Friday, April 25, 2008

Visions 2008

Are you submitting something to Visions this year? If so, join your competition for a Drop-Off Party at Chef Geoff's tonight, April 25 from 5:30-7:30. It's free!

Monday, April 21, 2008

The state of sports journalism

CostasNOW, HBO's show of feature sports stories by Bob Costas, is doing a live show on Tuesday, April 29. They're planning on "Taking stock of the sports media landscape, including the rise of internet bloggers and sports talk radio." Seems like an interesting way to combine changing media and sports journalism.

Great opportunity to see a network producing legend

I am pleased to announce that our final guest in the Executive
Suite 2008 will be the legendary
Producer/Director Max Schindler of NBC News

Max directed; "
Meet the Press" for 20 years receiving 2 Peabody Awards and and Emmy

The Today Show" (Washington segments) for 22 years

produced or directed;
Coverage at all political conventions from 1964 until Bush 43

Coverage of the
JFK, MLK and RFK funerals

Various Inaugurals

The coverage of
Pope John Paul II's White House visit and ceremony

The 2004
Ronald Reagan funeral, for which he received an Emmy award, just to name a few!

Max will be joining us on Wednesday July 23 in Wechsler starting at 3:30 pm. Please invite your students to hear one of the living legends of live television, in person here at American University

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

... with Professor Walker

A top photojournalist took our picture during our visit to the White House press briefing room. We heard a briefing by Dana Perino.

Visit to the White House Briefing Room

Monday, April 14, 2008

A chance to sit in on Talk of the Nation

On behalf of National Public Radio, I would like to invite you and your school community to join Talk of the Nation for a live broadcast on April 16, 2008 at the Newseum.

This is a great chance to see the Newseum at its new Washington DC location and to be part of our live, studio audience.

Show topics for April 16 will be:

Hour One 2 -3 pm
Political Junkie: John W. Dean and Barry M. Goldwater, Jr.

NPR’s Political Editor Ken Rudin will get us up to speed on the latest campaign news and John W. Dean and Barry M. Goldwater, Jr., will talk about their new book, Pure Goldwater.

Hour Two 3-4 pm
The Glory Days of TV News

Roger Mudd, who was the weekend anchor of the CBS Evening News, joins his former colleague, Bob Schieffer, to talk about Mudd’s new book, The Place to Be: Washington, CBS, and the Glory Days of Television News.

To reserve your complimentary tickets, please email me at or call 202. 513. 3959. Audience members are able to tour the Newseum after the show finishes. When reserving tickets, please indicate which show you would like to attend, 2-3, 3-4 or both. A post-show Q&A can be arranged for school groups.

Feel free to contact me with any questions.

Amanda Stupi

Amanda Stupi
Talk of the Nation
National Public Radio
202. 513. 3959.

Breaking Down the Five Boxes

Five Boxes Story: Deconstructing a News Feature Story

By Chip Scanlan, The Poynter Institute

Although Rick Bragg doesn’t outline his stories, I wanted to see whether echoes of the “five boxes” approach he suggests to writers struggling with organization might resound in his own work. In my textbook, Reporting and Writing: Basics for the 21st Century, I compared the structure with, “Another Battle of New Orleans: Mardi Gras,” a story in his 1996 Pulitzer Prize and Best Newspaper Writing Award-winning package. Although my choices are certainly open to challenge, I perceived a strong connection.

The first box contains the lead, the image, the detail that draws the reader into the story. It can be a single paragraph or several. Bragg focuses on Larry Bannock and the contrast between his shabby surroundings and the glory of his role as a black Indian of Mardi Gras. The section concludes with a brief-but-vivid quote. Note how Bragg separates the quotation with a description of Bannock: a technique that provides pacing and a vivid counterpoint.

By Rick Bragg

NEW ORLEANS, Feb. 18--The little shotgun house is peeling, and the Oldsmobile in front is missing a rear bumper, but Larry Bannock can glimpse glory through the eye of his needle.

For almost a year he has hunkered over his sewing table, joining beads, velvet, rhinestones, sequins, feathers and ostrich plumes into a Mardi Gras costume that is part African, part Native American.

“I’m pretty,” said Mr. Bannock, who is 6 feet tall and weighs 300 pounds. “And, baby, when I walk out that door there ain’t nothing cheap on me.”

Most days, this 46-year-old black man is a carpenter, welder and handyman, but on Mardi Gras morning he is a Big Chief, one of the celebrated--if incongruous--black Indians of Carnival. He is an important man.

Sometime around 11 a.m. on Feb. 28, Mr. Bannock will step from his house in a resplendent, flamboyant turquoise costume complete with a towering headdress, and people in the largely black and poor 16th and 17th Wards, the area known as Gert Town, will shout, cheer and follow him through the streets, dancing, drumming and singing.

“That’s my glory,” he said. Like the other Big Chiefs, he calls it his “mornin’ glory.”>

Box 2: Nut Graf

A paragraph (or paragraphs) that sums up the story and provides the reader with context and background is the second box. Bragg steps back now from the close-up scene of Bannock working in his house to place him in the larger context. The phrase “He is one of the ...” is a signal that the nut section is beginning. Here the writer provides an analysis, which he attributes to the Big Chiefs and academics. The section ends on a dramatic quote, a useful method of narrative as punctuation.

He is one of the standard-bearers of a uniquely New Orleans tradition. The Big Chiefs dance, sing and stage mock battles--wars of words and rhymes--to honor American Indians who once gave sanctuary to escaped slaves. It is an intense but elegant posturing, a street theater that some black men devote a lifetime to.

But this ceremony is also self-affirmation, the way poor blacks in New Orleans honor their own culture in a Carnival season that might otherwise pass them by, said the Big Chiefs who carry on the tradition, and the academics who study it.

These Indians march mostly in neighborhoods where the tourists do not go, ride on the hoods of dented Chevrolets instead of floats, and face off on street corners where poverty and violence grip the people most of the rest of the year. The escape is temporary, but it is escape.

“They say Rex is ruler,” said Mr. Bannock, referring to the honorary title given to the king of Carnival, often a celebrity, who will glide through crowds of tourists and local revelers astride an elaborate float. “But not in the 17th Ward. ‘Cause I’m the king here. This is our thing.

“The drums will be beating and everybody will be hollering and”--he paused to stab the needle through a mosaic of beads and canvas--”and it sounds like all my people’s walking straight through hell.”

Box 3: Retelling

This box is almost a second lead, based on a new scene, detail or strong image, which allows the writer to begin retelling the story that began in the lead and draws the reader into the bulk of the story. Length can vary. In this section Bragg’s reference to an Oldsmobile is an echo of the lead. It is a clever technique that acts as a transition from the nut section to a new one that continues with the story of Bannock and the Big Chiefs.

A man does not need an Oldsmobile, with or without a bumper, if he can walk on air. Lifted there by the spirit of his neighborhood, it is his duty to face down the other Big Chiefs, to cut them down with words instead of bullets and straight razors, the way the Indians used to settle their disagreements in Mardi Gras in the early 1900s. Mr. Bannock, shot in the thigh by a jealous old chief in 1981, appears to be the last to have been wounded in battle.

“I forgave him,” Mr. Bannock said.

The tribes have names like the Yellow Pocahontas, White Eagles, the Golden Star Hunters and the Wild Magnolias. The Big Chiefs are not born, but work their way up through the ranks. Only the best sewers and singers become Big Chiefs.

By tradition, the chiefs must sew their own costumes and must do a new costume from scratch each year. Mr. Bannock’s fingers are scarred from a lifetime of it.

His right index finger is a mass of old punctures. Some men cripple themselves, through puncture wounds or repetitive motion, and have to retire. The costumes can cost $5,000 or more, a lot of cash in Gert Town.

The rhythms of their celebration, despite their feathered headdresses, seem more West African or Haitian than Indian, and the words are from the bad streets of the Deep South. Mr. Bannock said that no matter what the ceremony’s origins, it belongs to New Orleans now. The battle chants have made their way into popular New Orleans music. The costumes hang in museums.

“Maybe it don’t make no sense, and it ain’t worth anything,” said Mr. Bannock. But one day a year he leads his neighborhood on a hard, forced march to respect, doing battle at every turn with other chiefs who are out trying to do the same.

Jimmy Ricks is a 34-year-old concrete finisher most of the year, but on Mardi Gras morning he is a Spy Boy, the man who goes out ahead of the Big Chief searching for other chiefs. He is in love with the tradition, he said, because of what it means to people here.

“It still amazes me,” he said, how on Mardi Gras mornings the people from the neighborhood drift over to Mr. Bannock’s little house on Edinburgh Street and wait for a handyman to lead them.

“To understand it, you got to let your heart wander,” said Mr. Bannock, who leads the Golden Star Hunters. “All I got to do is peek through my needle.”

I’m 52 inches across my chest

And I don’t bow to nothin’

‘Cept God and death

--from a battle chant by Larry Bannock

Box 4: BBI

Shorthand for “boring but important,” this box contains less compelling material, such as quotes from experts or data bolstering the main theme. It rounds out the story and provides balance. Here Bragg includes material from an academic expert, hoping that by this time the reader is sufficiently engaged and interested to care about the event’s history. Writers often make the mistake of including this kind of information earlier in the story before the reader is ready for it.

The more exclusive party within the party--the grand balls and societies that underlie the reeling, alcohol-soaked celebration that is Carnival--have always been By Invitation Only.

The origins of Carnival, which climaxes with Mardi Gras, or Fat Tuesday, are found in the Christian season of celebration before Lent. In New Orleans the celebration reaches back more than 150 years, to loosely organized parades in the 1830s. One of the oldest Carnival organizations, the Mystick Krewe of Comus, staged the first organized parade. Today, Mardi Gras is not one parade but several, including that of the traditional Zulus, a black organization. But Comus, on Fat Tuesday, is still king.

The krewes were--some still are--secret societies. The wealthier whites and Creoles, many of whom are descendants of people of color who were free generations before the Civil War, had balls and parades, while poorer black men and women cooked the food and parked the cars.

Mardi Gras had no other place for them, said Dr. Frederick Stielow, director of Tulane University’s Amistad Research Center, the largest minority archive in the nation. And many of these poorer blacks still are not part of the party, he said.

“These are people who were systematically denigrated,” said Dr. Stielow, who has studied the Mardi Gras Indians for years. So they made their own party, “a separate reality,” he said, to the hard work, racism and stark poverty.

It might have been a Buffalo Bill Wild West Show that gave them the idea to dress as Indians, Dr. Stielow said, but either way the first “Indian tribes” appeared in the late 1800s. They said they wore feathers as a show of affinity from one oppressed group to another, and to thank the Louisiana Indians for sanctuary in the slave days.

By the Great Depression these tribes, or “gangs” as they are now called, used Mardi Gras as an excuse to seek revenge on enemies and fought bloody battles, said the man who might be the biggest chief of all, 72-year-old Tootie Montana. He has been one for 46 years.

Mr. Bannock said, “They used to have a saying, ‘Kiss your wife, hug your momma, sharpen your knife, and load your pistol.’”

Even after the violence faded into posturing, the New Orleans Police Department continued to break up the Indian gatherings. Mr. Bannock said New Orleans formally recognized the Indians’ right to a tiny piece of Mardi Gras just two years ago.

Shoo fly, don’t bother me

Shoo fly, don’t bother me

If it wasn’t for the warden and them lowdown hounds

I’d be in New Orleans ‘fore the sun go down

--Big Chief’s battle chant, written by a chief while in the state prison in Angola

They speak a language as mysterious as any white man’s krewe.

In addition to Spy Boys, there are Flag Boys--the flag bearers--and Second Line, the people, sometimes numbering in the hundreds, who follow the chiefs from confrontation to confrontation.

They march--more of a dance, really-- from Downtown, Uptown, even across the river in the poor black sections of Algiers--until the Big Chiefs meet at the corner of Claiborne and Orleans Avenues and, inside a madhouse circle of onlookers, lash each other with words. Sometimes people almost faint from the strain.

But it is mainly with the costume itself that a man does battle, said Mr. Montana. The breastplates are covered with intricate pictures of Indian scenes, painstakingly beaded by hand. The feathers are brilliant yellows, blues, reds and greens.

The winner is often “the prettiest,” Mr. Montana said, and that is usually him.

“I am the oldest, I am the best, and I am the prettiest,” he said.

A few are well-off businessmen, at least one has served time in prison, but most are people who sweat for a living, like him.

Some chiefs do not make their own costumes, but pay to have them made--what Mr. Bannock calls “drugstore Indians.” Of the 20 or so people who call themselves Big Chiefs, only a few remain true to tradition.

Box 5: Kicker

The story ends in this box. It may be a quote, an image, a comment; whatever you choose, the best endings resonate. Now Bragg comes full circle, returning to the scene in the lead. Many writers might end with the “mornin’ glory” quote, but Bragg chooses to end the story with a detail that strikes the chord of his theme: one man’s devotion to a tradition larger than himself.

Mr. Bannock sits and sweats in his house, working day and night with his needle. He has never had time for a family. He lives for Fat Tuesday.

“I need my mornin’ glory,” he said.

A few years ago he had a heart attack but did not have time to die. He had 40 yards of velvet to cut and sew.

The New York Times
February 19, 1995

Saturday, April 12, 2008

No Face the Nation Visit

Hello class,

I have some bad news, which is that I am canceling the Face the Nation visit for Sunday. I talked with the host, Bob Schieffer, and he said he planned to do his commentary early in the morning so even he would not be in the studio for us. All the guests were pre-taped, which means the whole show is what's called "in the can" - or not live. This was the luck of the draw, so I apologize that it didn't work out. If any of you would like a tour of the CBS studios before you leave for home at the end of the semester, we can talk about doing that.

job possibilities

The Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer is looking to fill several
entry-level positions in the Washington, D.C., area. May/June
graduates are encouraged to apply, but these positions are filled on a
rotating basis throughout the year. For complete information, go to
our jobs page:

Here are the job descriptions:

Desk Assistants - Online

6-month position

A desk assistant is needed to help with the daily production of the
NewsHour's Web site, The Online NewsHour. This entry-level position is
located in Arlington, Va. We are looking for a sharp individual with
editorial skills who is looking to gain experience in online news
production and online news writing.

Duties include:
- Organizing and distributing show transcripts and viewer mail
- Encoding transcripts into HTML
- Updating Web site indexes
- Digitizing audio
- Assisting the editorial and production staff with special projects

Computer skills required. Web production skills desired; however,
training will be provided.


Please fax or e-mail the your application to:
The Online NewsHour
Fax: 703.820.6266

Education Desk Assistant - Online NewsHour Extra for Students

6-month position

A desk assistant is needed to help produce the NewsHour's Web site for
students and teachers, NewsHour Extra.

This paid internship-type position is located in Arlington, Va. We are
looking for a sharp individual with editorial skills, who is looking
to gain experience in online journalism and is interested in working
with young people.

Duties include:
- Writing news for a 10th-grade audience
- Using Dreamweaver to produce stories for high school students and
lesson plans for teachers
- Updating story archives
- Processing photos and writing captions in Photoshop
- Help with writing and producing the "Daily Buzz"
- Assisting the editorial and production staff with special projects,
such as Newz Crew, an Online Dialogue about current events
- Web production skills desired; however, training will be provided.


Please fax or e-mail your resume to:
The Online NewsHour
Fax: 703.824.6592


I'd be happy to answer any questions about the positions.

