Monday, November 27, 2006

What About Us?


USA Today says the job outlook for recent grads is good, but they focus on IT jobs. Many of us will be done in December or June of next year at the latest. What can we look foward to, if anything as aspiring journalists? We need to know a little bit of everything. But if certain areas are "hot" right now, shouldn't we jump on the bandwagon- get in where we fit in? I think we may have to look at more specialized types of reporting like sports, business and...........yep, IT. While we may or may not want the 'conventional' reporting job, that market may not be booming at the end of this year or the beginning of next. Business publishers like United Communications Group, newspapers like the Wall Street Journal, magazines like Crain's and other avenues may be our meal ticket.

To view this article go, here!

Sunday, November 26, 2006

A New Light for In-Depth Reporting

As the light at the end of the Medill Reports tunnel appears a little brighter and a little closer this week, I thought it might be a good time to take a look at how the networks approach long-form reporting.

One of my favorite shows, if I can stay awake, is ABC’s Nightline. I never really got into the show during the Ted Kopple days but post-Kopple, I’ve found it to be a great alternative to Letterman and Leno.

But according to some, it looks like the post-Ted Kopple Nightline” is still in its adolescent stage—trying to find itself.

The original “Nightline” premiered four days after the Iran hostage crisis started. In an effort to compete with the other networks late-night programing, ABC launched the show to update Americans on the latest in the Middle East.

After the hostage crisis, “Nightline” and its anchor Ted Kopple kept the time slot and offered a hard news end of day wrap up.

When Kopple left the show was revamped and now offers a variety of hard and soft news features.

Some say the show’s aim is to be the “New Yorker” of television, but it appears it’s got a long way to go.

One frequent criticism is that there are often more questions raised than answered. When talking about long-form in-depth reporting that’s not a good thing.

So far the ratings have held and I’m glad. To me the show encompasses the idea that television journalism is more than just spray a room and get out. TV can have depth and answer serious questions.

It just looks like the new “Nightline” needs to grow up a little before that will happen.


To leanr more about the history of “Nightline” click here.

To visit the “Nightline” home page click here.

What's in it for you?

"I want to tell stories for those who can't do it themselves."

"I want to expose corruption and society's evils."

"I want to spend my life doing something exciting and different every day."

"I want to be a famous journalist."

The people who become rich and famous doing what they do define the image of their profession. After all, how do you know you want to do it unless you've heard of it before and seen what it can do? The names and faces we see in print and broadcast have shown us what it means to be a journalist and have probably given us some sense of why we want to do it.

But since way back when, many people have been reporting news and stories and at the end of the road, have never become rich or famous for it.

Those are the journalists I admire so much: men and women who dutifully and excellently report the news day in and day out, never seeing their names in glitter, other than as a byline in the paper.

Moses Newson is probably even more "famous" than many other reporters would get to be since he covered civil rights during that era. The story is in the Washington Post called, "Story of their lives: For Reporters on the Civil Rights Beat, The Trick Was to Cover The News, Not Be It."

At first, my blog entry was going to question how "embedded" a reporter should get into the story, but then a different question came to mind:

Would you give your all to journalism even if you never got rich or famous for it?

There never were any big-time journalism awards for Moses Newson. He wrote his stories, kept a few.

Posted by AL

Security in the newsroom

Last Friday afternoon, I happened to be watching CNN when a story broke about a gunman in the Miami Herald building. The coverage went on for a couple of hours, without many developments except some observations from witnesses about the alleged gunman telling reporters that he was looking for a particular editor and that he was the paper's "new director." It turned out that the man was a freelance cartoonist for El Nuevo Herald, a Spanish-language newspaper published owned by the Miami Herald's publishers, and was angry about some management decisions at the paper. After speaking with a police negotiator, the man surrendered and was arrested. As it turned out, he didn't have a gun--he carried only a knife and a toy gun that apparently looked realistic.

As I watched the event unravel, the reporters struggled to get more information but were able to speak with some of the Herald reporters who had stayed in the newsroom to report on the standoff. And one of the Herald reporters had an interesting answer when he was asked about the building's security: he said that the security was typically not very tight, because of the importance of keeping the paper "open" to the public.

Surely, it's a tricky balance--journalists write and say things every day that are likely to anger someone, but we need to be accessible and accountable. So which should win out? Is it more important to have high security for the benefit of the newsroom staff? Or should we take our chances in the interest of visibility?

Here's the link to a story on the standoff.


Friday, November 24, 2006

When Networks Jump the Gun

Last week, JG's great blog entry discussed how News Corp. (parent company of FOX and Harper Collins) was planning to air an O.J. Simpson special on how he ‘would have committed’ the murders of Nicole Brown Simpson and Ron Goldman, as well as publish O.J.’s memoir on the same issue.

