Posts Tagged ‘journalism’


A need to collaborate

“Journalism is a team effort.”

That was how Jake Tapper, the chief Washington correspondent for CNN and anchor of The Lead and State of the Union, described the profession as he accepted the John F. Hogan Distinguished Service Award from the RTDNA at the Excellence in Journalism conference Friday night.

CNN’s Jake Tapper said that journalism is a team effort. In order to enhance its future, it must be a team effort. (Photo: nrkbeta/Flickr)

Tapper added that in this journalism climate our standards need to be raised amidst assault from leaders and trolls, and described journalism in this time as the golden age of journalism.

“Being under assault by trolls and foreign governments doesn’t mean we lower our standards,” Tapper said. “It means we raise them.”

As my colleagues gather for the last day of EIJ in Anaheim, Calif., Tapper’s remarks from the night before have resonated with the community and emphasized the need for the vivacity of journalism in this climate.

But Tapper’s remarks have raised, in my mind, a million dollar question. In this age where social media and the internet have influenced how audiences consume journalism, changed our thinking about stories – and where a debate has been raised about clicks versus authenticity, what does this mean for us as individual journalists? What does this mean for our ability to produce quality, ethical journalism?

The Society’s Code of Ethics emphasizes that it is better to be right than be first, and that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy. But in this digital age, it is more than just about being right than first – it is the need to promote the need to pursue the truth, and to reinforce to the public why journalism is important.

While it’s an exciting time to be in journalism, the challenges present are ones that no one person can combat by themselves. This is not the time to compete to stand out and be the best. Instead, it’s time to work together as an industry to show the world why journalism is important, and help this marketplace of ideas assist the profession we love, so all of us can be the best.

Journalism enriches the spirit and advances one’s education. We do that through telling stories that inform, engage and educate. Though the mediums will evolve, journalism will remain a constant, and it is down to us as individuals to protect these values and ensure they remain the hallmarks of why journalism is fundamental to democracy – and the only way that can be done is collaboratively, not competitively.

Because after all, journalism, as Tapper put it, is a team effort, and when we’re at our best – the people who matter in journalism, the audience, are too.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Words to the EIJ wise

Raney Aronson-Rath, the executive producer of Frontline, seen with David Fanning, the executive producer at large in 2011. Aronson-Rath wants to uphold the values of a free press.
(Photo: Peabody Awards/Flickr)

When Raney Aronson-Rath began her journalism career at an English language newspaper in Taiwan in the early 1990s, she witnessed the emergence of a free press, in a time where the country was undergoing significant political reforms.

Aronson-Rath, now the executive producer of the PBS documentary program Frontline, said that witnessing that was an a-ha moment, a moment that would provide guidance to the work that she would do in the future.

“Growing up in America, I had taken the ideas of a free press, freedom of speech, and democracy for granted,” Aronson-Rath wrote in an essay for Current, a magazine for public media professionals. “I never would again. I realized how important it is to protect those ideas, and I decided at that point to commit to journalism as my career.”

Roughly two decades later, the a-ha moment she saw in Taiwan emerged in a new form for me, in suburban Chicago. In the Spring of 2009, I had a medical trifecta which resulted in me completing my junior and senior years of high school as a homebound student. As the days saw me going back and forth with my mom to a plethora of doctor’s appointments, the nights saw insomnia, a side effect of the medications I was taking.

What exactly could I do in those hours so I wouldn’t wake my mom and sister? I turned to the radio – public radio, to be precise, something that night and during the course of my recovery became a friend in the hours where one truly felt isolated and scared. I grew curious about the role stories could have, written and spoken, and the impact they could have on the world.

The values that Aronson-Rath wanted to protect soon became ones I wanted to protect too, as I knew that I wanted to go to college and pursue a career in journalism – and that’s exactly what I did.

This week, my SPJ colleagues are gathering in Anaheim, Calif., for the annual Excellence in Journalism conference. It is a culmination of the current journalism year in which we get to celebrate some of the best and brightest people in this industry.

It is also a time to reflect and to ponder about the future of journalism, and for that matter our crafts, in an age where the cultures of the internet and social media are leading the way in reinventing how we think about both – and how we can be authentic.

