Thursday, January 31, 2008

Homework for Monday, Feb. 4, and Jon Stewart link

For Monday,
Follow up on our discussion on bias by asking three people you know if they believe the news media have a liberal bias. For each individual, make sure you follow with questions on exactly why they believe the media are or are not biased. Describe the reasons given as well as the examples provided by the individuals you interviewed. Based on these interviews, evaluate evidence for perceptual bias as described in the readings and in class. Please review the in-class handout, which you can find here: Rhetorica. This should be about a page, single-spaced. ALSO, catch up to the readings and we will discuss interviewing and gathering quotes next time. We'll do an in-class exercise.

For your viewing pleasure, Jon Stewart's critique of some of the biases discussed in the handout (as seen in class):

Blog Comparison: In the Pink Texas vs. Capitol Annex

From my adoring praise, it may seem like I'm obsessed with Eileen Smith. Well, I'm not. (Well, maybe I am.)

She's obviously very funny. We've taken a look at some of her humor in previous posts. For example, she's under the impression that after adopting babies, you can give them back if it "doesn't work out."

In the Pink Texas has received lavish praise in reviews from the mainstream media, and rightfully so, because it's a great blog. But it's not the only kind of great blog. Let's look at another end of the spectrum: the policy wonk blogger.

Vince Leibowitz, a former Texas journalist who know owns and operates a blog called Capitol Annex, focuses more on breaking news and in-depth analysis of the goings-on of the Texas Legislature and statewide politics than entertaining the reader. For this reason, he is very often cited in work by other bloggers that are providing a general overview of an issue. If it happened in Austin, you can expect that Leibowitz will have covered it. He is the Perez Hilton of Texas politics, but without the controversy (or the celebs, unless you count Gov. "Goodhair" Perry). Leibowitz has even beaten the MSM in late breaking news, much to their private dismay.

Here's an excerpt:

State Rep. Robert Puente (D-San Antonio) has announced he will resign from the Texas House effective February 1.

Puente, who was facing a tough challenge from San Antonio City Councilman Roland Gutierrez before announcing he wouldn’t seek another term late last year, has now set in motion the likelihood of a special election for his district.

While it is likely Gutierrez will win the special election, it does give pro-Craddick forces the opportunity to find another candidate to run in this district.

I feel like both of these blogs serve an important purpose, and one builds on the other in a way. One is newsy and one is funny, but you can't make fun of the news without it being first reported. One is CNN and the other the Daily Show. It makes sense. The Texas blogosphere has been impacted greatly by both, and many bloggers have tried to emulate one style or the other, or perhaps a find a medium in between the two.


Earlier I profiled Eileen Smith, blogger turned online editor of Texas Monthly. I included a few recent gems from her blog, but now let's examine an excerpt of a column written for her real job, rather than for her own amusement. This full article about new media, called "MEET the DePRESSed", appears online at

Even those who kept their jobs, like Karen Brooks, found their beats changing a bit. A Capitol bureau reporter, Brooks now covers online politics and new media as well. She has been a newspaper reporter for thirteen years, and has worked at the Morning News for three-and-a-half years.

When asked whether she thinks print is on its way out, Brooks responded, “Unfortunately, I do—eventually, anyway. I don’t like it, and I don’t like to admit it.

“I’ve been in the newspaper business for so long,” she continued. “I was refusing to admit it was changing. But, I don’t feel like [the Internet] is killing journalism.”

Brooks contributes to the Morning News’s political blog, “Trail Blazers,” where she’s free to be sarcastic and edgy, which is to say, free to be a blogger.

Initially, Smith is referencing the recent "option" given to Dallas Morning News reporters to receive pay to quit working. Seasoned journalist Karen Brooks survived the exodus, but is now also a blogger on the newspaper's website. As a part of the new media frontier while still clinging to the old guard, Brooks can finally concede to the ideas of the digital revolution as she realizes that dead-tree media is past its prime.

Smith uses the direct quotes from Brooks to really drive home her point about new media: even veteran reporters are waving the white flag at the blogosphere.

But let’s be honest. It doesn’t really matter what Karen Brooks thinks. Or what I think. Or what anyone over thirty thinks. Like many of my colleagues, I’m a washed-up has-been. As so-called “digital immigrants” (those who grew up in a world where you filled out your college applications on a typewriter), there’s only so much we can do to help shape the future of media.

“Digital natives,” on the other hand, were born around 1985, when personal computers were already ten years old. They have never known a world without the Internet (lucky bastards). They are adept multimedia producers and certified gadgetophiles who create content as much as they consume it, if not more. Avid newspaper readers, they are not. In fact, younger readers view the corporate-owned mainstream media with disgust, if not outright contempt.

Smith brilliantly uses unique terminology to help further demonstrate the divide: "digital immigrants" and "digital natives." The immigrants, she humorously illustrates, filled out their college applications on a typewriter, while the "gadgetophile" natives never knew a world without the Internet.

But I can’t speak for them, mostly because I don’t understand their language, which is transferred through text messages and seems to consist entirely of acronyms. As for me, I like the autonomy and accessibility of online news. I like that I can get information from an array of different sources. I like watching video and downloading podcasts and perusing the self-absorbed rantings on blogs (mine included). I like posting comments and interacting with shadowy, anonymous figures. And I especially like the fact that you can do all this at your job and still look like you’re working.

Try doing that with a newspaper.
Poking fun at text messaging and the "language" it employs, Smith further defines the differences in the new media culture and the old. She then points out the obvious advantages to this tidal wave of the information age. Smith uses online media for all its worth, and best of all, since she's sitting in front of a computer screen it makes her look like she's doing something important. Like working.

The Race Tightens: Comparison of Political Blogs

The blogs I decided to compare come from The New York Times and The Washington Post, both covering the presidential race, noting those candidates who are making headway and others who are falling behind. The main focus is one both the Republican and Democrat candidates that are pulling ahead to become the most talked about “front runners.”
In The Washington Post, the blog entry is entitled, “A Matchup Starts to Take Shape.” Written by David S. Broder, a columnist for the Post, his blog focuses on the events leading up to Tuesday’s day of voting in two-dozen states and what it means for the leading candidates of each party. For the Republicans, Broder believes that McCain has gained momentum back by winning in South Carolina and Florida after having a rough start over the summer. Broder adds to this by saying that he believes that McCain should have no problem gaining the Republican nomination unless Romney makes some extraordinary comeback. And, with McCain now the front-runner for the Republicans, Broder believes that Obama will gain the advantage and win the Democratic nomination because voters believe he has a better shot at winning the election against McCain.
In The New York Times blog called “The Caucus,” the writers Kate Phillips and Ariel Alexovich take a similar approach to their blog, entitling the entry, “The Early Word: The Race Narrows.” It is similar in that these two writers also agree that both the Republican and Democratic races have slimmed down considerably to two dueling front-runners. But while Broder from the Post uses mainly his own opinion, without inserting the writing of other journalists and analysts, Phillips and Alexovich use clips from a variety of people to support their point. They quote people from The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and even The Washington Post.
For me at least, I liked Broder’s blog much more than Phillip and Alexovich’s because of the way it was written. Broder states his opinion and finishes, not feeling the need to fill the space with endless quotes that just break up the blog too much. In The New York Times, it is hard to really feel like Phillip and Alexovich wrote very much of their opinion because it was mostly all quotes from other people. Of course, some people may view this as better because they are using so many other opinions to back up their own; Broder is simply a much easier and faster read.


Soccer Blog Compare and Contrast

The two blogs that I am comparing are from The New York Times and The Washington Post. Both of these blogs are about soccer, both nationally and internationally. The New York Times blog is written by a host of journalists and is named Goal while The Washington Post blog is written by Steven Goff and is named Soccer Insider.

While both of the blogs concentrate on both United States Soccer and International Soccer, Goal written by a host of journalists is more focused on the events that are going around the world with regards to soccer, while Soccer Insider is more concerned about the American player and the American game.

The soccer insider is part of the Washington Post, so it has more involvement with events pertaining to DC United and the MLS. An article posted just yesterday talks about how Andrew Jacobson a rookie on DC United decided to sign with the French club Lorient. In the article it says how this is bad for the MLS because of the money that he would make in the MLS is much less than the money overseas. It then goes on to say what the impact would be on DC United and whether they would miss him or not.

The New York Times is a major national newspaper so in it’s blog, it has more international flavor. Many of its articles from the past week have to do with the African Cup of Nations, the national tournament in Africa. Many of the articles about this event center not only around the soccer that is being played but also around the impact that soccer has on everybody in those countries. This can be seen in an article written by Greg Lalas, talking about a soccer match between Ghana and Morocco, that is much more than soccer to those two countries, “ ‘Ghanaians root for Guinea because of solidarity, because we are all West Africans’, Emmanuel Amponsah of The Ghanaian Times told me that night.” Later on it goes on to say, “The rivalry between North and West Africa resumes every two years at the Africa Cup of Nations. It reveals itself in a contrast of playing styles, but also points to deeper cultural differences.”

While the similarities can be seen between these two blogs because they are both about soccer and what is going on with it around the country. The differences are more glaring, Soccer Insider does not really delve into cultural or social issues that are brought up by soccer, but it goes more into the team side of things with great updated news about DC United. Goal on the other hand, goes into the cultural and social issues that are so often involved with soccer especially on a continent where soccer is as much part of the tradition as baseball and football are here. Both do a great job of reaching the audience that they are meant to reach, Soccer Insider fans of DC United and readers of The Washington Post and Goal, readers of the nationwide New York Times and international issues and sports.

Soccer Insider:

Highly Anticipated Syllabus Excerpt

Reading, research, required activities:

Your textbook is News Reporting and Writing, The Missouri Group, 9th edition and workbook

Also required: Journalism 2.0, Mark Briggs.

Recommended: AP Stylebook

This class is supported by Blackboard and you will be able to check your grades online. HOWEVER, course announcements and course readings will be posted on an informal class blog: You are asked to contribute to the blog on an informal basis by asking questions, making comments and/or introducing written or visual materials. Everyone, including me, should be constantly dumping story ideas here. I will read and respond on the blog at least once EACH DAY. I may have you post some assignments here as well; I will announce which ones.

More on blogs: You will work as individuals or with a partner to set up a blog for your own use. This will be the main vehicle for your final class presentation, which is a multimedia reporting project. Parameters, deadlines, etc., will be discussed in class.