Unlike NBC which refused to stoop to FOX’s level, FOX’s initial decision suggested that they favor ratings over ethics. News Corp. most likely used the Potter’s Box upside down or favored the belief that if enough Americans are sick enough to watch O.J. back at it again, why not air the content.

But in a dramatic turnaround this past week, New Corp. retracted its initial decision and issued the following apology: "I and senior management agree with the American public that this was an ill-considered project," News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch said. "We are sorry for any pain that this has caused the families of Ron Goldman and Nicole Brown Simpson."

So, the question becomes... does retracting a decision that was terrible in the first place make FOX/News Corp. look even worse? If Rupert Murdoch was able to produce an apology and understand that he had caused pain to a few too many members of society - why did he consider airing the O.J. special in the first place?

It would look better if networks convened, used every possible resource at their disposal to make ethical, moral and beneficial decision to both their company and the public, and then proceeded without having to retract their steps at a later point.

Jumping the gun, and apologizing later often makes companies like News Corp. appear as though they never think things through in the first place. New Corp. looks almost as bad as if it had aired the show in the first place.


Wednesday, November 22, 2006

This is bad boys, bad boys

For anyone who thinks athletes are generally overpaid and oftentimes corrupt, there's a web site for you. It's called and it's slogan is "Where COPS Meets Sportscenter."

This web site has a particular connection to Northwestern.

It broke the Wildcats women's soccer hazing scandal. And it's always looking to strap onto the next jock who does something "bad" and enters the ring of controversy. (Too many sports puns?)

This might be citizen journalism at its finest. Bob Reno, the head honcho at, is standing by any time an athlete gets a DUI or a high school coach becomes embroiled in a sex scandal.

Check out the website at to get a blow-by-blow of the latest hazing scandal - insert Quinnipiac University baseball team here.

The web site seems part blog, part jounalistic and part voyeuristic.

Just about any former athlete can attest to hazing rituals or things a team does that the team would rather not mention. Now there's a web site that puts all of that front and center.

To any former jocks out there, what do you think of that?

And to all of us journalists, is this journalism or is Bob Reno just capitalizing off of stupid athletes? And is there anything wrong with that?


A Lesson in Diversity Reporting

The Washington Post is currently running a series called "Being a black man" that explores life for black men in America. The multimedia project focuses on specific men while also examining issues like incarceration and finding a job.

Is this the way to do “diversity?”

Bill Cosby has criticized the series for painting too rosy of a picture, and others have asked why there isn’t a similar project focused on white males or other racial groups. But many more (at least based on the feedback posted online) have embraced the series and thanked the newspaper for putting in-depth positive coverage of black males on the front page.

Given that the media often cast black men in a negative light, I think the Post should be applauded for its effort. I appreciate that the paper didn’t do just one article and interviewed people on the street as well as big names like Michael Eric Dyson. I agree with those who say this kind of coverage shouldn’t be limited to black men, thought it makes sense to start there given that Washington D.C. has a large African-American population and black men have been the subject of many studies and reports.

But there is the question of whether you further marginalize a minority group by pulling out their experience and examining it in this way.

I also wonder if television, which bears a large share of the blame for the negative images of black men, could do something like this. Sadly, I don’t think so. A two or three minute package couldn’t do justice to the complex experience of life for any group of people.

Still, I think the project shows the value of in-depth reporting. I just hope profit constraints and job cuts don't take away the resources for other papers to spend the time to develop a series like this.

To view the series click here


Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Gender Steretypes in the News

Since Nancy Pelosi assumed the Speaker of the House post, media buzz has encircled her. But to many this "talk" appears to be stereotype-driven.

An article posted on Media Matters for America argues the media pays less attention to Pelosi's ability to lead than whether or not her being a female will effect her ability to lead. They say less commentary is spent on what she says than what she wears.

Has the media hardened gender bias?

Media Matters says yes, and they cite a series of examples that support their claim. Some of these examples are listed below:

1. On the November 18 edition of MSNBC Live, anchor Contessa Brewer questioned if Pelosi's "personal feelings [were] getting in the way of effective leadership" -- a problem she suggested is absent when "men-run leadership posts."

2. On the November 16 edition of CNN's Newsroom, CNN political analyst Bay Buchanan asserted that Pelosi's "judgment is based on emotions and not good sense."

3. During the November 11 edition of NBC's weekend edition of Today, co-host Campbell Brown discussed how "Nancy Pelosi's very poised, wearing the beautiful Armani suits, never a hair out of place" and asked author Myrna Blyth: "How important is that?"

Some media figures have chosen to cover Pelosi assuming a role traditionally held by men through topics of gender and appearance. Is this detracting from her accomplishments? Similarily, when Katie Couric debuted as the first female anchor of the evening news, her white jacket attracted much media much so that more space and air-time was devoted to her outfit selection than her performance.

Is it possible to cover stories like these without comparing the sexes? Is the media representative of society as a whole: someone not yet ready to accept a woman as a political leader of greater insight than style?

You decide.

To read the Media Matters' article, click here.


Monday, November 20, 2006

Papers partner with Yahoo

In an attempt to access readers and online advertising money, 150 + newspapers are partnering with the search engine, Yahoo.

Yahoo thinks that adding the newspapers will even the playing field with Google-- a major rival.

The deal will start with newspapers posting ads on Yahoo's classified jobs site, but will move into having actual news.

Finally, the newspapers are realizing that the future of news is online and that the Internet might be a threat for their print editions. Obviously the appeal is to gain access to a place that advertisers find desirable. Do you think this is an advancement for the newspaper industry? Or just another idea that may or may not help newspapers tap further into the online world?

To read an article from the Washington Post about the deal, click here.


ABC and USA Today "Money Makeovers"

Student debt is an issue for MOST of us. Now ABC and USA today are pairing up to do a six-week series on five students who are in debt. We get to watch as they get advice on cutting their expenses and managing their debt. Don't get me wrong, I think this is a GREAT and very PRACTICAL "makeover" series, probably the best out right now but isn't this more of a Suze Orman, CNN, network and cable kind of thing? I have two grievances with this: 1. they didn't use a Medillian as one of their students and 2. there is nothing new or interesting about "makeovers" at this point. I would've liked to see them collaborate on something more "fresh" like the wave of young minorities who are working for their respective parties to campaign for the 2008 election or something like that. Leave the money managing to Orman and that Republican millionaire with the black-rimmed glasses and the nasal voice.

To view the article go,here!

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Covering Fight Club

One of my hopes for making it big (i.e to the networks or cable news) is so I don’t have to cover local news.

I’m not saying local news isn’t important. I think it is. For most Americans what’s happening in their backyard is probably more important than what’s happening in Washington or New York or Shanghai….you get my drift.

But I’m talking about the local news stories that kind of make you cringe… bar brawls.

Turns out I may be out of luck.

CNN and Fox are turning to the local news mantra of hook ‘um with the video they’ll want to see.

According to Cable World
the two cable news networks are covering the type of stuff that you’d expect to find on “Live at Five.”

For example, last week on an “In America” segment CNN aired a fight between a peewee football coach and the ref.

Fox had the video too. Not to be out done the network aired what Sean Hannity called “Junior Ghetto Fights” in which young African Americans duke it out while being cheered on by adults.

As video becomes more and more accessible through the internet and sites like YouTube give amateurs the ability to disperse it and producers the ability to pick it up, is this what we can expect?

Posted by MR

Not worth mentioning ?

Here's a quirky little piece that discusses the lapse in reporting around the Plame scandal. As we all know, national papers love a juicy scoop. The Plame matter had all the makings of a political soap: terrorism, a vengeful administration, secret operatives. When Judith Miller et. al, were in the courts pleading for the First Amendment, the press reported every step. When Scooter was indicted for obstruction of justice and perjury, the press was all over it. But, when the person who actually made leak of Plame's identity was revealed (former Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage), there was barely a peep. I didn't even hear about this until I read about it in the American Journalism Review. Is this just ignoring the news because it wasn't as tantalizing as a president bent on striking those against his theories of WMD? Or is it that it was the most colossal oops, and the press was too ashamed to admit it?

To read the article click here.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Welcome to Blogville

In searching for an interesting topic of discussion this week (I'm going for at least two comments this week!), I came across an article circa 2003 in which a Houston Chronicle reporter got canned for having a blog.

Actually, he had what was once known as a "Weblog," which has since been shortened to what we now know and love as a "blog."

Here's the article's address:

I didn't even know blogs existed in 2003, so I'd say this guy was ahead of his times. He did do something a little dumb in my opinion. He criticized the paper for which he worked in his blog and there's a lesson in that. Never bite the hand that feeds you.

But back in '03, this reporter asked if there was a place for "Weblogs" in the newspaper biz.

Fast forward to '06 and the answer is a resounding, "Yes!"

Now reporters are blogging everywhere.

Go to any major newspaper web site and I guarantee you there's a link to a blog.

USA Today has a side bar on its web site that has a link to all its blogs that talk about everything from breaking news to pop culture.

Three years ago a blog got someone fired. Today blogs thrive in the online newspaper environment, turning everyday reporters into columnists and commentators.

This reporter asked three years ago if blogs could work.

Well, I'm going ask will blogs ever stop?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Channel 7 Nike Evening News brought to you by Adidas

In a recent “Tech-Watch” podcast on iTunes, I learned the unsurprising fact that TiVo is turning commercials on TV into an optional and often obsolete b-side of the evening news. Many people who have TiVo or PVR (Personal Video Recording) devices most likely aren’t watching the evening news live and when they play it back at a time that’s more convenient, it’s safe to assume that many people use the fast-forward feature to skip through commercials.