Dave Gustafson
Associate Editor, News
Online NewsHour with Jim Lehrer __._,_.___

Friday, April 11, 2008

Sommer Mathis

Sommer Mathis is editor in chief of Her e-mai address is

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Homework for Thursday, April 17

By next Thursday, I would like all of your final project blogs to have quotes from at least two sources and a rough draft lead for your story. This will help you focus your stories and allow me to give you feedback as you go. This extends the deadline a bit. We're closing in on the end of the semester!
Developments re Face the Nation for Sunday: The high-profile guests will indeed do pre-tapes BUT we may still be able to see Bob Schieffer do a short commentary and we will have more time to tour the bureau. I will e-mail everyone with more details as soon as I get them. This is common, since the show often changes at the last minute, so we'll do the best we can.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Important info on meetings with me, deadlines, etc.!

Important info for this week:
You must schedule a time to meet with me in my office this week. If you were not able to sign up for a time slot in class, please let me know your availability. There is a penalty if you do not set up a time or if you do not show up for our meeting (without letting me know about extenuating circumstances).
Monday in class we went over our papers and writing for broadcast; please review chapters 19 and 20.
Homework due Thursday: A rewrite of your second major reporting story based on my detailed comments on your papers. You do not need to re-do interviews or cover another event but if you need information that you cannot get, you need to provide an annotated rewrite explaining what you would have done had you reached the right person or asked the right question. The rewrite will be graded. Your first draft grade will count but you will be able to drop your lowest grade.
Homework due Monday: Contact two sources for your final project and put the transcripts of the interviews on your blog. (You can record the interviews for podcasts if you have the proper equipment.)
A clarification about the final project:
The final project is technically the LAST PAGE of your blog -- which will include the news feature story that you write and the original visual material. The blog so far is a repository for your research and to meet the incremental assignments as we go.
On Thursday we will have a guest speaker -- Sommer Mathis, editor in chief of Please take a look at the site. She will talk to us about the world of online journalism and how it fits into the big picture.
ALSO, we will be sitting in on a taping of Face the Nation on Sunday. Please meet me at 2020 M St. NW at 9:30 am.
-Professor Walker

First Lady of Tanzania

Please join AU's
School of Communication, School of International Service, and the College of Arts & Sciences as we welcome

Her Excellency

Mama Salma Kikwete
First Lady of Tanzania
on Tuesday, April 8, 2008

6:30 to 7:30 p.m.

Mary Graydon Center Room 3

The First Lady will discuss the next generation of leadership and the importance of investing in education and health for economic empowerment in Africa. She will also discuss how vital the innovations in multimedia are to telling the important stories of development to motivate policy change and positively impact the lives of young African girls.

A five-minute clip of a documentary created by one of AU SOC’s MA students, Anthony Brenneman, for Network for the Improvement of World Health--an organizer of the First Lady's US tour--will also be screened at the event.

Contact Elizabeth Draughon at for more information.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

“They are raising the ante on what it takes to become a journalist.”

A distinguished journalism professor retires and gives his thoughts on the field:

Here is the link.

Friday, April 4, 2008 summer internships still available!

There are lots of interesting slots ... city guides, politics,, express ... and more.

Try this link.

If this link doesn't work, go to jobs and click on link at the bottom of the page "work for us."

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Career Shoppers - an internship for you!'s Shopping
is looking for summer interns!

Interns must be current undergrad or grad students.

Find out more here:
(I mean here.)

To write on Carissa DiMargo's Wall, follow the link.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

This just in!

William Safire just confirmed on The Daily Show that he came up with the phrase "nattering nabobs of negativism" as a speech writer for Agnew.

American Forum, Monday, April 14 - extra credit if you attend!

American University School of Communication

An American Forum

The Media and Islam

Monday, April 14, 8:00-9:00 p.m.

Ward 1
Ward Circle Building
American University

Ambassador Akbar Ahmed
Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies
American University

Peter Bergen
Journalist and Terrorism Analyst

Liz Cheney
Former Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern Affairs

Abderrahim Foukara
Bureau Chief/Managing Editor for Al Jazzera

Jane Hall
Associate Professor
American University School of Communication


Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Emily Freifeld visits class Thursday

Emily Freifeld was in your position just a few months ago and is now a videographer and podcaster at She and her fiance, James Kotecki, a video blogger at, are both great examples of students who have been highly successful in digital journalism. Emily's latest podcast: You can see both of them in the posted Youtube video, which documents their participation in the Walk for Autism on the National Mall last fall.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Speaking of broadcasting

Opportunity for broadcast experience via an e-mail to Professor Cochran:

I am writing to you as the Volunteer Program Assistant at a growing news organisation called The Real News Network. The Real News Network is a non-profit news and documentary network focused on providing independent and uncompromising journalism. Critically,we are member supported and do not accept advertising, government or corporate funding.

We have been producing daily video news content since August 2007, and have an increasing number of people accessing our news pieces on our home site (approx 7,000 per day) and our robust YouTube channel. At the turn of the new year we were the Number 1 non-profit on YouTube, and have continued to dominate this category week to week. We have an impressive list of regular contributors to our service, including Pepe Escobar (Asia Times Online), Aijaz Ahmad (Frontline, India) and Phyllis Bennis (Institute for Policy Studies, Washington DC).

Our mission for the US Presidential Elections is to take on the candidates of both parties, the Bush administration and corporate news. We will listen to the voices, opinions and wisdom of Americans across the country and answer their questions.With facts and incisive analysis we will help Americans decide whom to vote for. We will help people decide what to demand from their candidates. And we will create a dialogue between Americans and the people of the world about the critical choice Americans are about to make.

Part of bringing this mission to life, is to regularly feature the voices of people on the street right around the United States. We would love to bring together a dedicated pool of volunteer shooters, who can take a camera to the streets with set questions, and upload the video to us to edit for web publication. We also may ask the volunteer team to visit interviewees we have lined up, in their places of work, and record an interview with them. The volunteer work will be managed with the newsroom back in our main studio in Toronto. The volunteers will need to have access to a camera, sometimes at short notice, and know how to upload video to an FTP server we administer.

If you think your students would be interested in this work and you want to find out more, please email me as soon as possible. Alternatively I would be happy to speak to any of you at your earliest convenience.

We think this would be an excellent opportunity to involve students in professional news production, utilising the latest online video techniques and covering the U.S. Presidential race for a worldwide audience.

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

All the best,

Phone: +1 416 916 5202 Ext: 436

Communications and Volunteer Program Assistant

First video ever of long-eared jerboa - he is, too, cute!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tips and Tales from Top Storytellers - Poynter

Nieman Narrations: Tips and Tales from Top Storytellers
Anne Hull, Dana Priest and others provide insider accounts. Plus: Roy Clark reports on the Benton blogging curve and Mallary Tenore blogs the conference.

By Bill Kirtz (more by author)
Professor, Northeastern University

Details. Details. Details. Top writers and editors last weekend called them the engine that drives every compelling story.

Their comments came at the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism in Boston, March 14-16. Speakers offered tips on dramatizing investigations, doing narrative on deadline, identifying writing flaws and enhancing stories with multimedia.

"From Blog to Narrative," By Roy Peter Clark

Nieman 2006, by Bill Kirtz

Conference blog posts by Poynter's Mallary Tenore:

"Narrative on Deadline," with St. Petersburg Times writer Tom French and editor Mike Wilson.

"50 Writing Tools in Three Hours," with Roy Peter Clark.

"Ten (Not So Secret) Tips for Effective Interviewing," with Jacqui Banaszynski.

"Creating An Investigative Narrative," with Anne Hull and Dana Priest.
Washington Post reporters Anne Hull and Dana Priest, who uncovered scandalous conditions at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center, said shoe leather reporting, not fine writing, drove their probe.

Hull, a five-time Pulitzer Prize finalist, said, "We didn't think of narrative, voice, sequencing, empathy or storytelling" when they started. "But all these elements" found their way into their series. By immersing themselves in the squalor that wounded veterans endured, she said, they got the specifics that made the story "pop to life in the way traditional investigative reporting doesn't."

Because they "lived and breathed the story for four months," Hull said, they picked up telling details, like the mold and cockroaches limbless soldiers lived with, like the blue ribbon the wife of a brain-damaged soldier tied to his bedroom door so he'd know which room was his.