As part of your ongoing reading in the class, you need to monitor blogs of interest to you and your project. You will set up RSS feeds to Google Reader or that include feeds from, the Howard Kurtz media column in The Washington Post, Romenesko from, E-Media Tidbits from, Capture the Conversation and other sites from your own searches. Try to find a writer in the media or among your blogs who inspires you. Follow his or her writings and be prepared to talk about the appeal. We will discuss developments within journalism from these sites.

Additional readings will be handed out in class and/or posted on the nabobs blog. You are responsible for obtaining copies of all handouts before readings are due. Not all readings may be available in electronic format.

It should go without saying that you will read The Washington Post daily and the Eagle twice weekly (Mondays and Thursdays).

You may be required to view videos in the Media Services area of the library. These must be viewed before the class in which they are being discussed.

Hoosier Blog Compare and Contrast

I am comparing Terry Hutchens’ “Hoosier Insider” blog from The Indianapolis Star to “The Hoosier Scoop” from Bloomington, Indiana’s local paper, The Herald Times. “The Hoosier Scoop” is written by sports editor, Doug Wilson, and sports writer, Chris Korman. The particular post that I am comparing and contrasting with Hutchens’ is written by Chris Korman.
Upon reading a post from January 26 from each paper, I discovered that they have many similarities. Both blogs concentrated on the Hoosiers’ loss against the University of Connecticut (UConn). They also contained one of the same themes: the lesson the Hoosiers learned from Saturday’s conference game. Hutchens writes, “It is often said in sports that you learn more about yourself in a loss than in a victory…here's some of the things I think Indiana learned today.” Korman writes, “…Indiana needs to learn something from today.” It is obvious that each writer has similar thoughts in terms of their writing and about the game on Saturday.
Another similarity is that the writers both picked up on many of the same flaws from specific players, such as Lance Stemler. Stemler is one of the best three-point shooters on the team and the bloggers were both concerned about his shot in the game. Korman writes, “Sampson inserted him to shoot 3-pointers. He took and hit one. Stemler had what appeared to be a good look for another 3 but pulled it down and tried a jump shot from just inside the line, which missed.” Hutchens noted Stemler’s inaccuracy during as the game as one of the Hoosiers’ top 10 mistakes. “Lance Stemler needs to shoot from beyond the arc -- and no where else… C'mon Lance, shoot the ball from long range and let some of these other guys stop and shoot from 17 and in,” writes Hutchens.
While there are similarities in the blogs, there are also many differences. Because Korman is a Bloomington local, he has a way with his words that connects with the Bloomington population. His introductory paragraph is a perfect indication.

“By now many of you are probably off drowning your sorrows at Nick’s
or either of the Kilroy’s or in some musty frat basement. Maybe
tomorrow as you shake it off you’ll begin to dissect what happened at
Assembly Hall. Consider this your dose of two aspirins as you struggle
down the path toward clearing your post-loss fog.”

Korman realizes how passionate IU fans are and that a game is not just upsetting to the team, but to everyone.
Another difference in “The Hoosier Scoop,” is the ongoing political metaphor. UConn’s surprise win is compared to Barack Obama’s surprise win in South Carolina. Korman wraps up the blog post with a continuation of the metaphor that is more hopeful than the previous references. He writes that Indiana can still become a team “just as Hillary Clinton’s staff could still find a way to win big on Super Tuesday.” I thought this metaphor was very clever and it is a method that can be used to engage more than just sports fans.
Hutchens begins his blog in a different manner than the prior. He provides a very understandable synopsis as to why the Hoosiers could not pull through on Saturday afternoon. The rest of his blog is very structured, listing 10 things that Indiana’s players, coaches and fans need to learn from this experience. He makes many good points, but does not stray from the sports angle, like Korman did when making political references.
The absence of direct quotes is another difference in Hutchens’ blog. Korman uses direct quotes from Head Coach Kelvin Sampson frequently, whereas Hutchens prefers to use his own words to explain the events. In addition, Hutchens engages his reader by asking thought-provoking questions and by asking for opinions from his reader at the end of his post.
All in all, I would say Hutchens’ blog is slightly more informational because it goes into more detail, but I really enjoyed hearing the viewpoints from both a big-city and a local writer.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

So there!

Studies: Arrogance not rampant among young
The popular view that young people are more self-absorbed than ever thanks to their parents' fixation on self-esteem stands challenged by two large new studies.

For the past 25 years, California college students have scored about the same on a test that measures narcissism — qualities such as arrogance and a sense of entitlement, says psychologist Kali Trzesniewski of the University of Western Ontario. Her report covers more than 26,000 students.

Another analysis she did from a large annual survey of high school seniors suggests that kids are no more conceited today than they were 30 years ago. The gap between their grades and how they rated their intelligence was no greater in 2006 than 1976, says Trzesniewski, whose studies are in the February Psychological Science.

"They're not becoming more over-confident," she says.

The idea that baby-boomer parents have spawned a generation of self-important egotists took hold in the wake of research by Jean Twenge, a psychologist at San Diego State University. Twenge wrote a widely publicized 2006 book called Generation Me: Why Today's Young Americans Are More Confident, Assertive, Entitled — and More Miserable Than Ever Before.

But Twenge's reports on narcissism grouped together many studies of varying size in a way that can distort results, Trzesniewski says.

