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.

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* 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?"

Monday, February 11, 2008

A new way to think about bias

Many of you wrote about the way people perceive the press in your bias interviews. The following essay has created a lot of dialogue in the journalism community.

Posted, Jan. 30, 2008
Updated, Jan. 30, 2008

The Public Bias against the Press

By Roy Peter Clark (more by author)
Senior Scholar, Poynter Institute

Sacred Heart University poll: "Americans Slam News Media on Believability."
The public bias against the press is a more serious problem for American democracy than the bias (real or perceived) of the press itself.

That is one reasonable conclusion to a study of media credibility conducted by Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Conn. As a good Catholic boy growing up in the 1950s, I was devoted to the Sacred Heart of Jesus. But no such devotion can I feel to the prejudiced conclusions some scholars and politicians have drawn from this survey.

Let me begin my argument with an analogy. If my first daughter says I'm a bad parent one year, and the next year two daughters say I'm bad, and the following year all three of them say I'm bad, does that make me bad? It is not a good sign, I'll admit, but is it possible that the perception of my daughters has been influenced by factors other than the character of my decisions and actions as a dad? Maybe all their friends insist I'm too strict.

In short, I protest the idea that the perception of bias is, as expressed in the Sacred Heart poll, evidence of bias in the work itself. It is possible -- I would say in this case probable -- that the perception is a creation of forces over which journalists have little influence or control.

Before I build my argument that there is a public bias against the press, I will begin by listing the rational circumstances in which a perception of press bias is warranted, categories in which journalists can do useful work:

* In spite of any firewall created between departments of news and of opinion, the audience will assume -- without countervailing evidence -- that one sides bleeds over to the other.

* The story choice of an editor -- or story play -- may be seen as an expression of bias, even when no slant is intended.

* All journalists understand that the personal bias of the writer or photographer can ooch its way into a story, which is why the protocols of "objectivity" were established to create checks and balances within the systems of news judgment, reporting, writing, editing and publishing. But sometimes the system fails.

* My colleague Rick Edmonds reminds me that many people who come to the press without prejudice form their biases after failing to recognize themselves or their values in the news. That can be true for the young or the old, for evangelical conservatives, for members of minority groups, etc.

* The public often misinterprets incompetence for corruption. Members of the public with specialized knowledge too often see the worlds they know mangled by distorted or inaccurate portrayals in the press.

* We're better now than we used to be, but some journalists still spit in the food of complaining readers or viewers, and our arrogance damages our credibility -- no matter how accurate our reporting may be.

Journalism expresses itself through media, but most media expressions are not forms of journalism.OK, so I'm granting the public those legitimate grievances and acknowledge that journalists need to work hard at doing better. But I hold journalists less responsible -- and the public more responsible -- for misperceptions of news media performance. In short, the last two decades have seen unprecedented attacks upon the legitimacy of the news media, so many messages from so many directions that they are as impossible to ignore as, say, the soft-core sexual images that pervade American culture. Here are examples of some of the attacks:

* Christopher Lasch once criticized American life as a "culture of narcissism." Neil Postman argued that we were entertaining ourselves to death. And who can deny that the culture of entertainment and celebrity has come to dominate interest in news, foreign affairs and civic life generally. How can the public see our best work when they are blinded by Britney?

* Politicians under pressure -- from every political party -- try to kill the media messenger. It's the easiest trick in the book, and the Bush/Clinton dynasties have been particularly good at it. Jay Rosen, associate professor of journalism at New York University and author of the journalism blog PressThink, has described in great detail the current administration's efforts to de-certify the press by ignoring it, by moving around it, by ducking it, by creating its own message machines.

* The interpretations of the Sacred Heart poll serve only to compound the public confusion that lumps the news media (journalism!) with other forms of entertainment and professional gossip. Journalism expresses itself through media, but most media expressions are not forms of journalism.

* Media credibility continues to fall during a period when America's political culture has become dangerously polarized. On radio talk show after talk show, in best-seller after best-seller, an industry has grown up with many agendas. Among the greatest of the agendas is to destroy the credibility of the mainstream press. A case can be made that sensitivity to such criticism -- along with accusations that journalists are disloyal to American interests -- softened the skeptical edge of the news media during the lead-up to the Iraqi war.

* As a dork, I need, love and respect the geeks. But part of the geek news revolution has undermined public confidence in the press, not only by endorsing the attacks of partisan bloggers, but also by a knee-jerk (emphasis on the second syllable) dismissal of the value of what is termed "dead tree" journalism. So alienated are some in the technocracy that they express the hope that old modernist forms of journalism will die quickly so that "liberté, égalité, fraternité" can reign forever -- pop-up ads and porn notwithstanding.

* We have traveled a dark and dreary road since the days when the alter-ego of Superman was crusading reporter Clark Kent, or when the heroes of Frank Capra movies were dashing reporters, the booze-swilling champions of the little guy. Now, instead, we have the "Law & Order" effect. Of the hundreds of episodes you've witnessed of that TV show, how many times have you seen a reporter or photographer portrayed as helpful? The usual shtick is that they are slimeballs or part of the wolf pack that runs up the courthouse steps with notebooks and microphones extended.

* "The Daily Show," "The Colbert Report," and the satire of Letterman, Maher, and Leno are not uniformly hostile to the news media, but their pointed humor has the cumulative effect of cultivating the cynicism of the American public, especially among the ironic and random young.

Critics of journalism would argue that these are effects and not causes, but I disagree. Even with shrinking resources, journalists have never been more responsible or better trained. The public can see the occasional examples of gross journalistic malpractice written in the sky, while the many examples of news media restraint are by definition invisible.

So where do we go from here? Here are three possible paths to sanity, none of which I'm endorsing here:

* Critics be damned. If the public is as predisposed to distrust the media as the Sacred Heart poll suggests, then let's accept our fate as fulfilling an unpopular role within society and democracy. The defense attorneys of child pornographers cannot aspire to popularity, but they can embrace their role within a system that strives for justice. We can strive to publish nonpartisan truths in the public interest and work hard to make them stick.

* No credibility workshops, ethics classes, focus groups or courageous acts of enterprising journalism will reverse this trend. The mirror has two sides. What deserves support in every community are programs in critical thinking and news literacy, such as the ones Stony Brook University is developing with the support of the Knight Foundation. More transparency on our part can help, but only in an environment where citizens or students are willing to engage us with skepticism by parking their cynicism on a side street.

* Journalists tend to despise public relations and marketing, but if we believe in our calling, we may have to find ways to reveal our best practices and best consequences to anyone who might be receptive. Let's remind them of the journalists who have risked their lives as war correspondents, or who have worked hard to create an environment on the home front (I'm thinking of The Washington Post's investigation of Walter Reed Army Medical Center) where returning military men and women can get the physical and mental health care they might need.

The pollsters at Sacred Heart, along with at least one member of Congress, have concluded that their results show that the public knows bias when they see it and that members of the media should change their ways. Fair enough. Without public support and a growing audience, journalists will find themselves vulnerable to political and judicial mischief and a shrinking of the financial resources they need to fulfill their duty to inform.

But nothing journalists do will reverse the dark tides of popular cynicism. The wrecking balls destroying the credibility of the press cannot be stopped until we focus more attention on the credibility of those who are pulling the levers, including a public that has been conditioned, like rats in a Skinnerian dystopia, to hate us.

Announcements for 2/11

Homework for Thursday is to put the finishing touches on your classmate profile after touching base with your subject about what you have written. Please e-mail me your story by class time on Thursday. Also, by class time, e-mail me two things: the event you plan to go to for your first news story, which is now due on Feb. 21 (NEW DEADLINE!). AND, the general area of interest you want to pursue for your final story/project. I will e-mail you back with my thoughts on your choices.
ALSO, in order to put in practice some of the advice in chapters 5 and 6, please answer these questions on a page to turn in:
--How many delegates do the leading presidential candidates have?
--How many do they need to win?
--What are the key differences between the leading candidates on three major issues?

