Archive for the ‘social media’ Category


WHAT WE DID IN ANAHEIM

(Editor’s Note: This report is the president’s synopsis of the Executive Committee’s Jan. 19, 2013, meeting and does not represent the official minutes.)

At its winter meeting in Anaheim, Calif., the SPJ Executive Committee adopted new financial-reporting requirements for chapters, recommended that the full SPJ Board adopt proposed openness and accountability guidelines and asked me to present proposed social media guidelines to the full board at its April meeting.

CHAPTER FINANCES

 The seven-member Executive Committee unanimously adopted an immediate change in the financial-reporting requirements that professional chapters must meet when they file their annual reports with SPJ headquarters. The change requires chapters, beginning with the annual report to be filed in June, to include copies of the chapter’s bank statements for the preceding 12 months.

 The committee took this extraordinary step because of the recent discovery of financial impropriety in the Greater Los Angeles Pro Chapter. This marked the second time in less than a year that a pro chapter learned that a trusted member had made unauthorized withdrawals from its bank account.

 The L.A. chapter discovered its financial losses after adopting the fiscal best practices that the SPJ Board approved last September in Ft. Lauderdale. One of the recommended practices advises chapters to create an ad hoc budget committee to craft a chapter budget. The Los Angeles chapter did that and wound up removing its treasurer from office. The chapter board hired an attorney and took steps to get a professional accounting of its assets.

National Executive Committee members were gravely concerned at this latest news of mishandled chapter finances. We asked ourselves how many more chapters might be oblivious to such impropriety because they fail to take sensible steps to treat their financial activities in a business-like manner.

Consequently, the committee acted to ensure that someone at the national level keeps an eye on all chapters to make sure they are relying on evidence rather than trust when it comes to their finances.

As it happened, President-elect Dave Cuillier’s report on openness and accountability (see next section) contained a recommendation that every chapter and regional director be required to submit copies of their bank statements as part of their annual reports to SPJ headquarters. (Regional directors aren’t required to submit annual reports, but that may be something worth considering.)

The Executive Committee also voted to recommend that the full board offer the Los Angeles chapter a line of credit up to $5,000 to help it with its legal expenses. The committee’s vote was split – 4 to 2. (I did not vote.)

L.A. chapter representative Lauren Bartlett asked SPJ’s national leaders for a grant, but the committee opposed an outright grant. While the chapter still has several thousand dollars in its bank account, its board is concerned that its legal fees may exceed its remaining treasury, Bartlett told us.

Since the Executive Committee meeting, L.A. chapter President Alice Walton has told me that the chapter may not need the line of credit.

The Oklahoma chapter’s treasury was wiped out by its former treasurer, but the chapter has so far not asked for assistance, relying instead on donations and fund-raising.

 OPENNESS & ACCOUNTABILITY

In the wake of debate over openness and accountability at last September’s convention in Ft. Lauderdale, I asked Dave Cuillier to develop, with others, recommended best practices for chapters to make sure their actions are as transparent as possible. The proposal that Dave presented to the Executive Committee is equally applicable to the national organization.

Here is the preamble of the proposed Openness and Accountability Best Practices:

The Society of Professional Journalists and its professional and student chapters are not government entities, but members believe in the strongest principles of transparency — the business of the people should be done before the people, inviting the people to participate. The following guidelines provide tips and recommendations for fostering openness and accountability at the local, regional and national levels of the society.

The guidelines address methods for making meetings accessible and being open in our communications and with our records.

The committee voted unanimously to send the proposal to the full board for adoption in April. The full text of the proposal can be found here. OPENNESS DRAFT

Dave’s report addressed the background under which the best-practices proposal was developed. The report cited the Press Club of Long Island’s openness policy, which the chapter adopted in December. And it noted that chapter leaders who responded to a quick survey are generally supportive of more openness.

Along with the openness guidelines approved by the Executive Committee, Dave’s report also included proposed action steps, some of which headquarters staff are already implementing. Such as: providing chapters with a basic level of web support to help them create and maintain websites, blogs and/or Facebook pages for posting meeting notices, agendas, minutes and other records.

During discussion of this report, the committee urged staff to make sure that important national SPJ documents can be easily found on the website. SPJ’s bylaws, IRS Form 990s and other financial reports, the conflict of interest policy, whistleblower policy and other items already are posted to the site but are difficult to find.