Twenge, for her part, says Asian students are highly over-represented in the more recent California personality tests, and they tend to be less narcissistic. Also, high school kids often are so self-conscious that they don't show the rising self-esteem she has found in elementary and college students.

About a quarter of youths are self-absorbed and hedonistic, says psychologist William Damon, director of the Stanford Center on Adolescence. An additional 20% are "highly purposeful about contributing to the community," his research suggests. The rest fall somewhere in between, and how they'll turn out is unknown, Damon says.

Comparing personality test scores of young people today with scores from 25 years ago is not as simple as it may seem, says Frank Furstenberg, a sociologist at the University of Pennsylvania who studies early adulthood. "It's not enough to compare them at the same age. You need to compare them in the same stage of life. A 22-year-old is not at the same life stage as the 22-year-old a few decades ago."

"They may look more self-absorbed now," says Furstenberg, "because they're growing up later, marrying later and having children later. … Young adults can be very self-absorbed. That doesn't mean they'll stay that way."

For Thursday

I'm enjoying reading your writing critiques. For Thursday, please catch up with the readings and the homework assignments as detailed here on the nabobs blog below.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Blog Comparison

I choose to look through two blogs, one from the New York Times and another from the Washington Post. The Post’s blog is called “Short Stack” and it’s a blog where the staff of “book world” chooses five favorite books a week. The books usually had something in common with each other. Last week’s was “Serious novels for people who’d rather be reading romance novels.” The Times had a slightly different approach. The blog is written by the editors of the book review, and most of the articles posted either focus on a specific book, or on a trend in the literary world. This blog also tends to report on more than just novels, articles on recent studies, interviews with writers, and other literature-related pieces. Last week’s post detailed how different newspapers and magazines reviewed recently released books.
While the Post sticks to short, sweet blogs, the Times manages to cram more information and opinions on the blog by having a “read more” optional link. Each blog was written by a different person each week, and both were published weekly.
I felt that the Times blog allowed for a bit more consumer-engagement. The blog had a place to fill out your name and email address to receive updates on related stories, as well as a place to write one’s own views and comments on the stories that were posted. I felt the Post’s blog could have included more links to related articles and more opportunities for the reader to get involved in the story and the website in general
The Post’s blog, however, seemed to be more user friendly when it came to the titles of the different posts. While the Times kept titles small and subject matter dense, the Post managed to hook the reader with short, concise, and rather puffy articles about books new and old. The link between the five chosen books really helped to give the articles on the blog a cohesive quality. I did not feel that the Times articles lacked cohesion, but that their unity was sometimes buried and required a bit more reading to find. Unfortunately, a bit more reading is more than the average blogger is willing to indulge in.
I don’t think that one blog was better than the other, but that each of them had different strengths and would cater to a slightly different audience. While the Post would probably be ideal for a casual reader without any expertise in literature or any vested interest in the publishing scene, the Times would probably appeal to someone looking for a more in-depth analysis of the current literary climate. The blogs really weren’t that different though, each found a common theme between different types of literature and used this theme to tell a story about the subjects.
-Tess Nowadly

Links to Blogs

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Obama at AU - a good thing to cover

BREAKING NEWS: Obama to speak at AU

Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Sen. Barack Obama is holding a campaign rally in AU's Bender Arena at 12:15 p.m. Monday, according to Student Government President Joe Vidulich. Doors will open at 10:30 a.m. More details to follow.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Homework assignment for Monday, Jan. 28

1. We did not get to discuss the book chapters, so we will catch up on the book through Chapter 4.
2. I forgot to give you the style quiz to take home so we will do that first thing in class. Please review the style rules I have posted on the blog and those in the back of the text book.
3. "Copy out" four or five paragraphs from the writer whose writing you brought to class. That means that you type the actual words that the writer wrote and then follow each graf with a brief analysis of the writing. Ask yourself how the writer did that, how the writing fits with the ideas we've talked about in class and what vital functions the writer is fulfilling as described in the text on page 9. (You will turn this in along with your earlier analysis of why you like this writer.)
4. Do Exercise 1 on page 41 of the text. This can be about a page and a half. Please try to post this on the blog and link to the blogs you analyze. Also bring a printout to turn in.

I enjoyed the discussion in class today.


Thank you for your input on the grading issue today. This, I believe is what we agreed to (I should have written this down after class.):

No points taken off for style errors for the first three writing/reporting assignments. One-half point off thereafter. (No extra points off for repeating the same error in the same story/paper.)

Grammar/punctuation/usage errors - 1/4 point off for first three assignments, then one-half point thereafter.

Five points off for not meeting criteria of assignment.

Up to 10 points off on a continuum for factual errors, with the maximum taken for the most egregious errors.

Other ideas:
I propose also a loss of 10 points for missing a deadline by more than 24 hours.
For specific assignments I will tell you the rubric beforehand, which may include areas other than those listed above, such as readability, having the news in the lead and transitions.
We can discuss these new elements.

The Pink Lady: Eileen Smith

Would you get fired if you said defamatory things about your superiors and colleagues on the Internet?

Probably, unless you are funny girl Eileen Smith, the web editor for Texas Monthly.

The magazine, known in Texas for awarding the good and reprimanding the bad in Texas politics, covers a wide variety of issues -- from the environment and sports to the arts and education. Smith is responsible for the magazine's popular website, which includes features from the new issue as well as editorial blogs on current affairs.

