months ago, Cooper wrote about Quentin Jackson, a man convicted of shooting a bouncer at an Omaha nightclub. Jackson was attending a hearing on whether his conviction should be overturned in street clothes instead of prison garb. He had been let out of prison on a “day pass” – a pass inmates qualify for when they have less than three years left in their sentences.
The news peg for the story: Jackson had been sentenced to 14 to 15 years in prison but was to be released after only six years, Cooper said. He wrote the first story on deadline and said it questioned whether Jackson was going to be released earlier than he deserved.
After doing some digging and finding out that there was data to prove that Jackson would be doing less time than he was supposed to, Cooper was prepared to follow up with another story to prove the accuracy of his first story and expose the miscalculation of Jackson’s release date. But an itch to find out more and a conversation with his editor caused Cooper to wait.
His editor allowed him to do more research about other inmates and their release dates.
Cooper said he took “one month to crunch parole and release dates,” which led to the conclusion that 873 prisoners were given miscalculated sentences. The result? Cooper had a better story.
And the followup stories just kept coming.
Cooper wrote about something with an impact. He used reporting to expose inconsistencies and injustice – provoking discussion and forcing change.
“Always look for the better story,” Cooper said. Also important, he said, is to write the story in the best way. And according to Cooper, the only way to do that is to paint a picture with the details.
Cooper tells sources, “Take me back.” He asks, “What do you see? What do you smell?”
A journalist’s job is to get as close to the truth as possible, Cooper said. His goal is always to explain and to translate information for the public.
The process it took for Cooper to write a story of substance with tremendous impact provides the steps it takes to write the best story. It requires more than a bit of curiosity, the calculated skills of a good interviewer, and a willingness to follow the story wherever it leads.
And of course, the best story also requires a good editor.
– By Michaela Noble
You’ve heard the saying probably more than you realize: “A picture is worth a thousand words.”
It’s true – especially in a news story.
When people remember a story for words, it’s often because the words are wrong. Take the infamous headline, “Dewey Defeats Truman” for example. Those words aren’t remembered because of a remarkable defeat being written down in history; they’re remembered for being inaccurate.
When pictures are remembered, it’s because of the impact they have on readers. When readers saw pictures from the Boston Marathon bombings, they were affected because the images said more than any story could have. When big things happen, the impact is shown by pictures.
Matt Miller, a photographer for the Omaha World-Herald, said that in photography, you have to “take the reader where they can’t go.” In 2007, Miller was covering Husker football at the Kansas Jayhawk’s Memorial Stadium. Because the Huskers were losing badly, Miller decided he wanted to look for something else to photograph instead of another Jayhawk touchdown. What he found ( the picture at left) was by far more interesting than what most photographers were capturing on the field. And it showed the essence of what had happened at the game.
“Don’t stand with everyone else,” Miller said. “Look at things from a fresh perspective.”
Miller said it’s especially important to abide by those rules when you’re in charge of a beat. Whether you cover Husker football or are a courts reporter, you should always put yourself in a position of the reader.
Love triangles have always been a part of both the literary and media worlds. They exist to indulge the overzealous, bored housewife inside of us who cannot bare to turn off soap operas in case someone’s secret step-cousin’s twice-removed uncle’s best friend’s lover came to crash the main character’s wedding. For those who refuse to acknowledge his or her bored housewife side, love triangles can help the sports lover in each of us that needs a side to root for and a side to hate when things do not go our way. From the classic love triangles of George Wickham, Elizabeth Bennett and Fitzwilliam Darcy in “Pride and Prejudice” to the drama-inducing, rumored Kennedy-Kennedy-Monroe triangle to the more recent “Hunger Games” triangle of Peeta, Katniss and Gale, these liaisons have dominated big screens, the literary world and newspaper headlines.
I would even compare love triangles to car crashes. We just cannot look away. We find ourselves digging deeper and deeper, wanting to discover why these people act this way. Is this really a tragic love tale, or is someone looking for 15 minutes of fame? As the desire and need for information about the inner workings of these relationships transpire from both the public and ourselves, the ethical lines of journalism may blur. Do we give in to the public’s need for information, or do we put our foot down when the information is a little too personal?
Unless you have been on a sudden purge from televisions, newspapers, the Internet and, of course, the occasional gossiping granny, you have heard of the Petraeus CIA scandal. This love triangle – or would it constitute a love rectangle? – has captured the country’s attention, as well as top headlines for the past week. The main man involved is David Petraeus, the former director of the CIA until his sudden Nov. 9 resignation. Announcing his resignation, Petraeus confirmed his extramarital affair with biographer Paula Broadwell. Broadwell had co-written a biography about Petraeus entitled “All In: The Education of General David Petraeus,” which was published in January. On the other side of the scandal, we have Jill Kelley. Kelley, known as a Florida socialite, had started receiving threatening emails accusing her of having an affair with Petraeus. She reported the emails to the FBI, which discovered their source was none other than Broadwell. While there has been no proof backing up the claims of a Petraeus-Kelley affair, the FBI discovered thousands of pages of email between Kelley and Gen. John Allen. The final piece of the puzzle, Allen is the Commander of International Security Assistance Force. Although he denies having an affair with Kelley, he is under investigation by the Pentagon for his communications with Kelley.