Priest, a 2006 Pulitzer winner, stressed the need to emphasize with and respect any group you're investigating. (She has said the veterans' plight brought her to tears.) Quipping that patience isn't one of her virtues, she said the Walter Reed story taught her the importance of listening. "It sounds basic, but we're in an era of talking journalists. It's crucial to remember that we're not there to do that. You can pick up so much by reading body language, voice. Just listen. It pays off."

Skim the Meringue

Jon Marcus, who led Boston Magazine to win national awards and who now teaches at Boston University and Boston College, also underscored the importance of details. He said he sees too much narrative journalism marred by "lots of pretty words that don't say anything.

"People who think of themselves as capital W 'Writers'" can produce "meringue -- sweet but empty," he said. "Great reporting is essential. If people don�t learn anything from a story, they won�t keep reading. The foundation of good narrative journalism is detail [and] description. This is required today. We're competing with 24-hour news and the Internet -- we live in a high-definition world. We need description: the color of the lipstick, the pattern of the wallpaper."

Jack Hart, another advocate of detail, said it powers great narrative. Example: a flood survivor munching six Oreo cookies and mourning the loss of foxhounds Ebbie and Priss.

Reiterating the lessons of the Readership Institute's Impact Study, Hart, who edited two Pulitzer winning series at The Oregonian, called narrative journalism the key to grabbing and retaining readers. "Newspapers need more real life stories about ordinary people."

How to get them? Hart recommends substituting narrative approaches for traditional news forms, even on deadline, on stories like the theft of a foam donut, a rescue of a woman pinned in a fiery car, the frantic search for a substitute pianist.

Before starting a narrative, he said reporters, with an editor's guidance, must create a structural road map, answering questions like: What is this story about? Do you have a sympathetic, interesting lead character? Who struggles with obstacles?

Narrative Moments

Jacqui Banaszynski, a Pulitzer Prize winning writer who holds the Knight Chair in editing at the University of Missouri School of Journalism, also underscored the importance of details that can let reporters drop narrative moments into routine stories and transform a subject into a character.

Banaszynski said she believes that criticism of writing too often focuses on symptoms, not causes. "You write too long," for example, identifies a problem, not a solution.

To find and fix flaws, she recommends separately highlighting every part of a story, such as verbs, quotes and attribution. Are there active, descriptive verbs or passive ones? Too many quotes? She said quotes only add spice if they�re the right ones. Otherwise, they slow the story. So, "edit quotes down and pick the standout."

Unless it introduces a new or a vitally important speaker, Banaszynski said attribution should go in the middle of a sentence. And watch those dependent clauses. They can be mere "throat-clearing."

"It's Just a Platform"

New York Times multimedia editor Andrew DeVigal called new media "just a platform. Story and story-telling hasn't changed." He said that because audio storytelling is the "low hanging fruit" of multimedia, many news organizations are now producing slideshows and photo galleries on a regular basis.

The easiest route is adding audio to a story tied to great narration, he said, noting that The New York Times put together an eyewitness account of Benazir Bhutto's assassination -- a photographer's voice describing his pictures -- within a few hours.

Since only 20 percent of The New Yorker's online readers subscribe, the magazine's multimedia editor, Matt Dellinger, called multimedia a great way to "extend our brand." Material is easy to find, he said, such as archival films of conductors used to enhance an article on symphony orchestras. He and other speakers noted that using subjects' own voices, like soldiers reading from their Iraq journals, is another quick way to dramatize a story. Dellinger said each non-print element "has to have its own narrative integrity. It has to add value and be complete in and ... of itself."

If multimedia is just "bells and whistles," don't use it, said Laura Ruel, assistant professor of visual communication and multimedia at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and project leader for Poynter's Eyetrack III research. Ruel said good multimedia storytelling shouldn't distract from the story. Use audio and video only when appropriate; not every story is worth telling with multimedia. And make sure users can find their way around the site.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sexism in the media

This topic has come up in class. You are invited to a panel I'll be on along with SOC professors Dotty Lynch and John Watson, and some other GW professors:

GW Law School: 2000 H St. NW,
Wed., March 26, 4 p.m.
On the fifth floor in the Faculty Conference Center.

The Feminist Forum at GW Law School spring
panel on the topic of sexism in the media, particularly political/election reporting.

The Machine is Using Us

Web 2.0 video

Also Epic 2015

UC Berkeley multimedia presentation

Watch Richard Hernandez: Choosing the Right Tools for the Job. Take a look.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"So, you want to be a blogging star!"

Blog on!

American Forum audio

Here is the audio for the American Forum from Tuesday night. You'll notice that Anna asks a question and Sarah gets credit for helping produce the program. It's an interesting discussion on the news media's responsibility in truth telling versus just reporting the official line.

Free Ben & Jerry's!

Tonight, as part of the continuing SOC Week, there will be FREE BEN & JERRY'S in McDowell Formal Lounge from 8 to 9. Email me if you have any questions (my job is making these events happen), and I hope to see you there!

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Long-awaited "state of the media" report

State of the News Media, 2008:
The Problems Are Different Than Predicted
Decoupling of Advertising and News, not Audience Loss,
May be the Biggest Issue

Washington, D.C. – The state of the American news media is more troubled in 2008 than a year earlier. And the problems increasingly appear to be different than many observers have predicted.

Newspapers are still far from dead, but the language of the obituary is creeping in. In 2007, the industry got sicker rather than better, and 2008 may be worse. Cable news had a better year in 2007, but network TV news audiences continue to decline. The same problem afflicts local TV news, though, thanks to the power of TV advertising and the ability to add or shift timeslots, the industry is still robust.

But increasingly it appears the fundamental issue for the future of journalism is not audiences splintering away to citizen media, corporate PR and other non-news venues. In many ways the audience for news—and for what traditional newsrooms produce—appears to be growing. Nor are journalists failing to adapt. There are more signs in 2008 than ever that news people embrace the new technology and want to innovate.

The problem, it is increasingly clear, is a broken economic model—the decoupling of advertising and news. Advertisers are not migrating to news websites with audiences, and online, news sites are already falling financially behind other kinds of web destinations.

These are some of the conclusions from “The State of the News Media, 2008,” a 700-page comprehensive look at the state of U.S. journalism by PEJ, a project of the Pew Research Center in Washington, D.C. and funded by The Pew Charitable Trusts. This is the fifth annual report.

“We see many positive signs, from the embrace by journalists of new technology to all kinds of experimentation in news websites. But it is clearer today than ever that the news business must figure out new ways to monetize the service journalism offers—the ability to vet information and help citizens navigate their lives,” PEJ Director Tom Rosenstiel said.

This year’s report, the fifth of PEJ’s annual State of the News Media, includes some new features: A Survey of Journalists produced with the Pew Research Center for the People and the Press; A Year in the News, a comprehensive content analysis of more than 70,000 stories from 48 different news outlets across five media sectors; A Special Report on the Future of Advertising; a review of 25 Years Of Public Attitudes Data; and a content analysis of 64 Different Citizen Media Sites In 15 Communities.