One more announcement:
We will have a guest speaker next class -- Melissa Becher of the library, who will help direct us to sources for your final projects. See her profile here.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Homework for Monday

Finish your profile of a classmate. Remember to get quotes from someone else about your subject. Read Chapters 5 and 6 in the text.

Details on the Pegie Stark events Feb. 22

Print vs. online: What’s new?
Author Pegie Stark, The Poynter Institute
10-11 a.m., Friday, Feb. 22 FJC 332
11:20-12:20, Friday, Feb. 22 FJC 331
Drop-ins welcome at both classes
Saturday lecture for weekend students
by prior arrangement with professors
12:15-1:15 p.m. Butler Boardroom
2008 Lecture Series: School of Communication & Center for Social Media

Friday, February 8, 2008

Great opportunity!

(*If you are interested in this, I have more information. -Dr. Walker)

Dear AU Faculty Member,

I am writing to introduce you and students at American University to an exciting opportunity from the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting. This year we are initiating our Pulitzer Center Liaison program, an educational outreach program aimed at college students across the United States. We are looking for energetic and articulate students who are interested in journalism and global affairs and who want to engage their fellow students – and faculty members – on underreported international issues.

Attached you will find a description of our Pulitzer Center Liaison program and brief background information regarding the Pulitzer Center itself. We would appreciate it if you could forward the attached description to students via your various communication outlets and to other faculty members who could announce this opportunity in their classes. For more information regarding our international reporting projects and innovative non-profit journalism model, please point them to our website,

We would like to appoint this semester’s liaisons as soon as possible. Please let interested students know that they should send us an e-mail or call us if they are interested.

Please direct all questions and inquiries to my colleague, Janeen Heath, who is spearheading the Liaison program. She can be reached at (202-332-0982) or by email (

Thank you for helping us make our educational outreach program a success -- and for helping to get college students talking and thinking about international issues from around the globe.

Best regards,

Bethany Whitfield

Bethany Whitfield

Outreach Coordinator, Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting

Thursday, February 7, 2008

This story is a great example of good use of quotes. Take a look!

'It's Not a Baby Doll -- It's Alive'
After Tornadoes Rip the South, One Discovery Heartens Tennessee Rescuers

By Peter Whoriskey
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, February 7, 2008; A01

CASTALIAN SPRINGS, Tenn., Feb. 6 -- The searchers had already gone over the field once.

It seemed unlikely that anything else would turn up. It was dark and rainy, and amid the awesome wreckage left by the tornado that had just passed here they had already found three dead. Some of the bodies had been flung hundreds of feet from their homes, landing in tangles of branches and across the roadway.

Then they stumbled upon Kyson.

The 11-month-old, dressed in a T-shirt and diaper, was lying as silently as any piece of debris in a field of tall grass about 100 yards from the now-leveled duplex where he once lived. He was face down in the mud, covered in bits of grass like many of those who had been cast about by the dozens of tornadoes that had careened across the South.

"It's not a baby doll -- it's alive," called out David Harmon, 31, an emergency worker from nearby Wilson County. He had first thought the boy was made of plastic.

Kyson, to the surprise of rescuers, had survived being tossed by winds that had not only flattened the brick post office next door but had killed his 23-year-old mother, throwing her several yards in the opposite direction, into some fallen trees.

"The baby was just shivering like this," said Keith Douglas, interim director of emergency medical services for Sumner County, who was on the scene, putting his fists to his chest, pressing his elbows to his sides. "He was cold and scared, and he had this blank look in his eyes."

The twister that flung Kyson from his home was among dozens that swept across the South on Tuesday night and Wednesday morning, killing at least 54 people and leaving a huge swath of destruction. The winds caused millions of dollars in damage and injured more than 150 people. President Bush is scheduled to travel to Tennessee on Friday to inspect the damage.