It’s understandable that when someone only has a limited amount of time each evening, he or she is more interested in current events and not the latest from Kraft.

And because of TiVo and PVR, the advertising time slots are not selling to advertisers at a rate fast or high enough to keep many local news stations from keeping ad sponsorships out of the newscast. If you’re tired of hearing an anchor tell you to stay tuned for the weather “brought to you by Toyota”, can you imagine the evening news reaching a point where anchors are telling you “we now go live to the White House brought to you by Covergirl.”

Who’s to blame? We want high-quality news content, stations that can afford live trucks, helicopters and enough reporters to stay on the edge of breaking news regardless of what time or area of town in which it’s happening.

But with TiVo decreasing the value of prime-time advertising slots (as advertisers are unwilling to pay for a slot that’s being skipped over by 35% of all viewers), that money is costing some local news stations that rely on a steady income from their marketing department.

Viewers want uninterrupted content but prefer not to pay for it. News stations need to sell their advertising slots so they can advertise at commercial breaks and not as frequently during the newscast with cheesy anchor-promos. There’s no solution - at least nothing definite yet.


Thursday, November 16, 2006

Looking to buy a 'little' debt?

Clear Channel plans to sell 448 of its 1,150 radio stations, all outside of the top 100 markets and the 42-station Television Group as well. The total revenue of these made up less than 10 percent of the company's revenues last year. And an investor group led by Thomas H. Lee Partners LP and Bain Capital Partners LLC is aquiring the country's biggest radio station owner for about $18.7 billion and assuming about $8 billion in debt.

Radio stocks were once "stock market darlings," but has been rapidly declining in value, especially since 2000 when "competition from the boom in portable listening devices like Apple Computer Inc.'s iPods and the emerging growth of satellite radio" kept it difficult to win listeners back.

Reader's Digest is being bought for $1.6 billion by a private investment group led by Ripplewood Holdings LLC and will assume about $776.3 million in debt. Despite a few recent successes, overall Reader's Digest has been struggling in the competition against other media and the Internet, such as

Both companies saw a jump in shares after aquisition announcements were made.

What do you think this means, if anything? Where is radio and long-standing traditions like Reader's Digest in our media future?

Posted by AL

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

O.J. Simpson: If I Did it, Here’s How it Happened

Many criticize TV news for favoring stories of crime and pain over stories of safety and pleasure. Case and point: “if it bleeds it leads.” Well now it seems critics have even more to chew on.

In a two-part interview on Nov. 27 and Nov. 29, O.J. Simpson will tell FOX how he would have committed the murders of his ex-wife Nicole Brown Simpson and her friend Ronald Goldman.

The broadcast will air days before Simpson's new book, "If I Did It," goes on sale Nov. 30.

This is sick, disgusting and morally reprehensible, especially when O.J. vehemently denied committing the crime for over a decade. Any innocence he could possibly have is completely destroyed by this move.

Not only is this interview disturbing, but it will also be extremely painful for those who still mourn Simpson and Goldman. Simpson’s children will now have to re-live their mother’s death. And the sad part is they can thank their father for that.

Denise Brown, Nicole Brown Simpson’s sister, issued the statement: "It's unfortunate that Simpson has decided to awaken a nightmare that we have painfully endured and worked so hard to move beyond."

And then there are the questions: Why would someone want to play the role of a killer, and why would a network want to commercialize abuse?

NBC said it had been approached to air the special, but declined the offer.

FOX chose otherwise. They know the ratings will be through the roof.

But this shouldn’t be something to ride home about, even during sweeps. As Ron Goldman said on Larry King tonight, “Murder shouldn’t be glorified in any way shape or form.”

To read more about this, visit here.


Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Al Jazeera Goes International

Al Jazeera plans to go international with a new channel, "Al Jazeera International." It will be separate from the original Al Jazeera with different camera crews, editors, and on-air talent. The program will start broadcasting in the English-language. This network will bring news to viewers in the East who are "frustrated with Western coverage of their world."

Al Jazeera will break from the traditional mode of covering news by reporting on the developing world with correspondents from those areas. There has been speculation about whether or not the network can actually steal viewers from other large international networks.

My question about this whole plan is: Is this possible? And, can Al Jazeera International work? There seems to be a conflict of interest here because the new channel is trying to break from the brand image of the original network with a different look, people, and audience, but managing director, Nigel Parsons, says, "We're very proud of our brand." He seems to be launching the new operation with the same brand identity?

Is a network like this--both loved and hated--able to succeed?

To read the New York Times article, "A New Al Jazeera With a Global Focus," go here


Editing out controversy

During an appearance on the “Larry King Live” show last Wednesday, comedian Bill Maher speculated that some high-ranking Republicans were gay. Then, prompted by King, the former host of "Politically Incorrect" named names.

The interview was broadcast live on CNN, but Maher's comments were edited out of the rebroadcast of the show and the transcript appearing on CNN's Web site, as well as the copy provided to LexisNexis.