Obviously, this is a big story. The scandal captured some of the top headlines, knocking even Hurricane Sandy down on news pages. However, it seems the media has stooped to a new low in the coverage of this event. CNN has cameras posed outside the Kelley residence 24 hours a day, even reporting live outside Kelley’s house. They have taken to videotaping her through her windows. CBS News has also dug up details regarding Kelley’s twin sister, Natalie Khawam, and her custody battle for her son. Apparently, both Petraeus and Allen wrote letters regarding Khawam’s appeal to keep custody of her son. Is it necessary to be essentially stalking a woman and her family for so long that she feels the need to dial 911? Do we need to dig up information about all the members of her family, even those not involved in the case?
As editors, we have a major impact on where the line of privacy is drawn. Do we let this behavior continue by putting these stories on the front page, giving them as much publicity as possible, or do we draw the line? Do we tell our reporters to dig up more information about the case, or do we let the news die and let new news take its place? As reporters, do we draw this case out, sucking every little new piece of information out until it is dry, or do we let it fall of Page 1 with dignity?
As it looks now, this case will not be going anywhere for at least a few more weeks, that is, until some other scandal takes precedence and the headlines.
_ Shelby Wade
As Hurricane Sandy approached the center of New York, social media allowed the rest of the nation to see the natural disaster through powerful images. Photos from the storm and flood were all over Twitter and Facebook feeds. As these indescribable photos captivated us, we retweeted and reposted for the rest of our friends to see. Although many of these photos were real, how many of them were fake?
Photos actually taken during Hurricanes Isaac, Irene and Katrina were passed off as Hurricane Sandy pictures. Beyond not being current, many were altered in Photoshop. Yet they were retweeted or reposted without verification. A viral photograph purportedly showing Hurricane Sandy descending in New York was really a photo from a thunderstorm in Manhattan in 2011.
The Atlantic started to verify Sandy photographs that had gone viral on many social media sites. Luckily, journalists can use many tools to prevent the spread of manipulated images. TinEye.com finds where an image came from, how long it has been used and if modified versions exist. Istwitterwrong.tumblr.com is cataloging fake photos, making it another great reference for journalists. It includes another viral photograph of soldiers standing at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier during Sandy, and it mentions that the photo was retweeted by The Washington Post. The tweet was deleted because the photo was actually taken in September, not during Sandy.
How can journalists work harder to avoid this? Hopefully, The Washington Post has learned a valuable lesson with images. How many mistakes does it take news organizations to lose all credibility? To avoid retweeting a fake photo on Twitter it is important to look at the account that you are taking it from. Journalists should always be suspicious of new accounts and make sure that they analyze the Twitter feed. Some good questions to ask are: What does this source usually tweet about? Where does this source say they’re located? How often are they using social media? It only takes seconds to check the weather reports. Craig Silverman of The Poynter Institute emphasizes that it’s important to reference weather sources, maps and even existing images before posting an image.
Remember, as journalists being right is more important than being first even with breaking news. It is just as important to verify a photograph’s credibility as it is to check facts in a news story. Especially in a tweet, mistaken information will spread quicker than any correction. Twitter, TweetDeck and Hootsuite do not offer any type of correction function — yet. Put simply, if photo can’t be verified, it shouldn’t be reposted.
By Kelsey Newman
Denzel Washington has a journalism degree from Fordham University. No, most graduates will not go on to be critically acclaimed actors, but landing in a traditional newsroom is not inevitable.
Journalism students leave college with dozens of extremely useful and applicable skills. They include: conveying ideas in a quick and concise way, thinking critically, writing sentences free of grammatical errors and communicating clearly. Along with these traditional skills, J-schools also are sending their students out in the real world with more digital skills. They’re learning to use social media and build websites. People with all of these abilities have options.
Many students will continue on to a higher degree program after receiving an undergraduate degree. Law, teaching and business are common paths for those wanting to further their education. Having degrees in multiple areas makes an applicant more competitive. Some are also staying in school longer to delay having to find a job in a tough market.
For those going straight into the work force, there are many possibilities. Book editing is an interesting career that is not going away. E-books have reminded people that they love to read. Journalists have the skills needed for this field. Most probably already love reading, and editing skills are perfectly honed for the job. An online engagement specialist is another career opportunity for journalists. This is a position companies create to help get the word out about their companies on their own through social media, websites and blogs instead of traditional media.
