Archive | January, 2012

Case Study2: The Unbelievable World of Jimmy

31 Jan

Although the “Jimmy’s World” piece was very well written and intriguing to read, it was difficult for me to believe even before I knew that Jimmy never existed.  There are so many conflicts within the story, so many aspects that don’t make sense, and it makes me wonder why Cooke’s editors didn’t have the same doubts.  In my opinion, this story is so intense and disturbing, it calls for Jimmy’s identity to be revealed so he can receive help.

The first thing I thought of when I was reading Jimmy’s quotes was that he didn’t speak like one would expect an 8-year-old to speak.  His language seemed more like that of a young teenager.  I was also curious about why none of his teachers had noticed the track marks on his arms.  Surely they would be visible, and any responsible adult outside of the home would most certainly have reported needle marks on an 8-year-old’s arms.  But most importantly, if I were editor I would immediately call Janet Cooke into my office and inquire as to how she could sit back and observe a grown man shooting up a young boy, and not try to stop it, or at least notify the proper authorities so that they could intervene.  This is the type of story that demands action be taken on Jimmy’s behalf.

Most confusing to me, however, is why Cooke didn’t realize the public would be outraged by this story enough that they would attempt to locate this boy and remove him from his dangerous environment.  I guess one could surmise that she got caught up in trying to produce a well-written, compelling piece, and it simply didn’t occur to her that she may be asked to reveal Jimmy’s identity.  Either way, this story provides a great example of why an editor must read every story with a skeptical eye, in order to avoid a situation like this from ever happening to his or her publication.

In further researching this story, I discovered that Cooke had originally claimed Jimmy did exist, but that she could not reveal his identity because she was afraid she would be in danger if she did so.  Cooke did not expect a full investigation to be launched, however, and when she was told she would be receiving a Pulitzer Prize for her story, her Washington Post editors demanded that she produce the identity of the child to prove his existence.  It was at this point that she finally admitted Jimmy wasn’t real.  She had made him up, she claimed, because of pressure from the Post to produce a quality piece. 

Additionally, many other people were affected by Cooke’s story all around the country, simply because they shared her skin color.  To me this is the saddest part of the whole situation.  Innocent reporters were suddenly questioned by their editors, just because they were black.  Sources were called to confirm quotes and stories, which undermines the reporter.  The number of lives she affected other than her own is devastating.

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Week2: Blogs Provide a Fresh Perspective on News

25 Jan

Thibodaux – alt024@ufl.edu

The art of blogging is becoming ever more popular as journalists continually find new and innovative ways to share the news.  What’s great about blogging, however, is that it is not limited to journalists only.  The concept of blogging allows anyone who is interested in a particular topic to share his or her thoughts and knowledge with the rest of the cyber-world.  It is changing the way and by whom the news is reported, and the ever-so-savvy journalist is beginning to realize the advantages that blogs provide.

One company who has taken blogging to a whole new level is NPR, with the invention of an internal project coined Argo.  The basic purpose of Argo was to hire a reporter for 12 member radio stations, teach him or her how to blog, and create a local source of news on a single topic.  According to an article written by Neiman Journalism Lab, the project was so successful that 10 of the 12 stations are attempting to keep its blog alive, hiring the bloggers on as full-time staff members.  The article also stated that in particular, “at four of the 12 stations, their Argo blog drew monthly audiences bigger than every other part of their news sites combined.”

What is so special about a blog as opposed to your average run-of-the-mill news story?  Well, for starters, blogs allow for news with a twist – the blogger’s opinion.  Bloggers aren’t held to typical journalism standards of objectivity and fairness.  A blogger can be as one-sided as he or she pleases.  This gives readers an oppurtunity to follow bloggers who have the same beliefs as them on any given subject.  I know that for me personally, this is the most exciting aspect of the blogging revolution.  Find a topic of interest and a blogger you agree with.  It’s that simple … and it’s revolutionizing the way we receive our news.

Matt Thompson of the PBS Foundation said that the “bread and butter of blogging is writing short and often.” Keep the information to the point and the posts up-to-date.  The bloggers involved in the Argo project wrote about everything from health care reform in Massachusetts to immigration in Southern California.  Bloggers are generally required, however,  to report and then edit their own content.  Thompson continued,  “As the project has gone on, I’ve actually defaulted to calling the bloggers reporter-editors, rather than reporter-bloggers, just because that subtle shift in language suggests something different to the folks that hear it.  So much of what they do and so much of the skill set that they have, that they’ve developed over the year, is really as an assigning editor, too. It’s having the judgment, the news judgment, and the organizational capacity.” 

I believe that as blogging becomes more prevalent, we will begin to see a shift in the manner of which people prefer their news.  The topics are endless, and the key to a successful blog is being the first to report to your followers on your area of expertise.