DIGITAL COMMUNICATIONS

After EIJ12, I asked Brandon Ballenger, treasurer of the South Florida Pro Chapter, and staff chapter coordinator Tara Puckey to head up a small task force to develop recommended social media guidelines and to answer questions about the use of SPJ’s many blogs.

The task force ultimately included SPJ Gen J co-chair Victoria Reitano, Director-at-Large Carl Corry and former SPJ board member James Pilcher.

The group’s report stressed common sense in all digital communications involving SPJ. A copy of the full report can be found here. Digital Media Committee 1.7.2013

The group made two proposals:

  • A set of guidelines to follow when SPJ’s president asks another officer, board member or chapter leader to conduct a fact-finding mission in anticipation of an official SPJ statement or comment on an event of interest to journalists and journalism.

  • Proposed social media practices that focus on disclosure, content and live events.

I recommended to the Executive Committee that it forward to the full board the proposed social media guidelines with the understanding that a new draft with some slight changes will be prepared. The committee supported that recommendation.

WORKING PRESS

The Executive Committee gave Joe Skeel the authority to alter the Working Press program and partner with RTDNA’s student project. As a result SPJ will no longer produce a printed newspaper at the annual conference. Some members may disapprove of this move, but the committee felt the timing was right.

The time, energy and costs associated with printing a daily journal for just three days have expanded to the point that we had to take a serious look at the cost-benefit ratio. Another factor we considered is that a fourth of the students who participate in the Working Press are dedicated to production activities rather than going out and about to gain reporting experience. While there remains a need for designers and other “production” workers, we felt the more valuable experience would for students would be in honing their online and video production skills along with their reporting and writing skills.

We intend to keep the project a competitive internship for about 12 students. They will cover the convention as they always have (while making contacts within the news industry.) Working professionals will continue to serve as advisers. The only major difference will be in how the news about the convention is delivered – online via social media and other platforms.

Breaking from tradition is always difficult, but when faced with the challenges and limitations of a printed product and the need for SPJ to be perceived as relevant among the next generation of journalists, the change was relatively easy to decide.

OTHER BUSINESS

Secretary-Treasurer Dana Neuts reported on three initiatives she’s spearheaded:

  • Providing freelancers and other SPJ members with SPJ Solutions, a source of insurance and financial services products through Westpoint Financial Group in Indianapolis.

  • Creating a Contest Advisory Group to connect chapters and regions that sponsor journalism contests and facilitate contest-judging swaps among them.

  • Securing a copyright for the Freelance Guide that the Freelance Committee developed while Dana was committee chair.

One of the traditions of the winter Executive Committee meeting is deciding which officers attend which regional spring conference. Here’s the list:

  • March 15-17

Region 3, Atlanta – Cuillier and Albarado

  • April 5-7

Region 4, Dayton, OH – Ralston

Region 12, Oxford, MS – Albarado

  • April 12-14

Region 1, New Brunswick, NJ – Albarado

Region 6, Bloomington, MN – Ralston

Region 9, Santa Fe, NM – Eckert

Region 10, Spokane – Neuts

Region 11, Las Vegas – Cuillier

  • April 19-21

Region 2, Norfolk, VA – None. This is the same weekend as the SPJ Board spring meeting in Indy

  • April 26-28

Regions 5 & 7, St. Louis – Ralston

  • May 3-5

Region 8, San Antonio – Albarado

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Musing on ‘Post Industrial Journalism’ report

Post Industrial Journalism

That’s the title of an important new “survey/manifesto,” as its authors call it, from Columbia Journalism School’s Tow Center for Digital Journalism. I’ve just skimmed it so far, but there are some fascinating nuggets.

In the introduction, the authors (C.W. Anderxon, Emily Bell and Clay Shirky) establish five core beliefs: “Journalism matters; Good journalism has always been subsidized; The internet wrecks advertising subsidy; Restructuring is, therefore, a forced move; There are many opportunities for doing good work in new ways.” (Their emphasis, but I heartily agree.)

You might say most of these observations/beliefs have been pretty obvious for some time now, but they lay the foundation for what follows in the next 100-plus pages. And what follows is interesting and provocative — at least from the pieces I’ve skimmed.