The timing of EIJ is also apt – as this month also marks the 50th anniversary of when the House of Representatives passed the Public Broadcasting Act of 1967, which also created the Corporation for Public Broadcasting. When President Lyndon Johnson signed it into law that November, he spoke about what would come of the Act, and how public broadcasting would enrich one’s spirit and advance the education of the people.

Enriching one’s spirit and advancing the education of the people are hallmarks of all quality journalism. Like our colleagues in public media, we are storytellers, with the desire to inform, educate and engage, with the hope, as this announcement from WGBH put it, help people “cope better with the world” and their own lives.

It’s hard sometimes, especially for young career journalists like myself – with the blunt, uneasy criticism of the Trump Administration, as well as the general economic outlook of the profession – to know that the work you do can matter to your audience. Reminders that the ability to do such work exist help along the way.

It is in that spirit that I’d like to introduce you to the people who occupy a building just off of Cedar Street in St. Paul, Minn., where it just so happens that the organization that employs them is celebrating their 50th birthday this year.

That building is home to Minnesota Public Radio, and the corporate headquarters of American Public Media, home of national programs like Marketplace, The Splendid Table and A Prairie Home Companion, and who distributes the BBC World Service to public radio stations across the US. In that building are people who put their family, friends and neighbors first – who care deeply about the ability to enrich the spirit of Minnesotans and Americans, and advance the education of the people, so they can be at their best.

Indeed, it, and the reminder of why journalism remains important to democracy, is made known on a t-shirt linking the start next Sunday of Flyover from MPR News, a national call-in program.

Since that night in 2009, I’ve had a soft spot for them – a soft spot that has grown exponentially since moving to the Twin Cities. Indeed, that soft spot applies to all who work in public media, and all who look to uphold the importance of a free press and the fundamental role journalism has in democracy, through the output produced each day.

Fred Rogers said that life is for service – and as life is for service, then journalism remains the most important profession you can choose to have a career in. Working together, we can uphold the values of journalism in a democracy, promote the need for quality, ethical journalism and help people be at their best.

If we won’t do it, who will?

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

A need for journalism

This past week, Village Voice, the New York based alternative weekly known for its cultural output, announced that it would cease publication of its print edition.

After that news was announced, a Twitter thread appeared from Andrea Swensson, music journalist and presenter of The Local Show, a program on 89.3 The Current, the music service of Minnesota Public Radio, which showcases Minnesota’s music scene. Swensson was also a music editor for City Pages, an alternative weekly based in Minneapolis.

These particular posts however got my attention.

It got me thinking about the debate that has stemmed as journalism continues to evolve in the digital age – clicks versus authenticity, and our own roles as journalists as it plays out.

We are natural storytellers. We enter this industry in order to inform, engage and educate – that no matter what beat we specialize in or if we broadcast or write for print or online, the work we do will make a difference for the people we serve.

The internet and the culture of social media has challenged us how we think about telling these stories. We wonder if the work we do is truly meaningful, or if its just for the sake of clicks, while the generation of early career journalists wonder if they will be able to make an impact in the field, as questions on journalism’s business model continue to be raised.

Social media has allowed people to consume news, music reviews and all types of journalism quickly. We are the sharing generation – and we share that content in abundance.

Social media platforms like Twitter may have disrupted journalism, but there is always going to be a need for it. (Photo: Pixabay)

Along the way, journalists and news organizations have had to take a step back to figure out how we can do our best work, in the age where how quickly one can get clicks becomes the norm instead of quality, authentic content. There have been positives for the relationship between social media and journalism, but there have also been negatives.

To borrow the legendary Facebook relationship status: It’s complicated.

I don’t claim to know what is going through the mind of Mark Zuckerberg, Jack Dorsey and others when it comes to their whims and intentions about journalism on their platforms. I also don’t know how journalism will look when its digital reinvention is said and done.

But I do know this. Authenticity is important. Authenticity is a necessity. Authenticity is quintessential to journalism’s future.

What makes journalism vibrant is the dedication and passion of others to help people be at their best, whether its about music, politics, business, sports or other forms of culture. No matter what one covers, the ability to be authentic is something that allows journalism to keep going, to know that the work you’re doing has an impact, and to know the profession is, in these times, still a valued part of civic and cultural society.