Marketing and public relations positions are a great fit for journalists because of a journalism skill set. They know how to communicate and think about situations from different angles. Freelance journalism is booming. And news websites offer another career path. Companies like Patch cover local news around the country on websites. Patch has hired hundreds of reporters and editors in the past two years. Depending on a journalism student’s other areas of study, such as political science, computer programing, or sports, there are even more job possibilities. As the journalism industry and the Internet become completely co-dependent, programmers can create new ways to tell stories through Flash and other alternative story forms.
Looking to the future, new jobs are being created in the journalism field everyday. Five years ago, there was not a social communication strategist on anyone’s payroll. Now companies are hiring people specifically to create a presence in social media. Lauren Krause graduated from Loyola University with a communications degree and then struggled to find a job in her field until the Chicago Tribune created the Trib Nation coordinator position. Krause’s advice to journalism students is to be flexible and adapt.
If working for a newspaper is still the goal, Journalismjobs.com suggests looking at smaller cities. For those looking to branch into non-traditional fields, start applying for anything and everything. Along with Journalismjobs.com, websites like LinkedIn and Media Bistro connect journalists looking for jobs with employers all over the country.
As we have all heard a thousand times, experience is the key. Get multiple internships and jobs in a variety of fields until you find your niche.
It was the broken moment of silence heard round the world.
Several national television networks broadcast live the annual moment of silence for the 9/11 attacks on this month’s anniversary. President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama appeared publicly to commemorate the moment with the rest of the country. NBC broadcast the moment as well but chose to cut away during it to an interview with Kardashian mom, Kris Jenner — about breast implants.
As nauseating as I think this move was, I can’t say that I’m shocked. NBC’s poor choice went viral and made headlines for nearly a week after. But the mistake was really just a small slice of what the American news industry has become: an industry in which the line between real news and celebrity gossip is very fine and very blurry.
Obviously many felt it was inappropriate of NBC to cut into an interview during the moment of silence — especially to an interview with a reality TV star. Jenner is famous for nothing but being on a reality show with her even more famous children, who garner even more (and by more I mean constant) media attention. Oddly enough, the Kardashian klan seems to sit right at the nucleus of this growing problem in the news industry and showcases the issue perfectly; the whole family is famous for being on a reality show, which it was offered after the release of Kim Kardashian’s infamous Internet sex tape. And now, a few years later, Kardashian has a whole slew of articles dedicated to her not just in the National Enquirer, but in The New York Times.
Maybe D.L. Stewart with the Springfield Sun-Times said it best: “What once were little more than appetizing tidbits in Hollywood rags read mostly by teenage girls now have become the fast-food entrees of all media.”
It makes sense that every once in a while, a news story involving a celebrity crosses over into serious news. Some stories are more than just juicy gossip. The Arnold Schwarzenegger scandal was juicy, but it also involved a political figure, who married into a political powerhouse family that is basically American royalty. Bill Clinton scandal? It was also a big deal; he was the president. Take any other politician cheating scandal (John Edwards, for instance). As sensational as the scandals may be, each probably does affect a lot of voter decisions and is, therefore, worth talking about. A lot of celebrity stories also become platforms for further exploration of real issues. The Chris Brown/Rihanna scandal, for instance, generated a lot of other stories on domestic abuse. And when legends like Michael Jackson die, especially of something other than old age, it’s definitely worth noting, even commemorating (although, the excessive amount of coverage on that could be a whole ‘nother blog post).
Some of these stories may have been somewhat questionable, but they at least still contain some thread of serious appeal. But that doesn’t apply to Britney Spears’ personal life or Lindsay Lohan and her numerous arrests. Lohan’s latest arrest was top news on the Fox News and CNN websites.
As a self-proclaimed pop culture junkie, I plead guilty to being somewhat interested in this trash occasionally, but I still don’t think Brangelina’s newest baby deserves to be placed next to a story on Obamacare. And Kris Jenner has no business interrupting a 9/11 commemorative moment. While these stories have an audience, they also have a proper forum like Us Weekly or People magazine. Interestingly enough, People is owned by Time magazine and is supposed to be the offshoot containing more celebrity stories, but somehow Tom Cruise’s personal life has ended up on the front cover of both, more than once.
To be fair to newspapers and magazines, it’s a rough climate with competition for readers and advertisers from all kinds of news sources. Unfortunately, juicy is often what gets attention and sells copies (just ask Newsweek). Perhaps news outlets are just trying to generate readership and keep their publications operating. But by using junk news to do so, I think they sacrifice credibility as well as the trust of loyal readers who come to them for information about real stuff. I also think that supplying the demand for these kinds of stories only generates more demand and decreases interest in more important matters. Catering to this demand is selling out in its purest form and contradicts the very purpose of journalism itself: to educate, to tell people things they didn’t know but should.
News media can’t force reader interest. But rather than deciding to cave and publish tabloid trash anyway, the media should not use the changing industry dynamic as an excuse for lowering standards. Instead it should be an opportunity to raise standards. The media must find new ways to attract readers to stories that are valuable to them and that they should care about — even if they don’t realize it because they’re too busy keeping up with the Kardashians.