Thanks to the Internet, you can find the full conversation with little difficulty. In fact, the interview was quickly posted to youtube, and then taken down when CNN alleged copyright infringement.

A spokeswoman for “Larry King Live” told The New York Times that CNN could be held legally responsible for republishing Maher’s comments without any additional research. Certainly, that is a valid concern. But in an age when the public can easily access an unedited version of an interview, does it even make sense to cut something you know will appear in a blog the next morning? More importantly, has CNN tarnished its credibility or preserved it by not republishing the comments?

I think the case has relevance for print reporters, too, especially since most of our interviews are not broadcast. Many people have been embarrassed by the media for their comments, such as Jesse Jackson when he made an Anti-Semitic remark in an interview while campaigning for president in 1984. But I’m sure just as many have been spared embarrassment by reporters willing to overlook an offensive comment. How do you decide when to splash a controversial remark across the front page and when to leave it in the pages of your notebook?

To watch the interview click here


Less time for "Free Speech"

The 90-second "Free Speech" segment that was inagurated along with Katie Couric this fall on the CBS evening news is going to be cut back, and in a big way.

The segment, which allowed one person to talk about an issue of their choice, was celebrated by some viewers but criticized my more. Of particular issue was the segment's use of commentary from people like Rush Limbaugh, Ariana Huffington and Barack Obama--celebrities who already have a considerable opportunity to make their views public.

Sometimes the program allowed "regular" Americans to speak out, but for many viewers, there was simply too much celebrity and not enough freedom. Others suggested that the segment was a waste of time, a distraction from more important, "solid" news.

According to CBS, "Free Speech" will now air only one to three times each week. (You can read a Washington Post column about the changes here.)

I'm not sure what to think about the news about the downfall of "Free Speech." On one hand, I agree that the constant parade of celebrity commentators was not particularly interesting or helpful. The segment should have been all the time what it was some of the time--a venue for a wide cross-section of Americans to speak about something important to them.

Sure, it's not "typical" news, but the concerns and celebrations of Americans in Alabama, Oregon and Wisconsin is just as important as anything else. They are where the big stories start and where we should be looking more of the time.


Sunday, November 12, 2006

Fishing for a source

The internet isn’t just good for finding stories. It’s also helping reporters find sources. But when it comes to using the internet, how far is too far?

ABC News chief investigative reporter says his blog helped break the Foley story. Brian Ross told the blog not enough information to go to air. So reporters posted a smaller story on-line. Someone with the text records saw that post and forwarded the records to ABC.

Ross went to Foley and his aides. They confirmed the story and said Foley would be resigning at the end of the day.

Ross said that he sees the website "as a way to essentially make better use of all the work we did" on such stories.

Sounds like a win to me. But can journalists go too far?

By ratings standards, Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” series is a huge success. But is it ethical by journalism standards?

Some don’t think so. Many would argue that posing as a 12 or 13 year-old to catch a child predatory for an interview is entrapment. And isn’t posing as something your not a cardinal no-no for the profession?

Potter’s Box this scenario out and you’re bound to ask the question: isn’t getting these guys off the street instrumental to “the greater good?”

Is it too far?

Posted by MR

Saturday, November 11, 2006

How would you rather have Rather cover Election Day?

Did anyone see Dan Rather on Comedy Central with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert?

I didn't, but I did watch four men comment on "Indecision 2006" on MSNBC the night after Election Day. They didn't have anything negative to say about Rather, but they did think it was ... funny. One of the commentators said we take ourselves far too seriously anyways.

The same commentators debated the purpose of television news following the elections and "filling up air time" with made-up suspense and drama about the elections. They wondered if it was really necessary for tv news to be up all night and the day after just feeding the audience with uncertain information, or no information, really.

Along those lines, they thought it was odd, but funny to see Rather on Comedy Central covering the elections. Obviously, it's odd to consider someone like Dan Rather to be on a comedy show with Colbert and Stewart, but was it wrong?

Why do you think he did it?

"It's a risk, I guess, but what the hell," Rather said. "I don't do comedy, I do politics, which sometimes is one and the same."

Posted by AL

Soldier Sensitivity?

After the Abu Ghraib fiasco, we know that some American soldiers are not the pinnacle of sensitivity. But after reading this article in the Columbia Journalism Review, it occurred to me that maybe our soldiers should take a seminar or something before they load themselves into Humvees. Regardless of the belief that an insurgent may be hiding under every stone, the Iraqis are people, have a set standard of cultural practices and religious beliefs that should be respected as the soldiers look for "the enemy." Bread is considered holy, and walking into someone's house with shoes on is disrespectful. American soldiers chew tobacco to stay awake and spit all over people's yards when they go on raids. A group of soldiers thought that the daily prayer call was a call to arms. This group of vignettes shows the many cultural clashes that soldiers make when fighting, and shows another factor that our president should keep in mind as he tries to establish democracy.