Case Study1

25 Jan

The main issue I have with this story is that there is only one source who is actually quoted.  The couple who lost the dog is unidentified, and none of the other witnesses are named.  I personally would never run a story based off of one person’s account of events.  Someone else would need to corroborate the story before I would consider running it. 

I would also question the eagle’s ability to carry a dog up and away without losing its grip.  Making a simple phone call to a local zoo or to the Wildlife Commission would answer that question.  Once I realized that eagles are generally not able to carry small dogs for long distances, I would almost undoubtably call off the publishing of this story, in fear of embarrassing my publication if the story were proven to be false.

Unfortunately, the lack of fact checking occurs all too often in journalism.  Today’s fast-paced industry calls for journalists to report the news as quickly as possible, because the demand is high and the competition fierce.  But this also means that as journalists we must exercise extreme caution when it comes to reporting the news.  We cannot let our desire for reporting it first outweigh the need for getting it right.  A good place to start is to look at the facts with a skeptical eye … if the story seems too good to be true, it probably is.  We can’t let a great-sounding news story black out our common sense and logic.  If we as journalists treat every story as false until proven true, then we will keep ourselves safe from publishing a questionable story such as the eagle snatching piece.

The Penn State student-run publication Onward State recently made this mistake by publishing the death of Joe Paterno a day before he actually died.  The national media picked up the story, running it without checking the facts first.  This type of mistake is very costly for a publication, and causes embarrassment and shame.  As a result, the managing editor of the newspaper stepped down.  Mistakes like these can be avoided by fact checking stories before running them.

After setting up my Quora account, my first posted question was “Has anyone ever actually witnessed a small dog being carried away by an eagle or hawk?”  I submitted this question on Monday but I have yet to receive a response.

Quora can be used by journalists in many different aspects.  It is a great way for journalists to get a feel for various people’s opinions or knowledge on specific subjects.  For example, if preparing for a big interview, Quora enables a journalist to find out what types of questions the public would like answered, thus allowing the journalist to tailor his questions accordingly.  It is also an excellent way for journalists to acquire new sources and collaborate with fellow journalists on a variety of subjects.

Week 1 Blog – Assigned Readings

18 Jan

Thibodaux – alt024@ufl.edu

The underlying theme between all of the articles provided for this week’s reading assignments was the concept of curating and aggregating news and information.  In the ever-changing world of journalism and news gathering, the idea of aggregating news together from multiple sources onto one specific news outlet is gaining in popularity.  Gone are the days of waking up and uncovering yesterday’s news over coffee.  People want news and information instantaneously.  People are impatient and they live in the now.  It is our job as journalists to find new and innovative ways to keep up with the fast-paced industry of news gathering, and to deliver accurate news in a timely fashion.

According to Josh Sternberg from Mashable.com, Newsflick.net owner Sayid Ali describes the concept of curation as “gather(ing) all these fragmented pieces of information to one location, allowing people to get access to more specialized content.”  This is similar to the concept of aggregating news.  The job of a journalistic curator or aggregator is to search various news outlets and organizations for the most important or relevant news articles, and then compile them in one specific place.  The challenge here, however, is to avoid plagiarism or under-crediting the original news sources.  In order to avoid this, hyperlinks can be added to connect readers to the original story.  Additionally, it is never hurts to continually attribute any information to the original source.  This is a sure way to avoid any confusion as to where the information is coming from. 

Although the aggregation of news stories is a great way for people to receive all available information about any topic, there are still ethical issues attached.  One prime example is the current dispute between The Miami Herald and Huffpost Miami.  These two media outlets have the same goal, which is to provide the public with timely and accurate information.  The difference is that the Herald pays reporters to go out and gather the information and then write a story, while Huffpost aggregates information on its website from several sources.  The Herald has on more than one occasion accused Huffpost of not giving enough attribution to stories taken from them.  Huffpost counteracts, however, that they provide plenty of links to original stories, along with additional links to stories and information on the same topic.  Additional disputes can be found elsewhere, including overseas and in particular the UK.  This method of reporting the news is still being explored, so problems are inevitable. 

I believe that as more technology is invented and updated to keep with the flow of information, the concept of aggregating news will become increasingly relevant.  According to Steven Rosenbaum, a Digital Lifestyle Survey conducted by Magnify.net reported that 57.4 percent of surveyors never turn their phones off, and 50.3 percent admitted that “when I’m offline, I am anxious that I’ve missed something.”  Additionally, one-third of the surveyors said that they check their email in the middle of the night.  While this only speaks for the participants of the survey, I believe that this is an accurate depiction of where our society stands in relation to technology.  In my own personal life, I use applications on my phone on a daily basis that aggregate content specific to my interests, including Saints News by ZenMobi and ScoreCenter by ESPN.

Hello world!

17 Jan

Welcome to WordPress.com. After you read this, you should delete and write your own post, with a new title above. Or hit Add New on the left (of the admin dashboard) to start a fresh post.

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