For those who have lived through them, tornadoes inspire awe not just for their power but for their caprice, for destroying some lives while sparing others nearby.

"It's a miracle they ain't both gone," said Doug Stowell, 45, Kyson's grandfather, a carpenter and tile worker who drove up to the scene last night and found his daughter, Carrie, dead and his grandson alive. "He was found over 300 feet from his home, and that was demolished -- I mean wiped clean."

Such devastation was repeated in five states, Arkansas, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Mississippi, as perhaps 50 tornadoes touched down. Others were reported in Missouri and Indiana.

After sowing destruction in the South, the storm system moved north, where it buried parts of Wisconsin, Iowa and Kansas under more than a foot of snow. The storm closed schools and businesses, grounded more than 1,000 airline flights and snarled highways.

The tornado damage in this small rural community was centered on the area post office on Highway 25. Elsewhere, the county seemed untouched. But for a few hundreds yards around the post office, the destruction was overwhelming. Nothing was left of the squat brick post office building but the concrete foundation. A steel vault estimated to weigh as much a 700 pounds wound up in a field across the highway, along with lots of other debris.

Two houses next door, including Kyson's, were flattened as well. Immense trees lay on their sides. Bits of vinyl siding, even sections of fences, were left hanging in tree branches and power lines.

After the tornado moved on to the east, those whose houses were largely untouched saw a brilliant fire in the eastern sky, a gas explosion in a nearby county.

"There was a large glowing in the sky that kept getting brighter and brighter and brighter," said Andrea Stewart, 29, a chiropractor's assistant. "It was pitch dark out, but I could see everything in my front yard."

Rescuers came soon after 10 p.m., when the tornado struck, to sort through the debris, and in a short time they found three bodies in the area, including that of Kyson's mother.

It wasn't until 1:30 a.m. Wednesday that Harmon found Kyson, diaper askew, in the mud.

He brought the baby out to the edge of the highway, where rescuers John Michael Poss, 25, and Douglas ministered to him. To make a place to lay the baby, a firefighter laid his coat down. They took off the shivering baby's wet T-shirt. His grandfather, who had just arrived on the scene, gave up his red flannel shirt so that the rescuers could swaddle him with it.

"I touched every inch of that child because I figured he must have some injury -- he'd been thrown so far," Poss said. There were no cuts. The baby seemed well enough. But still he had a blank stare. Maybe, Poss thought, the child had sustained a head injury.

To check for neurological trouble, Poss lay his hand over the sandy-haired baby's blue eyes and then quickly removed it, to see how his pupils would react to the light. At last the baby started crying, as they had hoped.

"He was crying, and we were so happy because of it," Douglas recalled.

Kyson was eventually taken to Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt in Nashville, where he was listed Wednesday evening in stable condition.

"He has no broken bones -- he's doing great," Doug Stowell said, though he was already wondering about medical costs and insurance coverage.

He said he and his wife will now raise Kyson.

"We'll get by best we can," he said. "We've had some divine intervention."

Staff writers Jose Antonio Vargas in Atkins, Ark., and Jill F. Bartscht in Washington contributed to this report.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Homework for Thursday

We are focusing on interviewing, so please continue your interviews of your classmate for a profile incorporating what we've talked about so far, particularly including the principles of quotations in Chapter 4. This is based on the #9 exercise on page 10 of the WORKBOOK. Be prepared to check facts with your subject tomorrow and turn in the assignment on Monday.

Brownbag Discussion Reminder

Please rsvp asap - Professor Walker. I'll be there as well.