But Smith, known by her fans as the Pink Lady, wasn't always a card-carrying member of the mainstream media. Smith, in the reverse of her peers, first rose to fame as a blogger. In fact, she still blogs at her groundbreaking website In the Pink Texas, an Austin-based blog focused on politics from a liberal slant. She and her contributors don't hold anything back in their hilarious interpretations of what's happening in Texas, the nation, and the world. In fact, the blog has been called a mix of The Daily Show and The Onion... why the latter? Because Smith has a humorous penchant for adding a little extra flair to direct quotes, which would make any seasoned journalist's skin crawl. But, irreverent as ever, she powers on, making us laugh at ourselves.

Here's a review of her blog from The Dallas Morning News:
In cyberspace, the Pink Lady is a wide-eyed, pinot-swilling, bimbo-ish blogger with a penchant for Starbucks, an addiction to presidential politics and a foul mouth. Alternately self-deprecating and self-aggrandizing, she shamelessly chases after famous politicians, mistrusts all desperate single women, and regularly shaves about eight years off her age.
Before taking the gig with Texas Monthly, Smith regularly took the time to poke fun at Paul Burka, the senior executive editor at the magazine who injected himself into the blogosphere with BurkaBlog. It's interesting to note, though, that she isn't planning on brown-nosing anytime soon. In fact, she now has more ammunition for her jokes now that they share an office space. She continues to trash just about everyone on her highly-visible blog, but nobody seems to mind. Probably because she's just so funny.

Here's the Pink Lady's take on some recent events (excerpts taken from her blog):

Luckily, Congress has stepped in to save us all. They’ve created an economic stimulus plan! Because, when you turn your economy on, does it return the favor?!

Individual (unmarried) taxpayers will receive checks for $600. Couples will receive checks for $1200. If you have kids, you could receive up to $300 per child and a permanent “customer with children” parking space at Central Market.

I am totally going to adopt a South Korean child for this reason. I hear you can give them back if it doesn’t work out.


Columnist David Broder, who has been in journalism for fifty years, which is to say half his life, contends that South Carolina is a must-win for Barack Obama. He hasn’t won any states since Iowa, and has only picked up one delegate. Oprah Winfrey.

Although Obama was favored by MSNBC in New Hampshire and CNN in Nevada, it was only a fairy tale. But in South Carolina, the black vote is roughly half of the Democratic electorate, and he has built up steady support within the black community after Hillary told a reporter that MLK, Jr. should have been a white president.

John Edwards won SC in 2004, when he was endorsed by The Sons of Millworkers Union. He is expecting to receive this endorsement again.


Although Omar, one of Osama’s 192 children, once trained at an al Qaeda camp, he decided he didn’t want to go into the family business. Omar said that he hasn’t been in contact with his father since leaving Afghanistan for Egypt. “He doesn’t have e-mail,” Omar said, which explains why Osama hasn’t replied to any of the State Department’s emails to


I’ll be out until this afternoon at a Texas Monthly editorial retreat. Due to obvious security reasons, I cannot disclose the specific location but FOUR SEASONS BABY. I hope I’m not the only one who brings my bathing suit.

Today’s the day I will be indoctrinated into the TM culture, thereby ending my difficult hazing and pledge period. I just have to be able to name the magazine covers for the past 15 years. MAGAZINE?! Since when do they have a magazine?!

Syllabus excerpt of the week

General approach of the course:

As a foundation course designed for journalism majors, you will be immersed in readings and practice. The major focus will be on reporting and that is what we will be doing from Day One. Be prepared to jump in right away with gathering news and writing. There will be lots of hands-on work in the classroom and outside of it, to be accompanied by readings from the textbook and outside sources. However, you are still expected to take notes in class and reflect on readings. You are responsible for your learning in this course and, just as real-world reporters do, you’ll need to take the initiative in creating your stories and projects. I will provide guidance throughout. I am available ANYTIME to answer questions directly related to reporting and IN ADVANCE of assignments. I am available during office hours or by appointment to answer questions about grades, absences, etc. I will call each of you in for an appointment at some point during the semester.

This class is unlike other classes in that you will be required to set up interviews with and talk to a lot of people outside the classroom. You’ll need to bring those experiences into the classroom. Get comfortable with all of that. We’ll also work in groups and we’ll critique each other’s work. All journalists get criticism and usually have to do rewrites. Get used to it! In addition, you will have to attend events outside the classroom. You will be interacting a great deal with the outside world. This means that you will need to budget your time. If all of your time is accounted for outside the classroom with jobs, internships, other course projects, social events and travel, you will not be successful in this course. Because of this course’s importance in your future career, it takes priority in your schedule.

Just as journalists these days must learn to contribute in print, broadcast and online, you will learn to operate “across platforms.” That means thinking in new ways about how to present stories and compete for audience attention. It also means experimenting with technology and taking time to hone skills outside the classroom.

This course will be on three tracks simultaneously: 1. gradual learning of fundamental journalistic and reporting skills based on the text book and in-class exercises and outside event coverage 2. exploration of new media/technology and developments in the industry via the Briggs book and your RSS feeds 3. your own reporting and use of digital skills in a longer term project.

This is an exciting time in journalism. I want you to bring your special insights and talents to the tasks of this course!