While much of the essay focuses on descriptions of the new news environment, its conclusion offers a few simple prescriptions — the most significant being that journalists and news organizations must be adaptable.

True and obvious to even a 40-year veteran journalist who has spent his entire career adapting.

If you can’t take in the entire report in one sitting, some good nuggets come from Jeff Sonderman at Poynter and Joshua Benton at Nieman Lab.

Any thoughts? Let me know in the comments.

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SPJ committees wrap up productive year

One of the true strengths of SPJ – something that sets us apart from other media organizations – is the depth and talent of our volunteer support.

This year, like many others, that talent has moved the Society forward on a number of fronts that are key to our core missions of ethics, diversity, freedom of information and training.

For proof, you need not look any further than our website, where the work of these volunteers is now on display or soon will be. Let’s start with our latest innovation.

Recently, I asked the folks who will be chairing our committees next year to become Tumblrs for SPJ.

No this isn’t a carnival act, but rather a tool that will help keep our members current with the latest news of what’s happening within our profession.

The SPJ Tumblr is a news aggregation platform that will serve as a virtual reading room for stories that both relevant and timely. I urge you to check it out, bookmark the site and stop back frequently for the latest news.

Another innovation this year comes courtesy of our Freedom of Information Committee.

With help from webmaster Billy O’Keefe, they have assembled a great set of resources for any one dealing with FOI access issues. One is geared to student journalists, and the other to professionals.

Both sites provide a wealth of information ranging from how to write an FOI letter to how to deal with a denial and where to find local Sunshine advocates in your area.

Another new Web feature this year is a series of white papers drafted by members of our ethics committee. You can find them here.

This was a great effort at elaborating on some of the topics that are contained within our Code of Ethics. There are position papers on hot topics such as plagiarism and political involvement. Watch for more in the weeks ahead.

Our Communications Committee helped assemble a site that I believe will help raise SPJ’s profile when controversies on ethics, diversity or records access erupt.

Our experts page is a way to enable journalists who are covering stories involving such controversies to find someone within SPJ who can be tapped for a comment. I’ve already fielded some requests from reporters as a result of this page.

Here are two coming attractions to watch for in the weeks ahead:

Jennifer Peebles has crafted a very engaging interactive timeline that will allow people to immerse themselves in SPJ’s rich history. We are putting the finishing touches on this program, but watch for it soon on the SPJ history page located here.

Also watch for the SPJ Freelancing Guide, which our Freelance Committee has been working on for almost a year. The guide will available as an e-book.

So do you see what I mean about volunteers being the core strength of SPJ? What other journalism organization can claim to have covered this much ground and generated so much useful information in such a short time?

Happy reading.

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Do yourself a favor: come to Fort Lauderdale

I’ve been a journalist for 34 years, and the learning curve in the past five years has been just as steep as it was for the first five.

I’ve learned to tweet, blog and use social media to advance my writing and reporting.

I’ve learned how to shoot and edit video. I even spent some time in film school learning about visual grammar and how to tell a story in a minute or two.

I’ve produced my own Internet radio news program. I’ve covered raging floods with my trusty iPad. And I still take notes the old-fashioned way, with pen and notepad.

None of this is remotely a complaint. Learning how to tell old familiar stories in completely new ways has been one of the pure joys of being a reporter in recent years.

I look at the world differently now. While on assignment, I think to myself: I can live-blog this, shoot some raw video, write my story on a park bench and tweet breaking news. It’s terrific fun, and somehow I still get paid for it.

One very tangible reason I still have this job (aside from my sheer incompetence at almost everything else) is the fact that I’ve managed to stay somewhat current with all these changes thanks in no small part to SPJ.

Most newsrooms have had to cut back if not eliminate their budgets for training and continuing education. If you want to take a couple of days off now to attend a seminar or a conference, chances are they will be on your own dime and time.

That’s why I think SPJ is such a solid investment in myself. For $75 a year, I’ve been able to access a ton of training and tools that have enabled me to be a better reporter.

I think back to all those spring conferences I’ve attended in Salt Lake City, Denver, Fort Collins, Colo., Long Island, N.Y., and Tacoma, Wash. There wasn’t one where I didn’t come back to the newsroom the following Monday and start applying something I had learned.

The pace of learning accelerates even more when I think of what I learned at our national conventions in Chicago, Washington, D.C., Atlanta, Las Vegas and New Orleans.

That’s one reason I’m so looking forward to this year’s convention, Sept 20 to 22 at the Harbor Beach Resort in Fort Lauderdale. It’ll be our second year teaming with the Radio Television Digital News Association to present the conference we call Excellence in Journalism. (Information and registration are atexcellenceinjournalism.org.)

First, there’s the hotel itself. It is so unlike any of the earlier convention venues we’ve been to in recent years. You walk out the back door and you’re a short walk from the ocean.

The white-sand beach has sections roped off for a tortoise nesting area. I’m told on a moon-lit night you can go down to the water’s edge and see these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.

If I were not slated to be at a national board meeting, I would definitely take the hovercraft tour of the Everglades. And I plan a return visit to an outrageously retro Polynesian tiki bar that dates back to the 1950s. (Think “Mad Men” with flame dancers and umbrella drinks.)

But I digress. There’s also some excellent learning opportunities and great speakers.

One of our keynote speakers is Sree Sreenivasan, a Columbia University journalism professor who I heard talk earlier this year at an SPJ event in New York City. He is an expert on using social media to enhance your journalism skills. An hour with him will definitely raise your reporting game.

And not everything is high tech. Another speaker is Rick Bragg, a Pulitzer-winning New York Times reporter and best-selling author. In my book, Rick is one of the best storytellers of our generation. And trust me, even in a digital age, stories still matter. I think they matter more.

Our partnership with RTDNA has made our conventions even more useful. As all forms of media have converged in recent years, people on all sides of our profession have skills that are useful to share.

For example, one breakout session I’m hoping to catch is “Unleash Your Inner Broadcaster,” presented by the Public Radio News Directors. This is a program we would never have been able to assemble without our friends from RTDNA.

Oh, and one of my personal journalism heroes, longtime public radio host Bob Edwards, will be speaking. He’ll also receive our Fellows of the Society award, one of our highest honors. I can’t wait.

This convention also will mark the end of my year as president. This job has been a joy, and I intend to work it hard right up to the last day.

But one thing I’ll enjoy when I turn the presidency over to the very able Sonny Albarado is this: When the 2013 convention in Anaheim rolls around, I expect there will be a lot more time to soak up the learning there.

But you won’t have to wait that long. Stop reading and register today while you can still get the early bird rate (ends Aug. 28). After all, aren’t you and your career worth the investment?

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Responding to The Red and Black controversy

Something remarkable happened in Athens, Georgia last week.

A group of student journalists — mad at what they saw as an infringment upon their editorial independence — walked out of the newsroom of The Red and Black, the independent newspaper for the University of Georgia.

They used their basic reporting skills and social media tools to create their own website and let the world know about their grievances.

It worked. In just 72 hours, their campaign forced the management of the paper to relent on just about every one of the student’s demands.

The paper’s board of directors apologized, a board member who wrote a draft memo that infuriated the students resigned and editorial control returned to the place where it was meant to be – in the hands of the student editor-in-chief.

When was the last time you ever heard of something like this happening in any newsroom, collegiate or professional?

What these students did took smarts, courage and moxie. They showed the kind of talents that will serve them well as journalists. They have my admiration.

And read all over….

As many of you know, Michael Koretzky and I have been having a very public disagreement over what SPJ’s response should have been to The Red and Black controversy.

The first thing you need to know though is that I have a lot of respect for Michael. He is completely fearless about bringing up difficult and often uncomfortable issues that others have been reluctant to raise.

That’s precisely what he’s doing in this instance, provoking a discussion that is well worth having.

I also love the way he has helped drag SPJ kicking and screaming into the 21st century. Our first SPJ webinar happened this summer because of Michael’s insistence. I helped produce it, and the results were awesome.

On The Red and Black case, though, we have an honest difference of opinion, not so much on the substance of the case but on the process of how to best do advocacy work.

Fact-finding first

A substantial amount of my time as president this year has centered around advocating for journalists, many of whom were either in trouble with police, campus administrators, lawyers, bureaucrats or elected officials.

One thing I quickly realized was that there was no one-size-fits-all strategy. Each situation required a different approach.

Sometimes I made phone calls. Sometimes I wrote letters or op-ed columns. Often it meant talking to local reporters. And most times I used social media like Facebook and Twitter to help get the word out.

My typical method though was to begin with fact-finding. One thing SPJ has taught me is the value of teamwork. So I often delegated this task to a local chapter leader or to a regional director.

So for example, when a Temple University photojournalism student was arrested this spring while taking photographs for a classroom assignment of Philadelphia Police making an arrest, we got involved.

I consulted with Philadelphia chapter president Phil Beck and Region 1 Director Luther Turmelle. In very short order we dashed off a letter to the Philadephia Police commissioner, protesting the arrest.

Be the change…

There are two basic reasons to do advocacy work. One is to feel good about yourself after having gotten off a righteous letter. The other is to actually accomplish real and meaningful change.

My preference has been the latter. Too often, journalism group bang out angry  denunciations that hit the target with a thud and go nowhere. I prefer to get under the skin of those whose behavior I’m trying to change.

Speed is not the issue…

I take pride in the fact that on many of the controversies that cropped up this year, we jumped on them right away and got a quick response.

For example, when New York City police arrested journalists who were covering an Occupy Wall Street protest, we had something drafted that very first day and we stayed on the issue for several months, even penning an open op-ed about it.

Likewise when a school board in New Jersey wanted to codify our Code of Ethics and hold tribunals to judge whether local journalists and bloggers were unethical, Ethics Committee Chairman Kevin Smith and I pounced on it.

I spent a lot of time talking to the school board president directly, and in the end, SPJ helped convince the board to drop its policy — all within a matter of days.

Social media is not the issue…

At my job at The Record (not the Hackensack Record) I’m known as one of the more prolific users of social media. I do more blogging and shoot more video than most other reporters and I do my own Internet radio program.

I’ve tried to bring all those same talents to bear while advocating on behalf of SPJ. But an effective advocate needs to have a wide array of tools. And sometimes simply talking to people and asking questions can be more persuasive than tweets or letters.

Patience works…

Not all situations require blasting out instant opinions. Take, for example, the recent controversy at the University of Memphis, where a student paper had its funding cut by a third, more than any other group of campus, following controversy over some of the stories it published and other stories it chose not to cover.

One journalism group asked me to co-sign a letter of protest that simply took as gospel what the students had to say and wrote a short angry letter a day or two later.

I took a different approach. With a lot of help from Neil Ralston,  SPJ’s VP for campus affairs, we asked a lot of questions of campus administrators.

By the time were were done (this took about 10 days) I knew their position backward and forward. And we sent this letter and posted online.

But I also knew their thinking well enough to find the weak spots in their case. And like any good advocate, that’s where I applied the most pressure.

Teamwork works…

When the Red and Black controversy erupted, I turned to Neil and Michael for their advice. I encouraged Michael to do the fact-finding.

But either Michael did not understand his role or I failed to explain it to him.

I was glad when he offered to send someone to go to Athens and attend a pivotal meeting with the paper’s managers and student staff last Friday.

I was looking forward to hearing from him on what had happened and formulating a quick response.

Instead, I opened my email Saturday morning to find that Michael had gone ahead and posted his findings to his regional director’s blog. I had no clue that he was going to do that. I had been expecting him to report back to me or at least let me know what he was planning to do.

We are much powerful as a advocate for journalism when we work together. Perhaps that makes us a bit less nimble, but it also makes for a smarter and more powerful response.

Michael does not work for me. We are all volunteers in this effort called SPJ. But I do wish he had done more to work with me.

Whose speaks for SPJ?

Michael’s post presented two immediate problems.  Despite the fact that he posted to his regional blog, some people mistook it for SPJ’s position on the Red and Black controversy. One person even tweeted it as such.

Because of that confusion, I called Michael and asked him to take down the post, which he did, albeit under protest.

The president of SPJ speaks for the organization. I’ve been careful in that role to consult with others before issuing an opinion on behalf of the Society.

Getting both sides…

Michael’s post immediately came under fire from some who questioned why he did not make more of an effort to contact the management at The Red and Black to get their reaction to his findings.

Call me old school, but I still believe in the value of getting both sides of a story, whether it’s for a newspaper or a blog post.

It is, after all, what our ethics codes asks us to do. “Test the accuracy of information from all sources.”

