Archive for the ‘Media News’ Category

Passing the baton in Region 7

Passing the batonTwo years.

That’s the time it takes to obtain a community college education. It’s also the average lifespan of an iPad, the honeymoon period in a new marriage, the unofficial season length for a U.S. presidential campaign, and the sum of one term for an SPJ regional directorship.

Of course, options exist to extend the calendar on any of these things, though the rationale for that extension differs greatly from person to person.

Which is why on Saturday, my term as Region 7 director came to a quiet, satisfying conclusion during EIJ14 in Nashville, and I handed the baton to Rob McLean, Omaha-based digital managing editor for Hearst Television.

Rob’s recent work with the Society underscores his qualifications. He has been at the forefront to re-establish the Society of Professional Journalists in Nebraska, both at the professional and student levels. A few weeks ago, he started moonlighting as an adjunct journalism instructor at the University of Nebraska at Omaha.

Before landing in the Cornhusker State, Rob was a reporter for in suburban St. Louis and was an active member of the SPJ professional chapter there.

Rob is a good man with drive, determination, and a devotion to SPJ that few can match. The region is in good hands, no doubt.

So let me use the remaining space in my final Region 7 post to thank all the great journalism professionals and students in Iowa, Kansas, Nebraska, and Missouri who assisted me, informed me, and enlightened me the past 24 months. Your contributions helped make SPJ stronger, wiser, and better positioned to effectively confront the challenges that journalists and educators strive to turn into opportunities.

For the next year at least, I will continue to work with my home chapter, St. Louis Pro, as well as help launch a new national community, SPJ Digital, which debuted last month, and broaden my continued engagement with SPJ’s Freelance Community. And Rob and I will be working together to plan the Region 7 Spring Conference in Omaha in March.

In the meantime, Rob has my full support and confidence as Region 7 director. I hope he has yours, too.

Five Region 7 honorees are among national MOE recipients

Missouri had three honorees and the states of Iowa and Nebraska had one each to represent Region 7 in the Society of Professional Journalists’ 2013 national Mark of Excellence Awards, which were announced Tuesday.

2013 Mark of Excellence AwardsAllison Pohle of the University of Missouri-Columbia was a finalist in the feature-writing category among large schools for her work, “Kirkwood Father Tries to Find Meaning in Daughter’s Death;” the staff of at the Missouri School of Journalism was a finalist in the online feature reporting category for “Matters of Faith;” and Vox Magazine’s iPad app was chosen best digital-only student publication.

Suhaib Tawil of Iowa State University was a finalist in the general news photography category among large schools for “ROTC Training During Spring 2013.”

Jenna Jaynes of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln was a finalist in television feature reporting for “Nebraska’s First Male Color Guard Member Lives His Dream.”

The national awards recognize exceptional collegiate journalism in all 12 of SPJ’s regions over the previous calendar year and are chosen from among the top regional winners. This time, instead of first-, second-, and third-place awards, SPJ named winners and finalists for each category.

If judges determined that no entries were excellent by SPJ’s standards, a category was left blank. All judges have at least three years’ worth of professional experience in their respective fields and are not permitted to review entries from their own regions.

School divisions were based on cumulative undergraduate and graduate enrollment, with large schools having a minimum of 10,000 registered students. For some categories, school size was not a factor.

The winners in each category will be recognized at the Excellence in Journalism 2014 conference in Nashville, Tennessee, Sept. 4-6. A full list of MOE Award recipients appears in an SPJ news release.

Media merger creates new St. Louis news source

St. Louis Public Radio, St. Louis BeaconWith the merger of St. Louis Public Radio and the St. Louis Beacon comes an all-digital nonprofit news-gathering organization expected to do more than draw a new face on both operations.

The merger became official when the University of Missouri Board of Curators endorsed it Friday. Both sides began exploring the possibility with a letter of intent signed in October 2012.

UM owns and operates St. Louis Public Radio (KWMU, 90.7 FM) as well as three other National Public Radio outlets, in Columbia, Kansas City and Rolla. KWMU has been on the air since 1972.

The Beacon, an online newspaper and community engagement site, launched in spring 2008 with the backing of several former reporters and editors from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch who had left after the newspaper was purchased by Lee Enterprises from Pulitzer Inc., in 2005.

No name was announced, but a distinct brand on the combined effort is expected to appear in some form starting Dec. 10. For now, the online portal will resemble St. Louis Public Radio’s existing site, said Tim Eby, general manager of the station and head of the new operation. Margaret Wolf Frievogel, Beacon editor and co-founder, will oversee the newsroom.

“Many details remain a work in progress,” Frievogel said in a statement on the Beacon’s website. “But our purpose and principles are clear — to provide the solid reporting and thoughtful discussion St. Louisans need to understand the problems and opportunities we face. Our region is reinventing itself. So are we.”

Expect academia to play a prominent role in the reinvention, says Wayne Goode, chairman of the Board of Curators.

“By combining these operations with (the University of Missouri-St. Louis) College of Fine Arts and Communication and (the University of Missouri at Columbia) School of Journalism, we will maximize the research and academic potential of our journalism and communications disciplines,” Goode said in a news release.

The new venture’s staffing amounts to about 60, including 26 journalists. They will all be University of Missouri employees.

By joining the merger, the Beacon escapes a rough patch. Both the Beacon and the radio station relied chiefly on grants and donations, as will the combined operation. But in 2011, one of the Beacon’s principal donors, the Danforth Foundation, shut down after 84 years.

That year, the foundation gave the Beacon about $1.25 million.

Although the merger constituted a long journey, it ends with a short trip of a few yards. The Beacon’s staff and resources relocate to St. Louis Public Radio’s facilities from the building next door, The Nine Network (KETC, Channel 9), where the Beacon has resided nearly six years.

Jayson Blair’s story is told again in a new documentary

A Fragile TrustWhen reporter Jayson Blair was exposed as a serial plagiarist in 2003, his employer, The New York Times, regarded the admission as “a low point in the 152-year history of the newspaper.”

The resulting crisis in confidence cast a long shadow over not just the Times, but also over all of newspaper journalism and the efficacy of affirmative action hiring.

Blair’s case and its impact re-enter the spotlight this weekend in the documentary “A Fragile Trust: Plagiarism, Power and Jayson Blair at the New York Times,” a featured presentation at the Whitaker St. Louis International Film Festival on Saturday at the Landmark Plaza Frontenac cinema.

“A Fragile Trust” examines Blair’s case and the course he charted through journalism, which included attacks on his integrity going back to his college days, and the spectacle of his undoing in media nationwide. Woven through the narrative are tales of deception, drug abuse, mental illness, racism, and power struggles at the Times.

The documentary will be shown at 1:30 p.m. Among those interviewed are Blair and St. Louis-native Gerald Boyd, former Times managing editor, who with executive editor Howell Raines resigned in the wake of the Blair revelations. Film director Samantha Grant will answer questions from the audience after the showing.

Gateway Journalism Review needs your help

Gateway Journalism Review logoMedia criticism is alive and well in the Midwest ― but it needs your help.

The Gateway Journalism Review, published continuously in magazine form since 1970, analyzes media behavior across a 16-state region, from Ohio to Oklahoma, from Arkansas to North Dakota.

It appears four times annually in print, as well as on a regularly updated website.

It is one of just three journalism reviews in the country, apart from the Columbia Journalism Review in New York and the American Journalism Review in the Washington, D.C., area.

And GJR depends on contributions for its content.

“GJR is a publication whose readers tend to be a mix of media professionals, academics, students and the general public,” explained the editor, Bill Babcock. “The style of all items is professional in nature rather than academic/footnoted.”

That means contributions should be:

  • Media-focused on topics involving journalism, new media, advertising, public relations and broadcast, among others.
  • Critically analytical in nature, rather than first-person or opinionated in nature.

Content is contemporary, too. Recent articles posted online involved reporter access, civil drones, and a debate over impartiality in the Edward Snowden case.

But monitoring the media over a 16-state area requires a wide network of writers attuned to media behavior in their regions, and so GJR seeks contributors who can help extend its reach and awareness beyond the St. Louis area, where the publication was founded.

Babcock says anyone interested in writing for GJR is invited to contact him at 618-453-3262, or by email at The deadline for the next print edition is Dec. 5.


Muslim group works to reduce stereotypes in St. Louis media

A Muslim advocacy group is taking steps to curtail stereotypes about the faith among St. Louis area media.

But the group also urged media to do their part and research Islam well before running up against a news deadline.

Faizan Syed speaks during media breakfast in St. Louis

Faizan Syed discuses Muslim stereotypes in media Wednesday in St. Louis.

The St. Louis-based Missouri chapter of the Council on American-Islamic Relations announced it soon will release a media guide containing contact information for Muslims with knowledge of the issues and cultures around St. Louis and who have experience or training to deal with the media.

CAIR-St. Louis’s outreach began in earnest Wednesday during a special breakfast with invited media at Grbic Restaurant and Banquet Center in south St. Louis. CAIR also promises more media meetings like this one.

“The only time the media really try to cover the Muslim community … is when there’s an incident,” then the media leap to conclusions, explained Faizan Syed, the CAIR chapter’s executive director and leader of the breakfast discussion.

“Something happens like the protests in Egypt, then they want to contact the Egyptian Muslim community because (they think) they obviously they have connections with what’s going on in Egypt,” he said. “Or, if something happens in Pakistan, they want to cover the Pakistani community because obviously all of us have a say in how the Pakistani government works. But that’s not the case, and we want to make the experience better.”