Professor Walker's Rules to Write By

AP Style and Other Rules

The journalist who does not know AP style basics will be branded by coworkers as an amateur. Here are some bare basics you will find in the AP Stylebook and in the back of your text book. Plus, I’ve added some basic rules to live by. Please study these, learn them and use them. (These few rules right here will go a long way toward getting you started.)

--Avoid run-on sentences; one thought to a sentence.

--Don’t put a comma after the last “and” in a series.

--Don’t use titles on second reference. Always refer to people by their last names on second reference, even if it is the pope or the president.

--Avoid putting people’s names in leads.

--Most leads are one sentence long.

--Avoid adjectives such as “exciting” or “adorable.”

--Keep tenses in line with each other; don’t say “the group they.” A group is an “it” because it’s singular.

--Know the difference between plural and possessive. The cars were on the road (plural). The car’s tire was flat (possessive).

--Tell a story; don’t just relay facts. (This is hard!)

--Quote your sources in your paper; don’t put a source list or cite references.

--Here is the form for quotes: “That Professor Walker is a real nitpicker,” said a student. Note that the quote ends with a comma, close quote, said and then source.

--Avoid using full quotes in leads; partial quotes are okay (even good sometimes).

--Trust your instincts as to what is interesting to you; remember, you are the voice for your reader, who likely knows nothing about what you’re writing about.

--Avoid clichés like the plague (cliché alert!); don’t write how you think it’s supposed to sound. Be straightforward.

--Show, don’t tell. Let your reader decide. For example, you could say, The dog was a mangy stray that could have bitten the child outside the pre-school. Or, you could say, The medium-size dog with matted, dirty fur and a hungry scowl approached the toddler as the tike stood unsteadily in his bulky jeans on the sidewalk outside the pre-school.
--In general, the rule for using numbers is this: Use words to spell out numbers from zero through nine; use numerals to refer to numbers 10 and above. So: one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, etc. That stands until you get to 999,999. Then, it's a combination of numbers and words for 1 million, 1.5 million, 2 million, etc. Don’t begin sentences with numbers unless you spell them out.

--Spell out percent and cents, and use them with numerals, even if the number is smaller than nine: 1 percent, 8 percent, 12 percent, 300 percent. Also: 1 cent, 6 cents, 24 cents, 99 cents.

--Never spell out "dollars." Use the dollar sign, along with numerals: $1, $4.50, $16, $1,000, $100,000, $1 million.

--Capitalize titles when they come before a name: I voted for President Bartlett. But do not capitalize titles if they come after a name: Danna Walker, an American University professor, teaches classes online. Likewise, do not capitalize titles if they appear without a name: The vice president often wants to become president.
--Abbreviate state names when they follow a city in a sentence. Note that AP abbreviations are different from postal abbreviations: The University of Maryland is in College Park, Md. There are eight states that you should never abbreviate: Alaska, Hawaii, Iowa, Idaho, Maine, Ohio, Texas, Utah. Example: I traveled from Arlington, Texas, to Boulder, Colo., for my vacation.
--Abbreviate "avenue," "boulevard" and "street" when they follow a numbered address: I live at 444 Kenilworth Ave. Do not use the abbreviation if there's no number: I live on Kenilworth Avenue. Do not abbreviate "road," "terrace," "circle" or other addresses.
--Abbreviate months when they are used with a date: I was born on Aug. 16. Do not abbreviate if there is no date: I was born in August. There are five months you should never abbreviate: March, April, May, June, July: I was born on July 4.
--Use commas sparingly. Generally, you use them to enclose clauses. Do not use them in a series: red, white and blue. Avoid colons, semi-colons and other formal types of punctuation.
--The AP Stylebook is a guide to consistency, which is important in any printed piece. Inconsistencies look like mistakes, and mistakes kill your credibility with readers quicker than anything else.
Hunter S. Thompson

Hunter S. Thompson is most commonly known for his creation of "Gonzo Journalism" a form of reporting where the author gets personally involved in his writing, often to the point that he becomes the main subject of his article. This style is both compelling and dangerous. Compelling because we, as readers get the opportunity to hear the story first hand, from the person who experienced. The style is dangerous both to the writer, and to reader. By becoming so involved in the subjects he wrote about, Thompson often became lost in his stories. As for the reader, the danger is the lack of hard facts and evidence, one is reading a story from a specific point of view, and the question becomes whether this story is truly journalism.

Thompson certainly was not an objective journalist, but focused more on feature writing; his readers knew, and often respected, his opinions. I choose him as my favorite journalist because he focuses on this type of writing. As a journalist I am often pulled toward feature news writing rather than "up-side-down pyramid" style, so I find that Thompson is someone I can learn from and find inspiration in. Thompson's personal struggles also serve as a warning sign to me and other writers: do not lose yourself in the culture you're reporting on.

Thompson's writing speaks to me for many reasons, but I think I especially enjoy the drama and tragedy of his stories. Thompson is a man betrayed by himself and his generation, and his writing is soaked with his regret. Although he continued to be a formidable commenter on politics and society up until his death in February 2005, I prefer his older works which focus on youth culture in the 1960s. His poignant, at times poetic, prose serve to draw the reader in, and truly demonstrate the mood of the time.

Writing Sample

San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run, but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world....There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning. And that, I think, was the handle - that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply prevail. There was no point in fighting - on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave. So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high-water mark - the place where the wave finally broke and rolled back.