*How to Win Sources and Interview People: A Brownbag Discussion *

Your mother told you not to talk to strangers. IMs, texts or e-mails
have replaced all manner of face-to-face communication, from customer
service to flirting. Sometimes being a reporter makes you feel like a
pest -- or a stalker. Is it any wonder that you get tongue-tied and a
little queasy when your professors send you out to track down sources
and interview them? This is an optional roundtable discussion in which
we share our anxieties, gripes and strategies about this crazy thing we
do called reporting and interviewing. How can you be a more gutsy,
effective and confident reporter -- or just act like one -- without
being rude or having sources put a restraining order on you? Profs.
Lynne Perri, Amy Eisman and Angie Chuang lead an informal conversation.
*Bring a lunch, we'll provide beverages and snacks. *

*Thursday, Feb. 7, 1-2 p.m.* Sol Taishoff Reading Room, Mary Graydon Center

Please RSVP to _lynne.perri@american.edu_, _aeisman@american.edu_ or
_chuang@american.edu_ if you plan to attend so we can make sure we have
enough food, drink and chairs, though we will not turn anyone away who
shows up.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Comparing Political Blogs

The two blogs I compared were “Beltway Confidential: Blogging Washington with Julie Mason” from the Houston Chronicle online, and “The Fact Checker” by Michael Dobbs, a Washington Post blogger whose blog can be found at

Because I am from Houston, I try to keep up with some of the news by reading articles in the “Houston Chronicle” from time to time. Blogger Julie Mason writes from Washington, DC about politics. I “discovered” her writing because she was a guest speaker in my Writing for Mass Communications class last semester. I absolutely loved the experience of hearing her speak, and now it’s so interesting to read her postings because I can really hear her tone through her words.

Honestly, politics interest me a lot less than the average American University student, but her wittiness, her use of adjectives, and her sharp opinions are so compelling. For example, in a recent article discussing Fred Thompson, she wrote, “He muttered scornfully through his campaign appearances, he bullied that Iowa debate moderator and bragged about it like he’d toppled Saddam Hussein. He was a grouch and he disdained the process.”

These sentences might have been edited out of a newspaper article because of the opinionated statements and the inappropriate metaphor. But these sentences really caught me, someone who is not interested in politics, and kept me reading. Isn’t that part of what makes a great writer?

I feel that bloggers these days, because what they write can be posted for viewers to read in a matter of seconds, compete based on certain levels: fact, interest (humor or wit), graphics (photographs or icons) and technology in general (videos or any unusual aesthetics). The two blogs I chose to look at are good examples of these areas. In Julie Mason’s blog, she constantly uses videos and pictures as well as direct quotes in print. Her titles and her statements are funny and tends to make fun of politicians, and her postings are short enough that readers can ingest fact quickly.

Michael Dobbs’ blog, “The Fact Checker” is very similar. He also focuses on politics, uses video and pictures as well as print. But like any journalist with a concentration in politics, his goal isn’t just to feed the news but to catch politicians in lies, fibs, or half-truths. This blog is unique because Dobbs clearly gives the facts, and then, using a tidbit of pop culture, gives the person of focus the “Pinocchio test”, and lets the reader know just how truthful the former statements were. He even had the 2007 Pinnochio Awards to list the top ten fibs of the year.

I feel that the “Beltway Confidential” and “The Fact Checker” are good examples of blogs that would catch a reader’s eye and keep him or her reading. Both blogs are informal, witty, and use technology to their advantage, and even if the reader doesn’t have time to sit and flip through a newspaper, it would be more compelling to click on a second or third link to learn more about the topics that Mason and Dobbs are presenting.

Dobbs’ blogs tend to be a bit longer than Mason’s; although they both are writers located in DC with a very similar topic, they have different goals. Mason is attempting to spin politics in a humorous way, aiming for a Texas audience who want a quick but accurate view into the DC scene. Dobbs is catching politicians in their own speeches, while still remaining light-hearted, with pictures of Pinnochio’s face to judge the intensity of the lie.

Blog Comparison- The Big Lead vs. Free Darko

The two blogs I chose to compare were two popular independent, popular sports sites; The Big Lead and Free Darko. Both blogs are maintained by a team of writers who rarely, if ever, chose to reveal their actual identities, instead relying on catchy tags like The Sports Assassin and McSweeney. They both keep the reader updated on the news in sports, yet their in coverage, writing style and maintenance they are radically different.