To read the article, click here.

Women in the Newsroom

A Washington Post article, "Men, Signing Off" raises an interesting qustion: Why are there so many women in the newsrooms? Why do they outnumber males on-air?

In the article, local Washington, D.C. news directors are asked about their newsrooms and why they think women applicants outnumber men. Bill Lord, WJLA (Channel 7) news director, says female applicants versus male applicants are at about a 3 to 1 ratio. He also said that percentage increases on a yearly basis.

A Radio and Television News Directors Association survey says women= 57 percent of anchors, 58 percent of TV reporters, 55 percent of executive producers, 66 percent of news producers, and 56 percent of news writers.

Women entered the newsrooms about 40 years ago. Some of their male counterparts were not happy. Now, these women account for more positions than men. The article says beyond "the sports guy, the weathercaster, the boss--men are disappearing from TV newsrooms."

But, Why? Why is a previously male-dominated industry turned female? Is it the recent celebrity-status appeal? Why are males no longer as drawn to T.V. journalism? Some experts say men have abandoned the field and partially attribute it to the very low salaries at an entry-level job.

If you look around at the broadcasters at Medill, you will see this trend in full force. I find it strange and wish more males would enter into the industry to keep it more representative of the public.


Friday, November 10, 2006

BREAKING NEWS (just spend five minutes giving us your personal information and then we'll tell you what happened).

We are fortunate to have this blog, because I do not have any other outlet to address this complaint: Could the Chicago Tribune make it any more difficult to access articles on their website? Last time I checked, the media is supposed to be accessible.

When I log onto the Chicago Tribune website to read a print article, I should be able to click on a link and have that article open immediately. The Chicago Sun-Times website doesn't give me any problems but for some reason that's beyond my comprehension, editors at the Chicago Tribune selectively decide which articles on their website can be accessed by the public and which articles require additional personal information from the visitor.

When I'm trying to catch breaking news, I want to read what's going on immediately! I don't enjoy any additional suspense while I'm trying to get the facts but the Chicago Tribune's website requires a password and a profile just so I can read some story online. That doesn't make any sense. If they're not going to bill me, why do they need all of my personal information?

I'm concerned enough about identity theft and if I'm trying to get local news from online in a public place, I'm not prepared to start shooting off passwords, birth-dates and other personal information just to read an article.

There is also the possibility that the Tribune will give my personal information and email address to some other company I've never heard of just so I can get spammed more than I already do.

Requiring a personal profile from a website visitor to access certain articles while others are a click away, is very annoying. In my opinion, all the Tribune is accomplishing is providing the incentive for visitors to get their news another way, like from a website such as The Chicago Sun-Times or from a local TV station that doesn't require a million steps before presenting a viewer with the information.

Or maybe the Chicago Tribune has a point and I should start requiring passwords, home addresses and phone numbers from people who want to read every 3rd blog I post?


What can we learn from the late Ed Bradley?

Its all about being aggressive and competitive when getting the story, right?! One of the kindest, most gentle journalists on the earth passed yesterday of leukemia-Ed Bradley. His fellow journalists say that Bradley's style swayed away from the forceful and yet he was still successful reporter for the investigative news program 60 Minutes and the first Black journalist to be a White House correspondent. I'd like to think that "you can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar," especially if you don't have a naturally aggressive personality. I'm not one who will stray too far from my normal temprament to get what I want and I sense Ed Bradley was the same way. What do you guys think?


To view this article go, here!

Adapt or die

We've talked about it at length in class.

Medill 20/20 is taking it head on.

It's the idea of becoming a jack of all journalism trades.

According to an American Journalism Review article click here, you've got to "adapt or die" in this new age of multimedia. That applies most to newspapers.

The article says newspapers are finally catching onto the idea of going online, not just for readers, but for revenue, too.

In 2005, newspaper Internet advertising topped $2 billion for the first time, according to the Newspaper Association of America. That's a 31 percent increase over 2004.

Overall, the article sounded like it came straight from Dean Lavine's new blog site.

It says newspaper higher-up's have to change their lingo. Instead of stories and readers, we now have "content" and "audience."

Newspapers aren't dispensers of the truth. They are "products."

Last September, the American Press Institute launched a yearlong "Newspaper Next" offering newspaper leaders some guidance in the world of multimedia.

You can check out that web site if you just...(click here).

So what does the future hold for us budding reporters?

Will newspapers become extinct?!?!?!

Or will it be our first stop on our way to filing a story for other forms of media including webacasts, podcasts and any other cast you want to throw in there?

The article's long, but worth the read. And note who won a Pulitzer Prize at the end.


Thursday, November 09, 2006

Madonna Takes on the Media

This week's issue of TIME magazine includes a candid interview with Madonna on her recent adoption. When asked, "Why do you think people are so upset that you adopted a Malawian child," she responded, "People or the media?"