~Hunter S. Thompson, "Fear and Loathing in Los Vegas" - one version of the future of online news

This will become important later in the semester. Take a look now if you're interested. It's all about innovator Adrian Holovaty's vision of the future of news.

Launching EveryBlock

Sunday, January 20, 2008

David Simon, of "The Wire," speaks out on journalism

Does the News Matter To Anyone Anymore?

The Washington Post

By David Simon
Sunday, January 20, 2008; B01

Is there a separate elegy to be written for that generation of newspapermen and women who came of age after Vietnam, after the Pentagon Papers and Watergate? For us starry-eyed acolytes of a glorious new church, all of us secular and cynical and dedicated to the notion that though we would still be stained with ink, we were no longer quite wretches? Where is our special requiem?

Bright and shiny we were in the late 1970s, packed into our bursting journalism schools, dog-eared paperback copies of "All the President's Men" and "The Powers That Be" atop our Associated Press stylebooks. No business school called to us, no engineering lab, no information-age computer degree -- we had seen a future of substance in bylines and column inches. Immortality lay in a five-part series with sidebars in the Tribune, the Sun, the Register, the Post, the Express.

What the hell happened?

See the whole thing:

Does the News Matter To Anyone Anymore?

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Long-awaited Weekly Featured Syllabus Excerpt

Course Objectives:

--To learn to report news

--To delve into debates over the role of journalism in democracy

--To learn the ethics of journalism

--To look at diverse groups and ideas with an open mind

--To understand the courage and effort involved in news reporting

--To learn to tell interesting stories across media platforms

Expected Learning Outcomes:

--Understanding what news is and how to find and report it

--Understanding the journalist’s responsibility to the larger good

--Understanding revolutionary changes taking place in journalism

--Understanding the importance of good writing and visuals in journalism

--Understanding a reporter’s responsibility to sources and readers

--Understanding what it takes to have a public voice

Assignments for Thursday

Have a great break on Monday!

See Bradley's intriguing video below. Any comments on his question?

As promised, I have posted lots of resources for your perusal -- journalism site links in the main blog posts and feeds to j outlets and blogs on the right column. I have also posted just a few names of reporters but please find the ones who speak to you. Some bloggers I like are Dan Gillmor, Adrian Holovaty, Jay Rosen, Anna Marie Cox. Most of them write about journalism issues but you are not limited to that topic.

Your assignment for Thursday:

Set up your RSS feeds on Google Reader or Netvibes. Feel free to use some of the feeds that show up here. ALSO, include the feed of our blog. The feed icon is at the bottom of the page. Pick one or more favorite journalism writers (either mainstream or blogger) and write a blurb (three grafs or so) about what distinguishes this person specifically. Include a short writing sample from your person. Please post this on the blog by Wednesday at noon. If you are unable to post, bring in your typed assignment.

Read Chapter 1 in the Missouri Group text. I have asked the library to put this on e-reserves. Keep checking the bookstore.

Review the style guide in the back of the text. We will have a short quiz on Thursday.

We will also talk about grading on Thursday. I want your input.

I am enjoying reading the profiles of moi! Lots of juicy info.

A few journalists worth reading - find your own!

You can always find examples of great writing at the Pulitzer Prize Web site.


DeNeen Brown (Washington Post)

David Finkel (Washington Post)

Hank Stuever (Washington Post)

Tamara Jones (Washington Post)

Katherine Boo (Washington Post)

Anne Hull (Washington Post)
Former award-winning journalist at the St. Petersburg Times now makes her home with the Post.

Rick Bragg (New York Times)

Winnie Hu (New York Times)

Stephanie Simon (Los Angeles Times)

J.R. Moehringer (Los Angeles Times)
This Pulitzer Prize winning journalist seldom writes anymore, but when he does, the stories are worth reading.

Kevin Robbins (Austin American Statesman)

Only the previous week's stories are free. Choose a day, (he usually writes for the Life section), and the best thing to do is scan for Kevin's byline. Stories older than a week, you have to pay for to retrieve. Using the archive search engine, even if it is for a story within the last week, usually requires payment.

Lisa Pollak (Baltimore Sun)

Ken Fuson (Des Moines Register)

Tom Hallman (Portland Oregonian)

Vanessa Ho (Seattle Post-Intelligencer)


Note the difference between the columnists and reporters. Columnists are allowed to use their opinions in their work. Reporters are not.

Mitch Albom (Detroit Free Press)

Joe Posnanski (Kansas City Star)
kansascity/sports /columnists/joe_posnanski/

David Waters (Memphis Commercial-Appeal)


Speere, Lance. Analysis of "Must Read Journalists," Journalism 310: Writing for Mass Media. 13 Jan. 2002. Southern Illinois University. 13 Jan. 2002. .

Journalism Organizations & Top Professional Sites

Media News:

  • Romenesko. Jim Romenesko of the Poynter Institute links to the latest media-related news, updated throughout the day.
  • Daily Briefing. Daily media stories from the Project for Excellence in Journalism.
  • AP Industry News. Media industry news daily from The Associated Press.
  • PBS Media Watch. Media stories from PBS NewsHour with Jim Lehrer.
  • CNN Reliable Sources. Transcripts from the CNN media show.