The Big Lead is predominately a sports website, but it also incorporates elements of popular culture such as music, movies and politics into its postings as well. The blog is run by a group of three people who have never revealed their actual names, just referring to themselves as the “TBL” crew and mentioning that they run the site from New York City.

Like many blogs today, the stories are written in a very sardonic tone, often making fun of athletes and entertainers after reporting the news about them. The vast majority of the postings are simply to disseminate the breaking sports news of the day. However, for no apparent reason with relation to sports, the site will often add a post simply to put up a picture of an attractive woman in a bikini or lingerie with the caption “Eye Candy” underneath them. This is done obviously to appeal to the site’s main demographic: young males. For example, on February 3rd, the site has a picture of Mandy Moore in a skimpy dress with the caption “Here’s Mandy Moore looking attractive on New Year’s Eve. I thought it would class it up a bit today.”

Free Darko on the other hand, approaches sports reporting and journalism in a very different manner. The site is predominately run by a man who calls himself Bethlehem Longform Shoals and only covers the NBA. Essentially, instead of recapping the day’s events, Shoals or another writer will post very long essays commenting on certain aspects of the sport, whether it is the hip-hop culture of the sport, playing style of a certain player, team chemistry and many other topics. Unlike many other sports blogs, Free Darko shuns sarcasm and instead adopts an early Sports Illustrated type prose. The prose-like style is evident in every single post, as evidenced by a Jan 1st post entitled “FD Guest Lecture: The Death of Superman.” This posting concerned Shaquille O’Neal’s decline, but instead of presenting statistics they go for a much more eloquent approach:

“I don't know if it's fate or laziness that paints me into this corner every late December. But it seems like all I can manage is abject introspection. If I recall correctly, a few years back I offered to renounce basketball in the name of Clinton Portis' costumes. This time, I've been flung into a tailspin by the recent debate over change/authenticity/defiance/basketball.
The way I see it, there are two kinds of revolution: The kind people get from too much art or music, and what keeps others able to believe in social change. Granted, that's an over-simplification, but both are relevant to how I see sports (is it "sport"?). I don't know why readers get surprised when this site smacks of aesthetic criticism, or seems all too eager to lapse into fickle elitism. Duh, that's alien to sports; it's what myself and most of the other FD'ers cut our coming-of-age teeth on, and it's pretty consistent with the credo of liberated fandom. Yes, I want to believe, but I also reserve to right to cash in my ennui. It's bitchy, but it's also the sign of elevated, perhaps foolhardy, standards.”

While both sites provide insight and information into sports, the style of the two blogs is so drastically different that many readers will be turned off by both. Granted, most readers would most likely reject the elitist air of Free Darko, but the Big Lead’s facetiousness and occasional condescension can have the same effect. I personally prefer the Big Lead since it is more news oriented, however, both sites offer much to like.

The Satire News Complex

The two blogs I am comparing are and is a blog on the DC area, is for the New York area. Both of these blogs would be defined as satire news website. Their main purpose is point out discrepancies and questionable motives within the news structure, albeit in a very snarky, mocking way. Wonkette focuses on issues within the beltway- namely, politics, and devotes itself to mocking and analyzing both the coverage and actions of the political figures., originally was made to be the bane of the NYT's existence. While still questions all questionable NYT times articles, it has started to anaylze all aspects of New York City life.

The interesting aspect of both of these blogs is that they actually are very informative of news, in an irreverent way. Usually the blogs point out issues and inconsistancies that would otherwise go unnoticed. Furthermore, neither of the blogs consider any person or topic out of bounds, which means that their coverage is fair, everyone is treated the same, usually very badly.