She raises an important question that suggests the media can manipulate the word "celebrity" to create controversy and drama. In other words, if you attach a personality's name to a story, you're bound to get higher ratings. The Madonna/David Banda situation illuminates this reality.

"When you throw in things like I'm a celebrity and I somehow got special treatment, or make the implication of kidnapping, it gets mixed into a stew, and it sells a lot of papers," Madonna added. People are drawn toward gossip and love to read about it. It is unclear whether or not the criticisms Madonna is facing are justifiable; they are based on speculation. Therefore, is if fair for the media to dedicate so much print space and air-time to blasting Madonna for claims that can't be substantiated?

The language of the headlines themselves, "Adoption Fiasco," "Adoption Controversy" and "Did Banda, Madonna See Eye to Eye" sound more so like the makings of a soap opera than a breaking news story. Don't we have more important news to be covering than a singer giving a child access to the good life?

This story broke out weeks ago, yet it's still a topic that's generating concern. Is this where the media should be exhausting its resources and have we breached our duties to being professional journalists?


Wednesday, November 08, 2006

At least this guy is British

Other than the midterm elections, the biggest story of the past week or so has been the debut of British comedian Sacha Baron Cohen's film Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan , the story of a befuddled, ignorant Kazakh journalist.

To most of the American media, the film's opening seemed to be the symbol for a great news trip, so dozens of journalists packed up and went to Kazakhstan in search of real Borats. Or Boratias.

In a Nov. 2 story in Slate, Ilan Greenberg, a journalist based in Kazakhstan--not just a Borat trend-chaser--made note of the annoying infestation of Western media into the country that they have traditionally ignored. In particular, he follows a British tabloid journalist who is weirdly excited to chase down real Kazakhs who live like Borat. He's giddy in his excitement to find locals who eat dog meat, beat their wives for fun, and speak in broken American slang.

But the joke is on this guy. It turns out that Kazakhstan is not as backward as he--and most of the Western world--seems to think. In fact, it turns out that he's the Borat-in-reverse, making a fool of himself among people who think he's ridiculous in every conceiveable way.

The question this creates is bigger than Borat, however. Why is it that journalists wait for a major disaster (or British comedian) to made the long journey to places less traveled. How can we fix our limited view of the news landscape? Do we need to fix it? Is it wrong to just drop in with misguided ideas and leave with a quickly-produced story?


Should Dateline be doing this?

Dateline’s “To Catch a Predator” reeled in a Texas prosecutor Sunday, and the man killed himself as police tried to serve him with a warrant alleging he had solicited sex from a minor.

The Dallas Morning News reported that Louis “Bill Conradt Jr., 56, chief felony assistant district attorney for Rockwall County, tried to proposition sex online from a decoy posing as a 13-year-old boy, and shot himself as police stood outside his door. NBC had a crew on the street, but officials say Dateline had no contact with Conradt before he killed himself.

I find this interesting because I was already on the fence about “To Catch a Predator.” On the popular show, Dateline teams with Perverted Justice, an Internet watchdog group, to catch people propositioning children online. As cameras roll, the usually unsuspecting person walks into the house looking for a child, only to find NBC cameras and Chris Hanson.

On one hand, the show provides a service and functions as a cautionary tale to parents to monitor their children’s Internet use. But I'm not too sure about luring someone into this situation. Sounds like entrapment to me.

Is it right for us to join with someone in a sting operation and show these moments to the world? It makes for great television—often the suspects tearfully apologize or run outside in hopes of getting away only to find the police waiting. But what about the ethical concerns? And is it fair legally to show someone in this light before they go before a jury?

Also, is this even journalism? I say not really. The show is entertaining, but it's less an investigation than throwing out a net and broadcasting what you catch. Then again, I guess it's not that far from the hidden-camera stunts television does all the time.

Should we be in the business of routinely shaming people? Especially when, as this case showed, we can’t be sure how a man (or woman) will react when he realizes he has been identified as a child molester on national television.

To read an article on the ethical questions of the show, click here

Posted by AJ

Sunday, November 05, 2006

And boom goes the dynamite

If you ever have a bad day in front of the camera, just go to YouTube and do a search for some seriously funny local news clips.

I have my favorites.

Grape stomp click here.

Leprechauns in the tree click here.

But the all-time best clip of someone screwing up on the anchor desk comes from a poor, Ball State undergraduate who was thrown into doing a sports segment at the last minute.

It is about four minutes long, so hang in there because it's so worth it.

Check it out here.

I have two main points in writing this blog entry. First, because of YouTube and the Internet, we should be afraid, very afraid. Anything that's caught on tape could hit Internet airwaves and be broadcast to everyone. So be careful!

Next, if you are in need of a laugh, local news seems to have an endless supply of hilarious snafus...many of which are just a Google search away.