Another problem lies in the broad belief that each Muslim can speak for every other Muslim. Syed said the city has large Albanian, Bosnian, Somali and Turkish populations that hew closely to their own cultures, while there are also large Arab, Bangladeshi, Nigerian and Pakistani populations stretching into the suburbs.

Adil Imdad, a Muslim chaplain and funeral director, underscored the importance in understanding these cultures as well as the faith.

“Because the culture of a Pakistani is very different from the culture of a Bosnian versus the culture of an African,” he said. “These are very different people joined by a single faith.”

Syed said estimates of the number of Muslims living around St. Louis range from 80,000 to 100,000, though the precise number is not known. CAIR wants to raise money for a census to answer that question.

Syed said he recalled a news conference where he asked who among the journalists knew the tenets of Islam and was answered with silence.

“This is the fundamental problem, is that you’re covering a religious community without really knowing what the religion stands for,” he said.

Indeed, the Muslim community can do more itself to meet the media’s needs, said Dr. Noor Ahmed, who’s affiliated with the St. Louis chapter of the Association of Physicians of Pakistani Descent of North America.

“I think it’s up to us Muslims to reach out to these people and help them understand us,” he said. “We have failed in that objective.”

But it helps for media to take initiative and recognize stereotypes before advancing them, especially regarding terrorist or extremist acts by Muslims.

Dr. Anjum Hassan, a professor of pathology and immunology at Washington University, explained that “people practice their faith different. People have different understandings of their faith. And that’s why people’s actions are different. … People should judge the action by the action itself and not in the context of Islam.”

Syed underscored this with the media’s persistent use of the word “Islamist” as a blanket descriptor for all Muslims no matter their behavior. He said that using the term without nuance attaches suspicion to people who are not deserving of it.

“Our first recommendation is to get rid of this word altogether,” Syed said. “Rather, if you are covering a story of terrorism or a story of extremism, you should refer to that specific person or group responsible, like ‘al-Qaeda ideology,’ or whatever the group, instead of saying ‘Islamist.’”

Doing this goes a long way toward putting a crisis in context, he continued.

“What happens after an incident is that there is no discussion among the media about what is the political reasoning or underlying factors creating these terrorists and extremists,” Syed said. “If you don’t mention the political reason, the logical assumption Americans make is that it’s the religion” that’s responsible.

Former Missouri politician starts news website, looks to hire a reporter

When the Missouri General Assembly gavels open its session next month, a new media company based in Jefferson City plans to go live right along with it.

Rod Jetton

Rod Jetton

Leading the company is a man who drew attention to himself inside and outside the General Assembly.

The Missouri Times, a free online publication still taking shape, intends to “get real answers on the serious issues of the day” and do it devoid of partisan slant, said Rod Jetton, former Missouri House speaker and president of the Times, in a news release.

Jetton served in the House from 2001 to 2009, the last four as speaker. But blowback from a 2009 assault charge scuttled his legislative career and the campaign consultancy he ran concurrent to his speakership. He says he’s no longer involved in either politics or consulting.

Jetton believes the souring economics of major media, resulting in staff cuts and diminished resources, make it harder for traditional news operations to achieve journalistic objectivity, and that a project such as the Times can accomplish what other media can’t.

“I feel my campaign experience as well as my legislative background has prepared me to know what questions to ask and who to ask them to,” he said.

And he insists the result won’t be tinted red or blue, or lean left or right.

“This publication will be nonpartisan and solely focused on providing objective reporting on the politics and the public policy process,” Jetton said. “Our overriding goal will be to report on all sides of each issue so that our readers have a clear and honest picture of what happened, who made it happen, why it happened and how it will affect them.”

Scott Faughn

Scott Faughn

Joining Jetton to shape the Times’ editorial content is Scott Faughn, a former mayor of Poplar Bluff, Mo., and publisher of the SEMO Times, an alternative weekly in that town. For the record, Faughn also has crossed paths with the law; he was convicted and fined $1,500 in 2007 for forging checks related to a highway construction project in southeastern Missouri.

“I believe there are readers who want more in-depth coverage of state issues,” Faughn said in the same news release. “Our staff of professional journalists will be in the state capitol every day to serve those readers.”

According to marketing material about the Times, the publication will contain advertising, and subscriptions will be offered at $325 annually for a companion print version that’s scheduled for weekly distribution.

Ideally, the Times will launch Jan. 9, the same day as the new legislative session, and have two reporters on staff. Faughn, the publisher, said the Times hopes to fill one of those staff positions before then.

Faughn said in an email that the reporters are expected to have experience with social media as a news-gathering tool, an understanding of video blogging, and knowledge of the content management system WordPress. He asks interested candidates to email him their resumes and at least two examples of their work to Hard copy submissions should go to Post Office Box 416, Poplar Bluff, MO 63901.



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