Among findings:

n The new survey of journalists in the report finds most think new technology, even citizen media, are making things better. Majorities think such things as journalists writing blogs, the ranking of stories on their Web sites, citizens posting comments or ranking stories, even citizen news sites, are making journalism better—a perspective hard to imagine even a few years ago.

n The prospects for user-created content for now appear more limited, even among “citizen” sites and blogs. The most promising parts of citizen input currently are new ideas, sources, comments and to some extent pictures and video—but not citizens posting news. A study of citizen media in the report finds most of these sites are no more open—and often less so—than mainstream press. Rather than rejecting the “gatekeeper” role of traditional journalism, citizen journalists and bloggers appear for now to be recreating it in other places.

n News is shifting from being a product — today’s newspaper, Web site or newscast — to becoming a service—how can you help me? This starts with the fact that there is no single or finished news product anymore. (The afternoon newspaper is also being reborn online.) The idea of service also broadens the definition of journalism. Story telling and agenda setting are now insufficient. Journalism now must help citizens find what they are looking for, react to it, and give them tools to make sense of and use the information for themselves.

n A news organization and a news Web site are no longer final destinations. Now they must move toward also being stops along the way, gateways to other places, and a means to drill deeper. “The walled garden is over,” the editor of one leading site says. A year ago, our study of news Web sites found that only three of 24 major Web sites from traditional news organizations offered links to outside content. Eleven of those sites now offer them.

n The agenda of the American news media continues to narrow, not broaden. Two overriding stories — the war in Iraq and the 2008 campaign — filled more than a quarter of the newshole, according to our audit of news coverage. Other than Iraq — and to a lesser degree Pakistan and Iran — there was minimal coverage of events overseas, including places like China and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, each of the following accounted for less than 1% of coverage: religion, race, education, transportation, the legal system, housing, drug trafficking, gun control, welfare, Social Security, aging, labor, abortion and more.

n Madison Avenue, rather than pushing change, appears to be having trouble keeping up with it. Like legacy media, advertising agencies have their own history, mores and cultures that keep them from adapting to new technology and new consumer behavior.

The study, which contains detailed charts, graphs and citations, can be accessed online at

An easy way to go "multimedia"

Take a look

Maybe not quite journalism related...

Hello everyone!

If you've got some spare time in your busy days, you should check out my new band, Charades. We recently recorded an EP and it's up on our myspace page as well as our facebook music page.
So, maybe not quite journalism related, but I thought I'd let you all know nonetheless. Who knows, maybe you'll like it.
Thanks for listening, I really appreciate it!


Monday, March 17, 2008

A fun event!

What happens to a reporter who got carried away with the idea of fame.

Thursday, March 20
Shattered Glass (Screening)
featuring Chuck, the Washington Post journalist
portrayed in the film
Moderated by reporter/professor Christopher Adams
7:30 p.m. in Ward 2

Fun SOC Event Tonight!

Tonight at 8:30 in the Tavern, SOC and the SOC Undergraduate Council are kicking off SOC Week with a Luau. There will be free food, drinks and cake, as well as leis and a DJ. Please stop by (no need to stay for too long). There are also other events, and I'll keep you posted on them as the week continues. Please email me if you have any questions (I work for SOC Special Events).

Friday, March 14, 2008

American Forum details

American University School of Communication

An American Forum

Fact-Checking: A Dying Tradition?

Tuesday, March 18, 7:00-8:00 p.m.

Ward 1
Ward Circle Building
American University

Roger Aronoff
Media Analyst, Accuracy in Media

Michael Dobbs
Staff Writer, "The Fact Checker," The Washington Post

Chuck Lewis
Founding President, The Fund for Independence in Journalism and
Distinguished Journalist in Residence, American University School of Communication

Michael Massing
Journalist and Author of "Iraq: Now They Tell Us"

Mark McDonald
WAMU Program Director and Broadcast Journalist in Residence
American University School of Communication


Broadcast on WAMU 88.5 -- Wednesday, March 19 at 9 p.m.

For more information, contact the School of Communication at 202-885-2074
or go to www/

An American Forum is sponsored by
Laird B. Anderson and Florence H. Ashby

An American Forum is produced in cooperation with WAMU 88.5 FM

Bettina Fisher
Director of Strategic Programs
American University
School of Communication
202-885-2074 (o)
202-294-1851 (c)

"Life is not measured by the number of breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away." Author unknown

A couple of possible events!

Please join Robert Greenwald in Washington, D.C.

Robert Greenwald will be speaking at two events, and you are invited.
First, Robert will be a guest speaker at Georgetown University. The event is hosted by Professor Dale Murphy and his International Social Entrepreneurship class along with the Center for Social Justice and the Georgetown Entrepreneurial Organization. Robert will be discussing the power of video and the internet to enact change.

Date: Wednesday, March 19th
Time: 4:30 PM
Location: Georgetown University, New South Dorm Film Screening Room
Directions: Main Campus. Walk past Lauinger Library towards "Village A" [dorm] and on to the next building, "New South". Take a left and the Film Screening Room is on your immediate right.
Campus Map: Here's a campus map: the Library is #63 on the map, Village A is #62, and the New South's Film Screening Room is in #61 (enter between 62/61).

Robert will also be the guest speaker at the Center for American Progress Action Fund's roundtable entitled, Internet Advocacy Roundtable: Outvideoed - Web Video and Advocacy. Robert will be speaking about digital video's power to mobilize citizens and policymakers to participate in advocacy campaigns, donate money and create social change.

Date: March 20th
Time: 1:00-3:00 PM
Location: Center for American Progress Action Fund
1333 H Street, NW, 10th Floor
Washington, DC 20005
Directions: One block from the McPherson Square Metro station (Orange/Blue lines). Exit on 14th Street, NW side. Walk one block south to H Street, NW. Turn left onto H Street, NW. Enter on left side of street, just after the Cosi.

RSVP: If you plan on attending either event, please let Elise Wagner know:
If you happen to be attending the Take Back America Conference, come hear Robert speak on the panel New Media, New Motion: New Avenues for Activism. The other members of the panel are Dr. Alan Bean, Adam Green, Jane Hamsher and Michael Kieschnick.

Date: March 18th
Time: 3:15-4:30
Location: Take Back America Conference in D.C.

Brave New Films is located at 10510 Culver Blvd., Culver City, CA 90232. You can get our latest videos on email, iTunes, RSS, Facebook, and YouTube here. To stop receiving the latest videos from us, click here.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Journalism may fade in NU name game

I saw this article while on vacation in Chicago this week. I didn't see it pop up on Romenesko, so I thought I'd post it here for all of you to see. Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism is talking about changing its name, and possibly dropping the "journalism." Talk about a bad sign for the industry. Read the article here.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Outside events!

I'll post more later.


Friday, March 7, 2008

New deadlines!

As I mentioned in class, the new deadlines for assignments are as follows:

The revised version of your first event story is due March 20, the Thursday after spring break.

The second event story is due a week later, March 27.

I will be posting outside events that you can cover as I find them.

Also, the Power point I showed in class on writing is on Blackboard under Course Information.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What every journalism student needs to know

In case you were wondering. Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Event Tomorrow Night!

There's a great event scheduled for tomorrow night in MGC 4, and I recommend it to everybody in our class. It's on reporting wars, and features some great panelists. Plus, there's free food and a cash bar! Contact me with any questions (, and I hope to see you all there!

Media and the Military:
An Uneasy Mix

Join AU SOC, The Dart Society, and The Dart Center for
Journalism & Trauma
for a screening of
photojournalist Bill Gentile’s
“Tough Act to Follow,”
and discussion of Sharon Schmickle’s booklet “Reporting War.”

Wednesday, March 5, 2008
6:00 p.m.
(A reception will follow)

Featured panelists:
Sharon Schmickle, author of “Reporting War”
Hayne Palmour, photographer, North County Times
Darrin Mortenson, reporter,
Col. Dave Lapan, director of U.S. Marine Corp
Public Affairs Headquarters

Moderated by Bill Gentile, professor and photojournalist

For more information visit:

Friday, February 29, 2008

I added Romenesko

I added the Romenesko column RSS feed from to the blog. I talked about the importance of this column in class. It is read by journalists nationally.

NewsU Webinar Info

Once we got started, I think the NewsU Webinar was useful for us and I appreciated the discussion. (Thank you, Tess, for lending your cell phone. I hope your bill isn't outrageous! I doubt the Poynter Institute is in your Fave Five.) (If it is, you get an A!) Remember, you need to write a half-page summary of this as part of your midterm exam grade. (This is not a "react" paper but a summary of salient points that you felt were important). The midterm is next class.

Some of the points that Keith Woods made well were:
Polls don't cut it - reporters must dig deeper to find out what the numbers might mean or not mean.

Some reasons to include race in a story:
When the story itself is about the issue.
When the subject of your study or other sources for the story make race an issue.

He warned against talking in code (such as using "inner city" as a euphemism for black or Latino).

He said "write what you mean," which was a plea to use precise language and statistics and not lump "immigration," "Hispanics," "illegals" and "Mexicans" into one meaning.

He made some other interesting points about journalists' responsibilities in "shedding light" on subjects that readers clearly care about.

I appreciated the critique, too, that race and ethnicity also cannot be lumped together as one concept, as he seemed to do. And, I would observe that in one of the examples he used of non-racial language that describing a woman as a "seamstress" could be code for "black woman."

These are interesting points to think about.

For a copy of Professor Keith Woods' slides, you can click here.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Midterm Study Guide

The Midterm Study Guide handed out in class can be found on Blackboard under "Course Documents."

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Homework for Thursday, Feb. 28

Please turn in on a sheet of paper your committed idea -- the event you're going to cover -- for your next reporting assignment. Don't forget, please come to class by 2 pm for the Poynter Webinar!

Jason Motlagh back in India

Click here for his latest story. If you are interested in becoming a Pulitzer Center liaison on campus, let me know. Below is some info and I have more:


Work with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting Outreach Team to

spread the word about underreported international news on your campus!

Interested in international reporting? Interested in making connections on your campus?

Interested in outreach to raise awareness of underreported global news?

Be a part of an exciting new social network aimed at reinvigorating not just journalism but debate

about issues crucial to the maintenance of America’s core democratic values.

Apply to be a Pulitzer Center University Liaison:

Ø Promote Pulitzer Center reporting initiatives within your institution

Ø Coordinate efforts between the Pulitzer Center and your institution

Ø Coordinate logistics of a Pulitzer Center event at your institution

Ø Work directly with Pulitzer Center staff and some of the best international journalists

Ø Get first-hand exposure to print and broadcast journalism, video documentaries and

the cutting-edge tools of interactive multi-media presentations on the Web

To apply, please send a one-page letter of interest to (Janeen Heath)

explaining why you would be a good fit for this role. Be sure to specify at least three ideas you

would hope to implement as Pulitzer Center Liaison. Be as specific as possible when referring to

your past experiences, current responsibilities and related skills.

We are appointing qualified students as Pulitzer Center Liaisons on a rolling basis.



Janeen Heath
Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting
1779 Massachusetts Ave. NW, Ste. 615
Washington, DC 20036
Tel: 202.332.0982

More Learning Opportunities!

From Professor Amy Eisman:
Two great Web interactive speakers are visiting my Writing for Convergent Media class and you or your students are invited to join us. Josh Williams is the guest this Friday, Feb. 29, and Josh Hatch joins us next Friday. Time: 9:55-11:10, room 332 MGC.

Josh Williams is new media projects editor for the Las Vegas Sun group. He also is a graduate of SOC's IJ program. His bio is below.

Josh Hatch is the multimedia producer at He has a crisp, wonderful presentation on how to select your media type (text, audio, video, photo galleries, gaming) when telling a story. Josh currently is a graduate student in the NMS weekend program.

Let me know if you plan to attend.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Young Voters Emerge from Slumber!

Feb. 25, 2008 – 5:51 p.m.
Poll Shows Spike in Young Voter Interest — to Democrats' Benefit So Far
By Lauren Phillips, CQ Staff

The nation's youngest voters, after years of lagging behind the general populace in political participation, may be on the verge of a breakthrough in a year marked by a hotly contested election for president. And the 18-to-29 year olds who responded to a major bipartisan poll released Monday morning say it's not just about Barack Obama — even if the Illinois Democratic senator currently is a strong favorite for president among members of this demographic group.

Eighty percent of young voters said they were following the election closely, nearly twice the 42 percent who said the same during the 2006 midterm congressional election year, according to the survey sponsored by the nonpartisan youth-turnout initiative Rock the Vote and conducted jointly by Republican pollster Ed Goeas of The Tarrance Group and Democratic pollster Celinda Lake of Lake Research Partners. Eighty-two percent said they intended to vote in this election.

"We've never seen young people pay this kind of attention this early," Lake said. "This is not an angry generation, it is an energized generation."

The survey data suggests that Republicans will have to do a serious sales job among younger voters between now and November, if they are to prevent the upsurge in interest from turning this constituency into a potentially decisive bloc in favor of the Democrats. The poll showed 47 percent of 18-29 year olds identified themselves as Democrats to 28 percent who said they are Republicans and 16 percent who said they are independents.

"The news is not particularly good for Republicans," Goeas said. "The one thing we have seen in this election is that the rules of this election are being written as the events occur."

Comparable figures in a November 2006 survey showed the Democrats with a much smaller 40 percent to 30 percent lead over the Republicans, with 23 percent calling themselves independents.

Lake added, "Young people are far more engaged beyond just a cult of personality." Forty percent of respondents said they were following the election because they felt it was going to be very important, followed by 29 percent who want change. Just eight percent said they were excited about a particular candidate, tied with caring about a particular issue and voting for the first time.

Yet the survey showed a definitive lean toward Obama that has already been discerned empirically from exit polling taken in states that have held their primaries and from the composition of audiences at campaign rallies. Among respondents, Obama was viewed favorably by 69 percent and unfavorably by just 20 percent, with 11 percent having no opinion or saying they've never heard of him. New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is much closer to universal ID — only 6 percent would not venture an opinion — but the split is much more narrow between young voters who like Clinton (51 percent) and those who do not (43 percent).

Arizona Sen. John McCain , the strong front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, had tepid approval numbers among the young respondents, at 44 percent favorable to 33 unfavorable. McCain would have to overcome an age gap to make serious headway with this group: He turns 72 in August and would be the oldest president at the time of his first election. And despite the fact that McCain has spent a quarter-century in Congress, ran a vigorous campaign for the 2000 Republican presidential nomination and is well-known nationally for the long period of captivity he endured as a Vietnam POW, 24 percent of the 18-29 respondents said they had no opinion or did not know him.

Both of the Democratic contenders have big leads over McCain in hypothetical matchups, but Obama's lead is much bigger. Obama had a 57 percent to 27 percent edge over McCain head-to-head, with 15 percent undecided. Clinton led McCain among younger voters by 47 percent to 35 percent with 18 percent undecided.

While both Clinton and Obama run well among young women in the polls, the differences in the Democratic candidates' appeal to young men voters is striking. McCain had a 6 percentage-point edge over Clinton among all male respondents, but it turned into an 18-point deficit against Obama.

And while respondents favored both Democrats over McCain on most of the characteristics tested by the pollsters, Obama was favored by stronger margins on issues such as "will bring change," "understands the problems of people your age," "will bring people together," "stands up for what they believe," "shares your values," "will get things done," "honest and trustworthy," and "is strong enough to be president."

The young respondents of both parties said the economy was their top priority issue. They said they are most worried about the economy's impact on the incomes jobs will pay, health care, and child care or college costs.

"Young people were worried about the economy before older voters were," Lake said, referring to their 2006 survey. "Older voters followed their insight into the shape of the economy."

The younger voters reflected a partisan split on priorities below that of the economy. For Democrats, the Iraq war was the second-most important issue, followed by health care and education and the cost of college. For Republicans, immigration was the second concern, followed by gas prices and health care, which tied with the federal budget deficit.

The poll also reflected the influence of new media on young people and this election. About 33 percent of the survey's 518 poll respondents were reached on their cell phones. Twenty-four percent said they had visited a campaign Web site, and 34 percent had watched an online video or relating to the election.

"We are seeing almost as many people going and looking at the videos of these candidates online as we are seeing participate in the process of voting," Goeas said. "Those are huge numbers at this point in the campaign."

Sixty percent said they are talking about the election with their friends. Lake called this trend a "phenomenon," saying just one-third of adults say they talk to their friends about politics.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Poynter Webinar in class on Thursday, Feb. 28 - Please try to be in class by 2 p.m.!!

A Poynter/NewsU Webinar

Date: 2-3 p.m., Eastern time, Thursday, Feb. 28, 2008.

What will I learn? Race and ethnicity have never been more central to the coverage of the presidential campaign than right now. Whether you’re covering the national campaign or the voters in your community, your stories will likely touch on these issues.

In this one-hour Webinar, we’ll discuss how to go beyond labels and produce richer coverage of race and ethnicity on the campaign trail. We will help you and your news organization make more thoughtful and informed decisions in your coverage, whether that's about polling, race relations, or those moments when issues of race or ethnicity explode in conflict. Just as important, we’ll help you identify when the story is not about race and ethnicity. Not only will your stories honor journalism’s highest values of accuracy, fairness and contextual truth. You’ll also help your readers, listeners and viewers gain a fuller understanding of the issues.

You’ll learn:

* To identify when race or ethnicity is and isn't relevant in your coverage
* To confront the white-hot issue of racial conflict with more precise and accurate coverage
* To recognize when the story is not about race and ethnicity
* To examine the language and word choices of campaign polls and report more fully on what polls reveal about race and ethnicity – and what they don’t reveal
* To discuss issues of race and ethnicity with awareness, skill, care, thoughtfulness and critical thinking

About the speaker: Keith Woods is the dean of faculty and teaches coverage of race relations at The Poynter Institute. He is a co-editor of the textbook "The Authentic Voice: The Best Reporting on Race and Ethnicity." He is a former sportswriter, city editor, editorial writer and columnist at The Times-Picayune in New Orleans, La.

About Webinars: In this virtual classroom, participants can join in a seminar led by Poynter faculty and visiting faculty. This screencast includes live audio and a slideshow presentation in which participants can post questions and respond to poll questions posed by the host.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

City Paper: End of an Error

I read this article on a train over the weekend and thought it was really interesting. It's about a high school in Northeast that is the poster child for the problems with DC schools. The lead is a really interesting way to start an article (the writer was at the school last week covering his story when a kid set fire to the building's top floor). The writer also did an audio slide show describing the facility's problems and his commentary is laid over the pictures which is really cool.

You can find the article here, and the slide show here.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Oh My...

British street artist Banksy is known for creating provocative social commentaries using spray paint. But take a look at one of his indoor creations: Journalism Ethics

just thought you all might find that interesting. See you Monday!


Friday, February 22, 2008

SOC Week

SOC Week is coming up, and since part of my job is to plan it, I have "the scoop" on what's going on. The events should be really good this year.

SOC Week runs from March 17 - 21, which is the week after spring break. Here's the lineup:

Monday - Luau in the Tavern
Tuesday - American Forum discussion on the Iraq War and deception leading up to the invasion
Wednesday - Ben & Jerry's Ice Cream Social (my favorite event planned)
Thursday - Showing of Shattered Glass, a movie about real-life plagiarism at The New Republic, followed by a discussion with Washington Post writer Charles Lane, who was editor of The New Republic at the time
Friday - Showing of Caught on Safari: Battle at Kruger, a documentary on wildlife encounters in Africa.

I'll post more details as they come in, since right now we're still in the planning stages. Hope you all can attend!

Possible event to cover - Sun., Feb. 24!

"Cuba and Castro": launch of the student-professor lecture series

Lecture by SPA Dean William LeoGrande, Cuba expert
Sunday, Feb. 24, 6:30 pm
Leonard Hall Chancery
Featuring Q & A, refreshments and desserts

Political candidate research site - possible use for final projects

From librarian Melissa Becher, who spoke to our class:

I just happened across this outstanding webpage located at the Museum of the Moving Image website. It contains streaming video of dozens of campaign commercials with an easy-to-use interface. Thought you'd want to know about it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Final story/project list - so far!


Arnolt, Charly

Bailey, Allison

Bernhardt, Lauren

Bowen, Bradley

Cook, Joshua

Cumbie, Sarah -- Dems and religion

Fannizi, Justin -- Ron Paul and new technology

Gattuso, Meghan

Gerber, Jeffrey

Leonard, Ryan – steroids and Congress (with Zack)

Magaziner, Jordan

Matthews, Kate -- environment

McConnell, Kathleen -- environment

Natale, Robert

Nowadly, Tess -- food industry and politics or Hollywood and war

Scott, Maeghan

Solomon, Zack – steroids and Congress (with Ryan)

Tuman, Anna

Guest speaker on Thursday, Feb. 21!

Our guest speaker on Thursday is Jason Motlagh, who is a young freelance journalist who traveled to India and is connected with the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. Please read some of Jason's work and his bio before class. The link is here.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Guidelines for reporting assignment due Feb. 21

Here are some things to keep in mind for your first major reporting assignment, which is due Feb. 21. This should either be coverage of an on-campus event or an off-campus event. Your second reporting assignment should be the opposite of the one you do this time -- either on campus or off campus. The events, according to the syllabus, should relate to city or campus government, policies or social issues.
As I said in class, this is not simply "covering" an event; it should be a bit in-depth, with background information and reaction. You should incorporate quotes from at least two sources other than a main speaker -- so that means approximately three QUOTED sources. That is a minimum requirement, so you are free to have more sources and you should plan on speaking to as many relevant people as possible on your topic to inform your writing.
This should be written in news feature style, so you may incorporate some of your creative ideas but it needs to go by the general rules of a news story -- written in third person with proper use of quotations, style, grammar, etc. The lead should be one sentence.
Your story should be about 1,000 words, double spaced, using the name/slug heading.
Even though you're not writing in inverted pyramid style, you should be sure to have the who, what, where, when, why and how in the upper part of the story.
Keep in mind the standards of accuracy and fairness and question why your story is news by reviewing the news values on p. 6 of your text book. This will help guide your writing.
Ask yourself why your reader should care about this story and write it accordingly.
Remember, you are writing it as if you were submitting it for publication in the Eagle.
Note that outside reporting assignments will receive final grades after one revision.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Another great event!

Agenda 2008: Can the Next President Rise Above the Partisanship?

February 20, 2008
9:30 a.m. – 11:00 a.m.
National Press Building
Washington, D.C.

Not since the years leading up to the Civil War has our nation been so deeply divided along political lines—or so deeply burdened by unethical conduct in so many facets of American life. We cannot bring back George Washington, but we can heed his call to Constitutional Convention delegates to “raise a standard to which the wise and the just can repair.” Former Senators David Boren and Sam Nunn recently hosted a bipartisan group at the University of Oklahoma and implored the Presidential candidates to address hard questions facing our nation and to avoid political wedge issues that divide those who might otherwise work together. The group’s members are all commited to repairing the partisan divide so evident in our public discourse.

On February 20th the non-profit, non-partisan Center for the Study of the Presidency will focus attention on the upcoming Presidential election and the need for inclusive leadership and organization for effective leadership. Following the model of the Oklahoma meeting, the panel will address the current landscape and ask the question: Can the next President rise above partisan posturing and organize for effective leadership?

The panel of leading experts will speak from 9:30-10:30 with 30 minutes for questions and answers. Members of the press are encouraged to attend.


Dr. David M. Abshire – President of the Center for the Study of the Presidency


The Honorable Bill Brock - former Chairman of the Republican National Committee
Mr. Mort Kondracke – Executive Editor, Roll Call
The Honorable Thomas “Mack” McLarty - former Chief of Staff for President Clinton
Dr. Norman Ornstein - Resident Scholar at American Enterprise Institute

For more information or to RSVP please contact: dfsgf
Event: John Boyer, Center for the Study of the Presidency, 202-872-9800 or
Press: Rachna Sethi, John Adams Associates, 202-737-8400

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Homework for Monday, Feb. 18

In the workbook on page 43, # 1, 2, 6, 9. For #9, write two different leads. Also, bring in two hard news leads from The Washington Post and answer whether the who, what, where, when, why, how are in the lead.
Have a great weekend!