The differences between Wonkette and Gawker begin with their actual purpose. Wonkette reports only on politics, with the occasional DC local news. Besides politicians, Wonkette rarely publishes anything on specific people. Also, a great deal of wonkette's work is original, and not republished from other news sites.
Gawker usually analyzes other news stories from other sources. Gawker's main staple is judging the New York Times newspaper articles, along with other New York newspapers. Gawker also reports on all aspects of New York life, including society, modeling and entertainment. Gawker often also has special reports. Earlier this year, it had a running column on a student from Bard college. Gawker also reports on "internet celebrities", such as the inventor of Facebook.
I believe that Gawker and Wonkette are indicators of a much larger new trend in news: the satire news. Satire news has taken off the past few years. The Daily Show, The Colbert Report and the Onion, all "fake real news" have obtained great popularity within the past few years because of the young generation. I believe that Gawker and likewise blogs are just a continuation of a trend that seems to be snowballing, as the bridge between entertainment and news has narrowed. News shows are trying to be more entertaining, and much of entertainment is trying to be more news orientated. Therefore, it only makes sense that our generation, which loves to be entertained, should expect our news to be given to us in a palatable and enjoyable format.


The 10 Stages of the Interview

The Ten Stages of the Interview

1. Defining the purpose of the interview – Ask yourself these questions: What information do I want? Who can best provide it? Be candid about your purpose with your subject and you will sweep away barriers of mistrust. Even difficult questions become easier if the subject knows why you are asking.

2. Conducting background research – Acquaint yourself with the issues and events related to your purpose. Only by research – reviewing what’s gone before – can you grasp what questions may lead you into new territory. Also, you don’t want to look like a fool to your interview subject!

3. Requesting an interview appointment – No one is obliged to grant you an interview. If you have not met the person before, you may have to sell yourself much as a salesperson would. Be enthusiastic. Be confident. Explain your purpose. Establish rapport.

4. Planning the interview – The more you plan, the more unplanned and spontaneous the interview seems. Make a statement of goals. Plan your greeting (icebreakers, etc.), jot down topics and questions, plan to ask for examples, illustrative anecdotes and summarizing comments. Build into your plan stuff that’s unplanned. In other words, be prepared to venture into new territory.

5. Meeting the respondent – Use social conventions to let the person get to know you. They are sizing you up. Make connections with small talk. Be friendly, amiable, and use humor where appropriate. Take their time into consideration.

6. Asking your first questions – Transition into serious questions. Tell your respondent the purpose, if you haven’t done so already.

7. Establishing an easy rapport – This is the heart of your interview. If you’ve done your preparation, the information will flow freely and candidly. The more informal the conversation, the more you will learn. The more you listen and respond enthusiastically to what the source says, the more you will learn. And the more you show your curiosity and your preparation by the questions you ask, the more you will learn. Don’t worry about fumbling or struggling. Be human. It will work in your favor.

8. Asking the bomb – Keep them late in the interview, banking on the rapport you’ve built. Most interviews don’t have a bomb, but don’t be afraid to pursue one if it seems appropriate.

9. Recovering from the bomb – Bank on your rapport to carry you back into a free-flowing interviewing mode. Play the “me, too” card. Tell an embarrassing story about yourself or identify with the information from “the bomb” in some way.

10. Concluding the interview – Offer to stop on time, but keep going if the good information is flowing. Signal your intent to close. Ask for any final thoughts. Leave your card. Ask for documents. Leave the door open for a followup. Say good-bye. Watch for the afterglow, and keep listening for good info. Write a thank you if appropriate.

An event to attend for coverage

From Professor Campbell:
To journalism colleagues teaching reporting classes this semester: Greetings.
I write to let you know about a 1968-oriented program on which I'm collaborating with the student-run Kennedy Political Union. The program is being called "I Remember AU When: The University and Revolution," and will take a look back at AU in 1968, a time of protest and turmoil on campus.
The program will be Thursday evening, Feb. 14, in MGC 3-4, and you're welcome to keep it in mind as a prospective event for your students to attend and cover. We'll get going at 7:30 p.m., after a reception.
The centerpiece of the program will be a talk by SIS professor Gary Weaver, a terrific storyteller who was very early in his AU career in 1968. Gary then was an SIS assistant dean and in that capacity organized a heavily subscribed reading course titled "The University and Revolution," which tapped into the protests at AU and beyond in 1968. The course was offered in fall 1968 and brought to campus such guest speakers as Eldridge Cleaver, Allard Lowenstein, Mark Rudd, William F. Buckley Jr., and Dick Gregory, all of whom were prominent in 1968 as activists or as commentators.
It was an electric time back then, and the program Feb. 14 will seek to recapture a sense of what it was like at AU in 1968. You're welcome to attend, and to send your students to cover the event.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

A great way to connect with other young journalists!