That means interviewing all the stakeholders in a story. It does not mean waiting days for them to respond. But it does mean making the phone call and writing “Stakeholder XYZ could not be reached for comment yesterday.”

Michael tells me that’s so 20th century. I respectfully disagree. I think it remains a method that works best no matter what platform or medium we’re working on.

Can we do better?

Of course we can. With his amusing graphics and his snarky sense of humor, Michael makes some interesting suggestions on ways we can use social media as a means to apply pressure to a unfolding situation.

The Red and Black situation was unique. Most journalism controversies don’t erupt and then blow over in a span of a just a few days.

Figuring out how we do it will fall to my successor Sonny Albarado, who becomes president at our convention in September.

I’m not opposed to exploring ways we can have the speed of social media, thorough fact finding, teamwork and deliberation. But let’s get it right, and let’s work together to protect and foster journalism.

n

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Errors in reporting SCOTUS health care ruling remind us of the speeding bullet of journalism

It’s said that speed kills. It certainly can in journalism when accuracy is on the line.

I say this as someone who was a notorious slow writer when I first started as a reporter.

While my colleagues would breeze in and out of the newsroom, I’d be sitting there in quiet desperation trying to make deadline.

Fortunately, I got quicker with practice as time went on. But then newsroom clock sped up. Of all the seismic changes that occurred in the profession over the last five years, I think none have been more profound than the speed at which journalism is practiced.

To paraphrase the Albert Brooks character in the movie “Broadcast News”: I type it here and it comes out there.

The perils of practicing this hyper form of journalism were of full and awful display recently when the U.S. Supreme Court issued its long awaited landmark ruling upholding the Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act.

You all probably know about the embarrassing gaffes by CNN and Fox News in their initial misreporting that the law had been struck down, when in fact, if they had just kept reading, they would have seen that it had been upheld.

The back-tracking that ensued provided plenty of comic material for Jon Stewart’s “Daily Show.” 

While much has been made of these two outlets’ mistakes, it’s also important to note how many journalists took those extra seconds, turned the page, continued reading and got it right.

Bloomberg News, for example, not only got it right, but got it first. A number of news organizations, including The Associated Press, also got it right and turned the story quickly.

One organization that did outstanding work that day was SCOTUSblog, which is written mostly by lawyers but has seasoned reporters on staff as well.

In my two years as a reporter covering courts in Colorado, I found SCOTUSblog to be an excellent resource for judicial coverage. The site really came into its own in a big way with the health care decision.

They also followed up with an excellent tick-tock account of how the story unfolded.

As SCOTUSblog points out, the court itself bears some responsibility for the errors that flowed within the first few minutes of releasing the decision.

By failing to post the decision on its website immediately and not emailing it to news organizations directly, the court created an environment ripe for this type of error.

Plus it didn’t help that Chief Justice John Roberts in writing the majority decision “buried the lead,” as judges are sometimes wont to do.

But the episode does drive home a point we would all do well to remember in this breathless up-to-the minute, down to the nano-second reporting that many of us are all being asked to do.

Take a breath. Read everything. Double check. Get it right the first time, even if it means you’re not the first one.

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Nobody asked me, but… Updates from the president

I’m very excited that SPJ recently opened an account that will enable us to host online meetings and webinars.

We’ve subscribed to GoToMeeting and GoToWebinar. While there is a bit of a learning curve to understanding how to operate them, I see great promise here.

For example, let’s say a chapter in New Jersey would like to host a webinar featuring an expert in Denver talking about search engine optimization. We can do that now.

Let’s say the Diversity Committee would like to host a meeting where the members can talk and conduct a video conference. We can do that too.

And let’s say the Executive Committee wants to hold a virtual meeting that other members want to watch live. We can and will do that. Stay tuned for details.

Death of a journalist

Speaking of virtual programs … I thought Linda Jue of our Northern California chapter conducted a really interesting interview last week with journalist Thomas Peele.

Peele talked about his new book, “Killing the Messenger,” which details the background of the 2007 murder of Oakland journalist Chauncey Bailey.  It’s not really what you would call a true crime book, but rather a history of the Black Muslim movement and the cult to which Bailey’s killers belonged.

I was particularly fascinated to learn that while Bailey was killed because of a story he was working on, he was not what you would describe as a classic investigative journalist, Peele said.