American University Washington College of Law
and the
College of Arts and Sciences

Cordially invite you to the lecture

“The Referendum”

by the award-winning , Chilean author and former diplomat
Antonio Skármeta

Tuesday, February 26, 2008
5:30-6:30 p.m.
(Reception following)

This lecture is based on Mr. Skármeta’s comedy on the
1988 Chilean plebiscite:
El Plebiscito o Como derrotar a un dictador con poesía
(The Plebiscite or How to Defeat a Dictator through Poetry)

Mr. Skármeta’s 1985 novel Ardiente paciencia inspired the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie,
Il Postino (The Postman)

American University Washington College of Law
4801 Massachusetts Avenue, NW
6th floor student lounge
Washington, DC 20016

To register for the event, visit the link below:

For more information please contact
Phone 202.274.4075 Fax 202.274.4079

Antonio Skármeta is a Chilean author, born November 7, 1940 in Antofagasta, Chile. His 1985 novel Ardiente paciencia inspired the 1994 Academy Award-winning movie, Il Postino (The Postman). Subsequent editions of the book bore the title “El cartero de Neruda” (The Postman). His fiction has since received dozens of awards and has been translated into nearly 30 languages worldwide. Most recently, Mr. Skármeta won the prestigious 2003 Planeta Prize in Spain for “El baile de la Victoria” (The Dancer and the Thief). Mr. Skármeta studied philosophy and literature both in Chile and at Columbia University in New York. From 1967 to 1973, the year he left Chile (first to Buenos Aires and later to West Berlin), he taught literature at the University of Chile. In 1989, after the collapse of Pinochet’s military dictatorship, Mr. Skármeta returned to Chile in order "to create political space for freedom." He hosted a television program on literature and the arts, that regularly attracted over one million viewers. Mr. Skármeta frequently teaches classes for the Colorado College both in Santiago and in Colorado Springs. He is the grandson of immigrants from the Dalmatian region of Croatia.


Pierre Kattar, an award-winning videojournalist from, will come to my graduate level TV Field Reporting class on Friday, Feb. 15 to discuss multi-media presentation, particularly video journalism. He's expected to come from 10:30-11:30 a.m., and others are welcome to join us. We meet in room 100 of the Media Production Center.

Stephanie Blake
Assistant Professor
School of Communication
American University
4400 Massachusetts Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20016


Telling the Hardest Stories: Lion in the House

The Center for Social Media welcomes award-winning filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bogner, directors of the Emmy award-nominated film, Lion in the House. They'll discuss the making of the film, and how documentary film serves as a vehicle to share those stories that are often hard to tell.

We hope you can make it!

WHAT: FREE Lecture with filmmakers Julia Reichert and Steven Bogner
WHEN: Thurs., Feb. 21, 6 pm
WHERE: Scheduled to take place in Room 303A, Mary Graydon Center, American University (location may be changed to Wechsler Theater, 3rd Fl., Mary Graydon Center, AU, but signs will be posted at 303A indicating this change).


Another opportunity to hear Pegie Stark - Sat. Feb. 23

The Center for Social Media presents its second installment of the Innovator's Forum speaker series - a FREE lecture with Dr. Pegie Stark, of the Poynter Institute's Eyetrack 2007 ( Dr. Poynter will discuss her team's groundbreaking research, which tracked how the public reads both print and online news, and how these finding will change the face of journalism for the future.

WHAT: FREE Lecture with Dr. Pegie Stark
WHEN: Saturday, Feb. 23, 12:15-1:15
WHERE: Butler Boardroom, American University
More info & Directions:

*bring your brown bag lunch - dessert and coffee will be served!

Bree Bowman
Projects Manager
Center for Social Media
School of Communication, American University

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Reminder about "I Remember AU When" Thursday 2/14

Colleagues: Greetings.
I write to invite you and your students to "I Remember AU When: The University and Revolution," a program Thursday evening that will take a unique look back at 1968, a time of protest and dissent at AU and beyond.
"I Remember AU When," which I'm sponsoring with the student-run Kennedy Political Union, will get underway Thursday at 7:30 p.m. in MGC 3-4. (Hors d'ouevres will be available at a small reception in MGC 3-4, starting at 7 p.m.) The main presenter will be SIS Professor Gary Weaver, who was on campus then and co-taught a class in 1968 called "The University and Revolution." An edited volume by the same title was published a year later. The contained excerpts of remarks of the guest speakers Gary brought to campus. They included Elridge Cleaver, Allard Lowenstein, Mark Rudd, William F. Buckeley, among others.
Tom Block, a founder of the Kennedy Political Union, which traces its origins to 1968, also will be a presenter Thursday.
"I Remember AU When" is an event in the Founders' Week lineup, and I've undertaken it as part of my programming efforts as "faculty in office residence" in McDowell Hall.
I hope to see you there. And, as I say, your students are most welcome, too.
With thanks and regards to all. WJC

W. Joseph Campbell, Ph.D.
Associate Professor
School of Communication

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Blog Talk Radio

A new way of audio blogging. Could be a great venue for final projects: Blog Talk Radio

Thinking Fairly Deeply About the Bloggers vs. Journalists question

Posted by Amy Gahran 11:11:25 AM
Media Elitism, Good and Bad
Comedy Central
Jon Stewart: A good example of "beneficial elitism," according to's Beau Dure.
Not surprisingly, Roy Peter Clark's Jan. 31 column, The Public Bias Against the Press, stirred up a lot of strong feelings and conversation -- both in the comments and on Poynter's Online-News discussion list.

Before this conversation moves on completely, I'd like to highlight (with permission) some remarks that's Beau Dure shared in a post to Online-News.

Dure wrote:

"I like Roy's dichotomy of skepticism and cynicism, having read the excellent book on the subject. I don't like the dichotomy of bloggers and journalists, who should indeed be symbiotic and, in many cases, describe the same people.

"I prefer to think in terms of beneficial elitism and harmful elitism. Bloggers and journalists practice both -- but we need a lot more of the former.

"Beneficial elitism is the notion that we can all handle the truth and make educated decisions. Its enemy is the ersatz populism so often practiced by politicians who prey on Americans' anti-intellectualism. ...Jon Stewart is practicing beneficial elitism. If only more people would follow his lead.

"Harmful Elitism is loosely akin to cynicism. It's the assumption of someone else's inferiority, leading to a premature dismissal of what that person is saying or doing.

Read more E-Media Tidbits.

Get E-Media Tidbits as an RSS feed:
* Copy this link and add it to your feed reader

Subscribe to receive E-Media Tidbits by e-mail:
* Sent Monday-Friday, 5 p.m.
"Yes, many journalists fall into the trap of harmful elitism. We're especially prone to urban elitism, treating everything south and west of th Potomac River as a giant anthropology experiment. We tend to look at, say, Iowa voters as lab rats rather than human beings capable of making the same decisions we do. Some reporters' contempt for the local bodies they cover is evident in their stories. Some journalists are far too dismissive of legitimate criticism.

"But here's the thing: Bloggers are just as susceptible to harmful elitism. Particularly those who are educated in a particular field and assume their education carries over to ALL fields. That's why, say, we might see an arrogant political blog written by a lawyer.

"...On [the Online-News] list, as in all forums, we sometimes fall into the trap of harmful elitism. We assume others 'don't get it.' 'Oh, that Roy Peter Clark guy? Yeah, he's just a newspaper guy. I don't have to listen to him.' We're prone to offering up easy answers for newspapers' ills, conveniently forgetting how wrong this list's conventional wisdom has been in the past.

"Whether or not you like my proposed harmful / beneficial dichotomy, I think it helps to look at things through new frames. The 'blogger vs. journalist' meme didn't die despite Jay Rosen's best efforts, but at least we can step outside it every once in a while. 'Liberal vs. conservative' is utterly meaningless, given the fluidity of the terms. Even 'old school vs. new school' isn't particularly helpful. If we weren't a little bit of both, why would we be on this list?"