E-Media Tidbits
Friday, February 1, 2008

Posted by Amy Gahran 11:14:13 AM
Social Networking for Wired Journalists
A new, independent social network for net-savvy journalists.
As j-schools struggle to keep the skills they teach relevant to the fast-changing media landscape, hundreds other journalists and students have mobilized to teach and support each other informally through a new online social network.

Wired Journalists was recently created by Ryan Sholin of GateHouse Media, using Ning (a free set of tools for rolling your own social network). As of this morning, the group has 778 members. Many of them appear to be 20-somethings (j-school students or recent grads) -- but there are some gray-hairs there, as well as some notable luminaries from the field.

This effort only just began, so it's too early to gauge its true value. In my experience, it takes about two years for any online community to gel and define itself. Most social media efforts peter out quickly -- there's a high burnout rate. Also, the Ning interface is a bit clunky and ugly. But at least it's not as cluttered as Facebook has become.

That said, I think the general concept of informally facilitating networking, mentoring, and brainstorming, and knowledge-sharing through a free online community that no journalism org in particular "owns" is a good one. This one is worth checking out. It's a different mix of voices than I usually see in these discussions -- which makes it especially intriguing and refreshing.

Friday, February 1, 2008

A great event to attend!

Presidential Inauguration Event

Please join the Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies, the School of Public Affairs, and Office of the University Chaplain at our forum held in honor of President Neil Kerwin’s inauguration

"The 2008 Presidential Election:

Post Super Tuesday Analysis and Predictions"

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mary Graydon Center 5

12:00 PM Lunch & 12:20 PM Discussion


Dr. James Thurber

Distinguished Professor and Director

Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies


Glen Bolger

Esteemed AU Alum, Partner and Co-Founder, Public Opinion Strategies

Dr. Candice Nelson

Associate Professor and Chair, Department of Government

Dotty Lynch

CBS News Political Consultant and Executive in Residence, School of Communication

Complimentary buffet lunch will be provided or you may bring your own.

Reservations required.

Please RSVP at 202-885-3491 or email by Friday February 1, 2008.

Discussion on Interviewing - Please come!

Below is an announcement about an hour-long event on Thursday just prior to our class. I encourage you to go and will give you extra credit if you do. This will be a great kick off to our discussion on interviewing.

How to Win Sources and Interview People: A Brownbag Discussion

Your mother told you not to talk to strangers. IMs, texts or e-mails have replaced all manner of face-to-face communication, from customer service to flirting. Sometimes being a reporter makes you feel like a pest -- or a stalker. Is it any wonder that you get tongue-tied and a little queasy when your professors send you out to track down sources and interview them? This is an optional roundtable discussion in which we share our anxieties, gripes and strategies about this crazy thing we do called reporting and interviewing. How can you be a more gutsy, effective and confident reporter -- or just act like one -- without being rude or having sources put a restraining order on you? Profs. Lynne Perri, Amy Eisman and Angie Chuang lead an informal conversation. Bring a lunch, we'll provide beverages and snacks.

Thursday, Feb. 7, 1-2 p.m. Sol Taishoff Reading Room, Mary Graydon Center

Please RSVP to, or if you plan to attend so we can make sure we have enough food, drink and chairs, though we will not turn anyone away who shows up.

All logged in

Everyone seems to have logged in to the nabobs blog, so if you are having trouble posting, I suggest waiting a day and trying again, and if it doesn't work then, there are "people" to contact under help. This is a continuing problem with blogger, in my opinion. It ain't perfect. Don't give up!