“Chauncey was a community journalist, editor of a community newspaper,” Peele said. “He wanted to make the community paper, The Oakland Post, stronger.”

“His background was in daily journalism. He had been a reporter at The Detroit News. He was one of those workhorse journalists that we all know who could turn out 2-3 stories a day and fill up the newspaper.”

“…He was a good daily reporter, but he simply didn’t work on long investigative projects. It wasn’t the nature of the journalism that he did.”

Peele described how Bailey was killed over a 15 inch story that had not yet been published when he was gunned down while walking to work on Aug. 2, 2007.

Hear the podcast of this 30-minute program

 

Mobbed up in Boston

And speaking of crime and journalism, I could not pass up an opportunity to host a segment of Studio SPJ on Saturday, March 10 at noon ET with Boston Globe journalist Emily Sweeney.

Emily is president of our New England chapter and a member of our Digital Media Committee. I’ve been a fan of her work for some time. As a former crime reporter myself, I loved her Globe story, “Greatest Hits – A Mob Tour of Boston.”

We’ll talk about her new book, “Boston Organized Crime.” So be sure to tune in. You can hear the live broadcast or listen later to the podcast here.

 

Textbook Authors in the Big Easy

Here’s another program that might interest you.

Mary Kay Switzer, a longtime member of SPJ’s Cal Poly Pomona chapter, is national president of the Text and Academic Authors Association, which will host its 25th annual confab in New Orleans June 8-9.

A bit of info on the gathering:

The conference will feature two workshops, more than a dozen sessions and several small-group discussions; the opportunity to meet one-on-one with a veteran author or attorney specializing in educational publishing; and several networking opportunities, including a welcome breakfast and an evening networking reception.

Joy Hakim, author of the ten-volume K-12 textbook series, “A History of US,” and three-volume textbook series, “The Story of Science,” will give a keynote presentation on Friday morning titled, “Textbooks Should Be Great Books!”

And thanks to TAA for sharing information with their members on our SPJ spring conferences.

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Facebook: A cure for mosh-pit commenting?

There are some alarming trends in the news business these days.

Every day seems to bring fresh news of layoffs and buyouts of valued colleagues. Years of experience and institutional knowledge are walking out newsroom doors.

So, when there’s something cheerful about our industry to report, I tend to pounce on it.

What I find encouraging this week is that more news organizations are trying a different approach to shut down the vicious mosh pits of anonymous commentary following news stories.

For years, news organizations have grappled with the management of online reader comments, which often revolve around the same few people trading increasingly angry invective that has little relationship to the story above it.

The clean-up solution more newsrooms are deploying? Facebook.

Those of you who attended SPJ’s 2010 national convention in Las Vegas may remember Rob Curley, executive editor of the Las Vegas Sun’s new-media division, discussing this.

Curley and the Sun long have been on the cutting edge of technology to expand the boundaries of what news organizations can do to improve coverage of local communities.

“Being yourself online is the new black,” Curley said, going on to explain how his paper’s website was using Facebook to improve the quality of discourse in comment sections following news stories.

At the Sun, folks wanting to post comments anonymously could still do so — but the paper devised a system giving more prominence to people who used their Facebook accounts to post comments under their real names.

What Curley and his colleagues found was that by giving priority to actual people as opposed to anonymous posters, the quality of the conversation improved and became somewhat more civil. A wider range of people were also taking part.

This trend of using Facebook continued this spring, when the Los Angeles Times conducted a similar experiment. The paper solicited comments both through anonymous posters and Facebook. Lo and behold, the conversations grew more civil. And perhaps just as importantly, Web traffic increased. Click here to see more.

Other papers have followed suit. My former employer, The Gazette in Colorado Springs, switched to Facebook comments. Click here for a humorous column on the changeover by my friend Barry Noreen.

Recently, the Indianapolis Star made the change, and so did The Arizona Republic.

I realize Facebook is not a cure-all for this situation. Some anonymous posters have simply switched to creating fictitious Facebook pages. Critics have questioned the wisdom of outsourcing reader commentary to a social media network with its own set of rules.

But many news outlets lack the resources to moderate comments at the bottom of stories. That they’re  deploying solutions aimed at elevating civic discourse is admirable.

I’ll take it as a sign of hope in these tough times.

 

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