And you shouldn't feel all that bad for the Ball State undergrad, Brian Collins. He got an appearance on Letterman for his efforts and launched a new sports catchphrase: "And boom goes the dynamite." All thanks to the Internet.


Friday, November 03, 2006

Stay Tuned to Find Out Who Else Got Shot Since Last Night!

I’m not quite sure whether or not executives at local Chicago news stations consciously decided to focus evening newscasts on who got shot or died in a car crash earlier that day, but many local news channels, like ABC7, have become broadcast obituaries. I really believe that Chicago is one of the finest in the cities in the world.

And if the students at Medill are able to find countless local news stories with substance week after week, why can’t people who are paid to do so accomplish the same thing?

Yes... blood, guts and gore sell - but the abundance of images on an ABC7 broadcast, (also available online) are of car crashes and name/age dropping of who got shot the night before. Each shooting and car crash story blends into the next to the point where a viewer is desensitized.

It appears as though almost no effort goes into these stories... grab some b-roll of a car crash, ask the first person you find on the street if they knew their neighbor would get shot, or if they’ve ever seen a car crash so horrific, and then do exactly the same thing the next night.

The anchors don’t seem particularly concerned with the subject matter, and it quickly appears as though someone is reading the names of people who were caught at the end of gun barrel, or the street names where a car crash occurred, from a teleprompter with absolutely no compassion or sincerity.

In fact, I don’t blame these anchors or reporters because if I had to re-report the same story every night, I would also appear equally distanced from the redundant subject matter.


Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Fox Perica Connection

Last week a fellow MMW blogger wrote about the problems she encountered when trying to do a profile piece on a candidate trying to unseat an Uptown alderman. It opened up a whole bag of worms about what exactly are the legal and ethical obligations a news department faces when trying to cover political candidates.

On Thursday night, Fox News Chicago anchor Mark Suppelsa gave at least two minutes of the 9 p.m. news block to a feature on Cook County candidate Tony Perica. And when I say "gave," I mean I don't think he could have bought a better TV time. Suppelsa went out to Perica's suburban home, sat in a stuffed leather chair across from Perica between his wife and daughter, and talked about playing the guitar, making wine and eating cashews.

I'm all for colorful profiles of political candidates but I have to admit, I was a bit surprised to see this type of piece so close to election day.

At Medill, we made sure to at least approach both sides before running our piece about an election that will take place this spring. The Perica/Stroger race is in 4 days and Fox is giving away air time to one candidate.

Oh the name of full transperancy Fox didn't forget to include that Perica's daughter is a producer at the station. I guess it's all okay if remember to disclose.


Do people need local news?

A Pew Research Center for the People and the Press conducted a study that shows the percentage of local TV news viewers going down over about a ten year period (from 77% in 1993 to 59% in 2004). I know that the rise in other news outlets (cable, internet, etc.) has contributed to this decline, but why are people really straying from local news? Is it because they don't need it?

Maybe they can get all their important information from different sources and avoid the local news. You can get the sports from ESPN, weather from the Weather Channel, and any quick updates from a national 24 hour cable news outlet.

One might argue that as a citizen you need to know weather and traffic, but beyond that, what does local news really add to their lives? Yes, people should care about city council meetings, local shootings, and the rest, but the reality is a great majority just finds it all a little depressing. Especially those viewers that find themselves in the 18-24 age group.

In 1994, 18-24 year olds spent about 51 minutes on average with the news each day. In 2004, it was only 35 minutes (Pew Research Center). I did a survey last year and students said they did not like hearing about murders and other things that made them sad.

What can the local news do better to make these people care about their city, town, or whatever it may be?

To find more statistics from the Pew Research Center,click here.


Katrina couldn't take down one radio station

Phillips' voice [is] the one most often heard passing along the news that the survivors of Katrina need to know: Where the distribution points are; when and where the buses will be running; where and how to apply for business loans and emergency blue roof tarps; where to find wireless access; what restaurants and stores and services are back open.

I few weeks ago, I watched a documentary on Brice Phillips and his makeshift radio station, WQRZ. Because major media groups couldn't get into the area, the radio station was the only access to media the city had. For several months (I can't remember the exact number), WQRZ remained the only access to news and information.

Phillips said that he believed in the need for local news teams - people who know the ins and outs of the town and know its people. At the heart of it, I would agree.

But the link above to the MSNBC story, "An endangered beacon," reflects in the title that local news is phasing out. WQRZ is a non-profit station. Does this make it easier or harder for them to win the argument that they have a necessary place in local journalism?

[They] kept WQRZ on the air 24 hours a day as just about the only daily source of information for the folks in the tents, trailers and tattered homes of Bay St. Louis, Waveland, Kiln, Pearlington, Diamondhead and all the unincorporated areas in Hancock County.

Local radio, local paper, local broadcast - don't you think that we do still need them? Or is it just holding on to something for the sake of "nostalgia?"

Posted by AL