Selected Top Sites for Journalists:

  • American Journalism Review. AJR's Newslink provides links to nearly 5,000 newspapers, listings of journalism awards and fellowships and full text of selected AJR articles (Disclosure: I am a senior editor of AJR).
  • Investigative Reporters and Editors. IRE includes a searchable database of more than 11,000 investigative reporting story abstracts, handouts developed by speakers at IRE conferences, campaign finance data and sources and a directory of investigative reporters worldwide, plus details on IRE contests, programs and conferences.
  • Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. The committee provides some of the most practical tools for reporters, such as the Freedom of Information Act letter generator, state laws on open records and public meetings, updates on Freedom of Information cases from around the country and a legal defense hot-line for journalists.
  • The Poynter Institute for Media Studies. Poynter Online gives details on the institute’s week-long workshops, which are some of the best journalism educational opportunities available, plus research from the institute on various newsroom topics.
  • Society of Professional Journalists. The Electronic Journalist includes news stories on press issues and lists more than 60 journalism contests.
  • Columbia Journalism Review
  • Editor & Publisher
  • IPI Report (International Press Institute)
  • Romenesko’s Medianews
  • Salon Media
  • USC Annenberg Online Journalism Review
  • Slate Magazine
Minority Journalism Organizations:

Women & Journalism:

Friday, January 18, 2008

Media Mommy?

I'm interested to see what everyone thinks of this. It's the story of an Australian teenager that threw a party attended by 500+ kids. It got out of hand, and his friends apparently caused $20,000 worth of damage to surrounding cars and houses, even vandalizing police cars when they arrived on the scene. He remains unrepentant about the situation.

Now, the kid has got a bad attitude, but does anyone else feel like the anchorwoman is scolding him? As much as I want to tell that kid off, another part of me wants to tell the anchor that it's not her job to be his parent (even if his own don't deserve gold stars for performance).

Wednesday, January 16, 2008


I promised links to Thursday's readings on The Principles of Journalism. They are:
-- The Principles themselves
-- The ASNE Statement of Principles
-- Bill Kovach's words to the wise


A 400-word profile of me, your professor, that includes at least one direct quote from me and one direct quote from someone who knows me. The student who includes the most obscure fact wins a prize.


The syllabus is now available on Blackboard.


I failed to get a list of all of your preferred e-mails so I haven't invited all of you to post on the blog yet. I will do that next class.


I will be taking your photos next class so that I can learn your names. I will ask if I can post these on the blog. Think about it.


I am checking into the availability of the text book. If it's not in yet, I will make every effort to post the text readings on e-reserves.


Check out the Washington Post (hereafter referred to as simply "the Post") story on The Wire. We'll discuss it in class. It's all about the contentious debate over the death of newspapers. You'll be hearing a lot about that this semester!

Also, check out these Katie Couric outtakes. We will be doing broadcast this semester!


Many of the links in this post will give you lots of ideas for sites from which to get RSS feeds.


I will see everyone in class! If you weren't there on Monday you missed a riveting review of the syllabus and a failed attempt to show video!


Below, see Weekly Highlights from the Reporting Class Syllabus:

THE QUOTES ON THE FRONT PAGE -- from "noble calling" to Matt Taibbi's shocking take on the profession (Yes, he really said it.)

Journalism is a noble calling. The working journalist is to report,

write and explain in accordance with the highest standards of the profession.
--World Journalism Institute

Despite everything, journalism remains a noble calling.
-- Jim Risser, director emeritus of the Knight Fellowships.

Dealing with the media is more difficult than bathing a leper.
--Mother Teresa

I don't so much mind that newspapers are dying. It's watching them commit suicide that pisses me off.
--Molly Ivins

If you have no real knowledge or skill set and you’re lazy and full of shit but you want to make a decent wage, then journalism’s not a bad career option. –Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone reporter.

Nattering Nabobs of Negativism - Read all about it from!

"Nattering nabobs of negativism" is one of the most popular turns of phrase associated with U.S. Vice President Spiro T. Agnew, who served under Richard Nixon until resigning in October 1974, after pleading no contest to charges of tax fraud. Agnew, who had a particularly acrimonious relationship with the press, used this term to refer to the members of the media, whom he also deemed "an effete corps of impudent snobs."

According to the Congressional Record, this term was first used during Agnew's address to the California Republican state convention in San Diego on September 11, 1970. In context, it was used together with another well-known Agnew alliteration: "In the United States today, we have more than our share of the nattering nabobs of negativism. They have formed their own 4-H Club -- the "hopeless, hysterical hypochondriacs of history."

Although this phrase is often credited to Agnew himself, it was actually written by William Safire, the legendary columnist for The New York Times, who was a speechwriter for Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew. Some of Agnew's other pearls were actually written by Patrick Buchanan, another White House speechwriter at the time.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Welcome to the Nattering Nabobs blog!

Does anyone know who coined the phrase nattering nabobs (of negativism) and who or what such creatures are? If you don't know, don't worry about it. Look it up!

Instead of Blackboard, this is where I will communicate with you outside the classroom. This is where you will find announcements about upcoming assignments, readings, etc. I will post readings and links to readings here. I will post random thoughts and amazing insights as they occur to me! Feel free to ask questions here as well. If you've got one, then your classmates will probably appreciate you asking it here. (Reserve specific questions about your grade, etc., for private e-mails to me or office visits.) Feel free to post interesting readings, photos and video related to the course.