That’s why people need the written word in print and online, be it in books or a subscription to a newspaper. It is also why radio is still important – and that its worth investing in public radio through a donation.

Authenticity is why The Local Show, and indeed The Current, do so well, and why they are needed – not just for our sake, but for journalism’s. Journalism needs passionate and dedicated storytellers and curators to help support it, because the work people do in this profession matters, and is something not to be taken for granted.

Though we may not know where its going, and the platforms will continue to change, there will always be a need for journalism, and the ability to be authentic is something that will keep it all together.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

An equal industry

This past Saturday marked Women’s Equality Day, the anniversary of the ratification of the 19th amendment, giving women the right to vote in the United States. Women have made significant contributions to civic and cultural life, and as journalism continues to evolve in the digital age, they have allowed our industry to become stronger.

Yet, recent statistics from the non-profit Women’s Media Center have raised concerns about representations of women in journalism. Their report, Divided 2017, released this past March, examines the state of women in media in the US. Findings showed that men receive 62 percent of byline and other credits in TV news, newspapers, online and in wire reports, compared to 38 percent received by women.

The findings, based on content from last September through last November, were broken down into 4 areas:

  • The evening news broadcasts (ABC, CBS, NBC and PBS): 74.8 percent of the output measured was reported by men, while 25.2 percent by women. PBS showed the most output with female correspondents and anchors (45 percent by women versus 55 percent by men), while ABC showed the least (12 percent by women versus 88 percent by men). CBS and NBC were tied (32 percent by women versus 68 percent by men).
  • Newspapers: 61.9 percent of news content was reported by men, while 38.1 percent of it was reported by women. When it comes to major newspaper titles, the widest gender gap for writing was at The New York Daily News (76 percent by men and 24 percent by women), followed by USA Today (70 percent by men and 30 percent by women), and a two-way tie between The Denver Post and The Wall Street Journal (66 percent by men and 34 percent by women). Other papers surveyed include The New York Times (61 percent by men and 39 percent by women) and The Washington Post (57 percent by men and 43 percent by women).
  • Online news: 53.9 percent of the bylines went to men, compared to 46.1 percent going to women. CNN, Fox, The Huffington Post and The Daily Beast were surveyed, and of those four, Fox had 50.1 percent of content by men compared to 49.9 percent women, CNN had 55 percent of content by men compared to 45 percent by women, The Huffington Post had 50.8 percent of men getting the bylines compared to 49.2 percent of women, and The Daily Beast had 62 percent of bylines going to men compared to 38 percent going to women.
  • Wire services (AP and Reuters): While Reuters had more of a representation of women compared to the AP, there was still more content written by men at both agencies (65 percent by men and 35 percent by women at the AP versus 61 percent by men and 39 percent by women at Reuters). Men reported 62.4 percent of the output at both agencies compared to 37.6 percent of it being reported by women.

Judy Woodruff, seen here in 2012, is one of the most prominent women in American journalism. (Photo: NewsHour/Flickr)

Outside of the Women’s Media Center statistics, there were also some statistics about women in journalism released in the past few months, notably at NPR. At the end of October 2016, 55.1 percent of its newsroom was female compared to 44.9 percent being male. While most of NPR’s top executives are men, according to the data from the Ombudsman’s office, all of NPR’s produced newsmagazines are led by women, including The Two Way news blog and Here and Now, which it co-produces with member station WBUR in Boston.

Women have played a significant role in an industry that is evolving in the digital age, and continue to do so. This is especially the case at SPJ, where the top 3 leadership positions are currently held by women – President Lynn Walsh, President-Elect Rebecca Baker and Secretary-Treasurer Alex Tarquinio. Indeed, Baker will become the 9th woman in SPJ history to hold the post of president when she is sworn in at the Excellence in Journalism conference in Anaheim, Calif., on September 9th.

With a study from the Reuters Institute at Oxford University in Britain showing that more women are studying journalism globally, including in the US, it is particularly important, especially for the next generation of journalists, that we support the work of women. We must advocate for them in newsrooms and in the profession itself, especially with a rise in attacks on social media against them, just for merely doing their jobs.

But most of all, no matter what platform they work on, we must champion their ideas. Because of them, we are a stronger industry, and we must ensure that we don’t take them, or their contributions, for granted.

Their work allows journalism to be at its best, and when journalism is at its best, so are the people who are its beneficiaries – our audience.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The social question

There is no question that social media has challenged how audiences consume journalism, but it has raised several ethical concerns, notably surrounding the algorithm. But not enough is being done, nor is enough being asked about it.

That was a point Jon Snow, a presenter of Britain’s Channel 4 News, raised this week in Edinburgh, Scotland. Giving the James MacTaggart Memorial Lecture at the Edinburgh International TV Festival, Snow said that few questions have been raised by news organizations about the social network’s reach, despite the positives presented for organizations.

Snow said that two organizations had held such a monopoly over the world’s information – Facebook and Google.

“We are in an age where everyone from Trump downwards is a publisher,” Snow said. “In any given year, more photos and more information is published than in any decades of the 20th century.”

Snow said also that the reach is down to the whim of Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg, and raised concerns about the issue of accuracy versus viral content.

“He says he cares about news, but does he really?” Snow said. “Or does he care about keeping people on Facebook?”

Snow made a final call for action to Facebook to take action.

“Facebook has a moral duty to prioritize veracity over virality,” Snow said. “It is fundamental to our democracy.”

Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s CEO. Facebook has faced criticism for a lack of transparency surrounding its algorithm. (Photo: Anthony Quintano/Flickr)

At its F8 conference in California earlier this year, Facebook has acknowledged that it hasn’t been the best in communicating measures on the algorithm. But despite that acknowledgment, more needs to be done.

The Society’s Code of Ethics calls on journalists and media organizations to be accountable and transparent. Though Facebook itself is not by nature a traditional media company, it is the curator of much of the information that is published by other news organizations.

It therefore owes it to journalists, news organizations and audiences, to explain its algorithm in detail, why it does what it does, and the impact it has on the relationship between the social network and news organizations.

Today, it announced what is a small step in that direction, by hiring Liz Spayd, the former public editor of The New York Times. A Facebook spokesperson told the technology news publication Recode that Spayd would “help expand early moves to chronicle what it does related to everything from terrorism to fake news to privacy.”

Considering Spayd’s work as a public editor, as well as with top journalism publications, the insight she will provide will likely help Facebook develop its public face, especially when it comes to its relationship with journalists and news organizations.

The ultimate question is if Zuckerberg will take her suggestions seriously and implement them, and whether the priorities, as Snow put it, will be on news, or keeping people on Facebook.

These are questions that must be asked, and journalists should not be afraid to ask these questions – despite the relationship their employers have with the social network. Journalists would not be doing their job if these questions weren’t asked and ensuring Facebook is held to account. The rule also applies to Twitter, Google and other platforms where information is curated and disseminated.

There have been positives for news organizations when it comes to outreach on social media, whether it comes from exposure to new audiences or new ways to publish and disseminate the news. But the algorithm’s prioritizing of stories that no longer appear to be accurate is discourteous not just to the social networks, but also the profession and practice of journalism itself. It also is discourteous to democracy and to the audiences we serve.

The more these questions are asked, the more this is discussed. So let’s keep asking them – so that we as journalists can set out to do what we do each day, irrespective of platform – seek truth and report it.

Editor’s note: This post was updated at 3:34pm CT to reflect the hiring of Spayd by Facebook.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

An intimate inspiration

Radio is the intimate of all mediums, and public radio has a role to play in civic and cultural life. (Photo: Pixabay)

Spring, 2009. A medical trifecta led to me completing the last half of my junior year and my entire senior year of high school as a homebound student. The days saw my mom and I commute to a plethora of doctors appointments, while the nights saw insomnia – a side effect of all the medications I was on.

One night, in my room at my home in suburban Chicago, I wondered what I could do so I wouldn’t wake my mom and sister on the other end of the house. I switched on the radio, volume down. Away I went, fiddling the tuning button, past the commercial talk on AM, the pedantic top 40 and genre specific stations on FM, and then, I stumbled upon WBEZ, Chicago’s NPR station, doing their top of the hour ID.

What followed were the final sounds of the Greenwich Time Signal from London, and then these words: “It’s 7:00 GMT. This is The World Today from the BBC World Service.”

The most intimate of mediums became a friend and a companion, in the hours where one felt isolated, scared and alone. On that night, and nights during my recovery, those sounds provided reassurance to me that all was right in the world, and that I wasn’t alone. I became curious about the world, and the role that stories can have in helping us understand each other, be it written or spoken.

Public radio saved my life, and inspired me to go into journalism.

This past Sunday marked National Radio Day in the United States, an occasion to mark the importance of the medium in this country, and what it means to the civic and cultural life of America. This year’s marking of National Radio Day was special too for public radio, as it marks the 50th anniversary of the signing by President Lyndon Johnson of the Public Broadcasting Act, which established the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.

Public radio continued to be a companion through my college days, and even in times of uncertainty provided a couple of ideas about the work that I want to do in the future, from the search for stories by one of NPR’s most renowned correspondents to the desire by a DJ at 89.3 The Current at Minnesota Public Radio to unearth something you’ve never heard before – and to be the quintessential champion of authenticity.

Radio was designed to be something that connects the world together – to help us understand ourselves, and to do the best we can for the common good. Public media expanded it, and it could be seen especially with the events today involving the solar eclipse – as people gathered to watch in awe the week’s scientific highlight.

Journalism, irrespective of medium, finds itself in a quandary, as it tries to adjust in the digital age. As it does, those who aspire to make it their life’s work wonder if they will be able to make an impact. Many students will be returning to university campuses over the next few weeks with that question still etched in their minds.

It’s a question still etched in my mind, too. While I don’t have the definitive answer to it, I know this – there are people out there who are doing their best possible work, not to achieve fame or fortune, but to inform, educate and engage.

To paraphrase a quote from a funding announcement from WGBH, the PBS station in Boston, their desire is to help people cope better with the world and their own lives. Public media does that and then some, and showcases that when all is said and done, in spite of uncertainty, the work does make a difference. I hope I can do just that.

I have them to thank and them to credit for inspiring me to pursue journalism. Quite frankly, I couldn’t have imagined doing anything else.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

An ethical education

President Trump will not change his behavior towards the media. It is down to us to educate the public about the importance of journalism. (Photo: Gage Skidmore/Flickr)

“I don’t know what to make of the news. But I promise we will cover it with fairness and without fear. We work for America.”

That is how Scott Simon, the longtime NPR correspondent and host of Weekend Edition Saturday, put it on Twitter at the end of a day where the relationship between the media and President Donald Trump was a lead story, coming off of a press conference that had been considered to be combative.

The press conference took place days after the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, amidst criticism of conflicting statements on the attacks from The White House.

Hours before that press conference, Trump had retweeted a tweet depicting a CNN journalist being run over by a train. The tweet has since been deleted.

Criticism of the media by Trump is not new, as he has utilized Twitter to criticize the media on multiple occasions. Indeed, as CNN’s Brian Stelter wrote in last night’s Reliable Sources newsletter, Trump was reported to be furious about media coverage of events Monday evening.

It has been clear for sometime that Trump’s behavior towards the media will not change, as my SPJ colleague, Ethics Committee chair Andrew Seaman wrote last month (for the record, I also serve on the Committee). As a result, the focus within the industry must shift towards educating the American people on the importance of journalism and its role in civic life, instead of responding to Trump’s criticism.

This education is necessary, but it is also quintessential in an age where Americans increasingly get their news online and on social media. New data from the Pew Research Center shows that roughly 9 out of 10 Americans get their news online, and social media is at the core of online news consumption.

Changes on attitudes towards the media will not change overnight, and it will take some time as well as many conversations, both internally and externally, to have an impact on the relationship with journalists and their audiences as the digital age.

Yet, SPJ’s Code of Ethics provides some ideas on how journalists can start this education with their audiences now. That said, here are some tips on how to best go about it.

  • Be honest with your audience. Whether it is uncertainty about a piece of information, or making a correction, tell them about it and explain why you did what you did.
  • It’s better to be right than first. Twitter and the web is seen as a race to be the first person with the story, but it isn’t. Take the time to get everything right before you hit publish.
  • Tell them about it. When you’re making a correction or decide to delay running with a story, have a conversation with your audience as to why this is so. An honest journalist is a credible journalist.
  • Cite early and often. Cite any reports from any organizations as you report a story. Corroborate any reports.
  • Verify everything. It’s so nice it’s worth saying twice! As the Code says, neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy, so take the time to ensure everything is correct in your story. Remember – it is better to be right than first.

We are truth seekers – and in the digital age, the truth is more important than ever. We owe it to ourselves to remember the importance of ethics, to talk about ethics and to not be afraid to do the most important tasks of all as journalists – informing, educating and engaging our audience.

As Simon said, we work for America – and it is for them, and no one else, that we get up each day, sit down, and do what journalists set out to do – seek truth and report it.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

What’s your story?

Take time to develop your craft, for when a journalist is at their best, their audience is too. (Photo: Pixabay)

It’s Tuesday, the 8th, at just after 10 in the morning. At my desk, I prepare to make some phone calls to Britain for research for a story I’m working on. As I began that period of reading and conversations which spanned the next couple of hours, what I thought was a concrete story idea ended up having the beginning of Charles Dickens’ novel, A Tale of Two Cities, written all over it.

What was “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” became “It was the best of ideas, it was the worst of ideas.”

Yet, this wasn’t the only story that I had struggled with. I had been generally struggling to find the best story possible, in an age where content is king, and the desire to be first outranks the desire to be right and authentic.

We enter this industry not for the fame or the fortune, but with the goal that the stories that we tell will inform, educate and engage. We are fascinated by the role that journalism can have in our society, through the words that accompany it, irrespective of platform. We desire contribute in the hope that the work we do can be for the common good.

The drive and instinctive skills of a storyteller are things that never leave you. They are replicated in that idea you have for that piece you want to publish or that segment you want to broadcast. The world has its stories, and you want to tell them. As Dhruti Shah, the BBC journalist (who is a journalist that inspires me), put it over on the International Community blog: “You just never know when a story is going to unfold in front of you.”

There is potential in this age of the internet and social media for this storytelling to make a difference, but with that potential comes the other side – the increased competition not just for the story, but also the ability to tell stories that can have an impact.

Those feelings are summed up in the nagging questions at the back of your mind: “Are the stories I’m telling the best ones that I can tell? Is my work truly my best?”

Earlier this year, I wrote a column for SPJ’s Quill magazine on how the internet can help journalists get perspective on their careers, whether you’re an up and coming reporter or a professional trying to figure out your next steps. The same rule applies for storytelling, and the internet provides potential for you to gain that quintessential insight.

Here are some tips on how to best seek that advice to be the best storyteller you can be.

  • Engage with journalists who inspire you. You may work at different organizations or focus on different platforms, but the goals you have as journalists when all is said and done remain the same.
  • Ask for a conversation. If an email address or other contact details are listed, use those to arrange a conversation. If you’re on Twitter, send a simple tweet asking if they could follow you so you could direct message them about a conversation? Then, take it offline.
  • Tap into your own network. Whether its a friend or colleague, have a cup of coffee and a chat. Insights from within your own newsroom or outlet can even help get your creative juices flowing.
  • There is no such thing as a stupid question. Sometimes the simplest questions can be the most helpful.
  • Stay in touch. Don’t be afraid to ask questions in the future, and as a reminder – there is no such thing as a stupid question.

You may feel uneasy at first, but the time you take will without question be worthwhile in helping you be a better journalist and storyteller.

After all, when you are at your best, your audience will be at their best, too.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

The Twin Cities’ spirit

Garrison Keillor’s quote, “Be well, do good work and keep in touch,” provides a lesson for journalists. (Photo: Trishhhh/Flickr)

It’s a somewhat overcast afternoon as I look out of the window in the small office of my apartment in Minneapolis, where I’m ending my first full week as a Minnesotan. In the distance is the city skyline, a view that echoes the apartment in Seattle where the fictitious psychiatrist Dr. Frasier Crane lived.

A week or so ago, I made the over 400 mile move from Chicago to the Twin Cities for greener pastures. I was operating on caffeine and adrenaline, and I still am a week later.

Yet, as I write this, I recall the quote from the famous broadcaster and writer Garrison Keillor, which he uses for his Writer’s Almanac broadcasts on Minnesota Public Radio: “Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.”

I had been to Minneapolis twice before in the past few years, and then I didn’t really appreciate the impact of Keillor’s philosophy. In the almost two weeks since I became a Minnesotan, I’ve come to value it and more.

We live in an age where the web has expanded everything that we do, where journalism and storytelling is being enhanced in the realms of Twitter, Facebook and the web. While there have been positive benefits, there also remain questions, especially for those looking to have a successful career in journalism and media.

While we ask ourselves about our role, and how we can truly make a difference, we can take inspiration from those around us. That inspiration can come from reporters trying to make sense of events for the web, print or broadcast, in order to allow us to learn from crafts and the role stories can have.

Inspiration can also come outside of conventional journalism, including from the effervescent spirit of DJs and personalities at MPR’s The Current, who are always eager to share with you something you’ve never heard before.

In St. Paul, on the top floor of MPR’s headquarters, there is a view outside to the east overlooking the state Capitol building – a majestic, poignant reminder of the role journalists have to hold power to account, to promote the exchange of ideas and civil discourse, and to, as SPJ’s Code of Ethics puts it – seek truth and report it. It also is a photographic recollection of the reminder from Fred Rogers that life is for service.

While there are questions that remain to be answered, I simultaneously know that there are people in the Twin Cities, be it at MPR, my colleagues at SPJ’s Minnesota chapter, and elsewhere, whose work and ideas are paramount to helping us understand ourselves. Indeed, the value of the work they do in helping their friends, family, neighbors and the place they call home be at their best is something they don’t take for granted.

They instill in us the desire to learn, day in and day out. I hope, along the way, that I can learn from them.

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Fred Rogers’ journalism lesson

When we try to decide what we want to do for a living as a career, a lot of questions come to mind. What are we passionate about? What piques our interest? Is there a profession that calls to us to help us do the most good?

On the weekend where we ponder what it means to be citizens of the United States, I stumbled upon this quote from the writer and public television personality, Fred Rogers.

“Anything that we can do to help foster the intellect and spirit and emotional growth of our fellow human beings, that is our job,” Rogers said. “Those of us who have this particular vision must continue against all odds. Life is for service.”

Journalism is a service based profession. It is a calling. Those who pursue it aren’t interested in fame or fortune. They want to inform, engage and educate, all the while enhancing the public discourse.

It is a profession that is being tested, not simply with new platforms and technology, but also the relationship with the public. Earlier today, President Trump posted a tweet depicting him wrestling an individual that depicted CNN.

My colleague, Andrew Seaman, who chairs SPJ’s Ethics Committee (and which I am also a member of), called on journalists and news organizations in a blog post written earlier Sunday to educate the public about journalism.

“The press needs to teach the public what it does and why it matters,” Seaman wrote. “If the press succeeds, it won’t matter how many times the president publishes the words “fake news” on Twitter. The public will know the truth about responsible journalists and news organizations.”

Facebook and Twitter have become a norm in 21st century journalism. In a matter of seconds, anything you write or say can be disseminated – and while both social networks have provided positive benefits for journalism, it has also provided challenges. At the same time, it also provides opportunities – opportunities to further this education, to convince people why journalism is important.

It can start from explaining reporting decisions on Twitter, explaining to audiences about editorial decisions, or also remembering this important mantra: “It is better to be right than to be first.

But this education cannot be done by one person. In an age where metrics is an influential norm, trust in journalism is important more so than ever, and it is something that no one can compete for. It is something that has to be earned, and working collaboratively can help enhance the public’s understanding of journalism.

Rogers is right. Life is for service, and as life is for service, then journalism is one of the most important professions you can be in.

Education is at the core of what we do. We are storytellers, and we work together to ensure the world remains at its best. If we work together, channeling Rogers’ spirit and that of others, we can ensure that we remain at our best too.

Will you join me?

Alex Veeneman is a freelance journalist who writes for publications in the US and the UK. He also serves on SPJ’s Ethics Committee. You can interact with him on Twitter @alex_veeneman.

The views expressed in this blog post unless otherwise specified are that of the author’s, and do not necessarily reflect the views of the SPJ Digital Community, the board and staff of the Society of Professional Journalists, or its members.

Editor’s note: This post was edited on July 21 at 3:38pm CT to replace content that was from a broken link.

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