Monday, March 31, 2008

Speaking of broadcasting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I look forward to hearing from you soon.

All the best,

Phone: +1 416 916 5202 Ext: 436

Communications and Volunteer Program Assistant

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

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Tips and Tales from Top Storytellers - Poynter

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

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

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

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

"From Blog to Narrative," By Roy Peter Clark

Nieman 2006, by Bill Kirtz

Conference blog posts by Poynter's Mallary Tenore:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Skim the Meringue

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

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

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

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

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

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

Narrative Moments

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

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

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

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

"It's Just a Platform"

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Sexism in the media

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

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

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

The Machine is Using Us

Web 2.0 video

Also Epic 2015

UC Berkeley multimedia presentation

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

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

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

Blog on!

American Forum audio

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

Free Ben & Jerry's!

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

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Long-awaited "state of the media" report

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Among findings:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

An easy way to go "multimedia"

Take a look

Maybe not quite journalism related...

Hello everyone!

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


Monday, March 17, 2008

A fun event!

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

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

Fun SOC Event Tonight!

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

Friday, March 14, 2008

American Forum details

American University School of Communication

An American Forum

Fact-Checking: A Dying Tradition?

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

Ward 1
Ward Circle Building
American University

Roger Aronoff
Media Analyst, Accuracy in Media

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

An American Forum is produced in cooperation with WAMU 88.5 FM

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

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

A couple of possible events!

Please join Robert Greenwald in Washington, D.C.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Journalism may fade in NU name game

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

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Outside events!

I'll post more later.


Friday, March 7, 2008

New deadlines!

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What every journalism student needs to know

In case you were wondering. Check it out here.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Event Tomorrow Night!

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

Media and the Military:
An Uneasy Mix

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

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

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

Moderated by Bill Gentile, professor and photojournalist

For more information visit: