Posts Tagged ‘St. Louis’


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 Patch.com 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.

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 gatewayjr@siu.edu. The deadline for the next print edition is Dec. 5.

 

Riverfront Times seeks news blogger

Riverfront Times logoWho says bloggers can’t be journalists?

At the Riverfront Times in St. Louis, a blogger helped keep the 36-year-old weekly newspaper on the public’s mind with his witty and sometimes irreverent Web writing about such topics as Confederate flag T-shirts, email-happy state senators, and the tribulations of a well-endowed bikini wearer at one Missouri water park.

Recently, said blogger, Sam Levin, bolted westward to the Golden State, leaving the 75,000-circulation RFT in desperate need of a reporter/writer at least as witty and prolific (six posts daily, about 30 weekly). No less than the RFT’s editor acknowledges this in his own blog post on the subject.

Chad Garrison, RFT editor

Chad Garrison, RFT editor

“The ideal candidate will be a strong writer whose work doesn’t require advance copy editing and someone with a Mark Zuckerberg-like understanding of social media as both a news gathering and promotional tool,” wrote Chad Garrison.

But above that in the same post, Garrison stressed, “We are looking for a candidate who is first and foremost a reporter ― someone who loves breaking news and picking up the phone to interview the folks involved. (In other words, someone who does more than just aggregate other people’s work.)”

So, if you think Garrison has you pegged, then send him a résumé and samples of your work to his email with the phrase “news blogger” in the subject line. Of course, it would be wise to first look over examples of Levin’s work to see the kind of writing style Garrison wants.

And, yes, a competitive salary, health insurance and 401k are included in the deal.

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.

St. Louis Media History Foundation awards first Pollack scholarship

Tabitha Williams, courtesy of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch

A St. Louis University student is the first recipient of the Joe Pollack Scholarship established by the St. Louis Media History Foundation.

Tabitha Williams, a 2012 graduate of Mehlville High, studies occupational therapy. The $4,000 award she will receive honors the former St. Louis Post-Dispatch writer, critic, labor advocate and local radio commentator who died in 2012.

Pollack was also a lifetime member of SPJ’s St. Louis Pro chapter.

Despite its focus on preserving local media history, and Pollack’s media prominence, the Foundation elected not to restrict the scholarship to just media students.

“Joe wouldn’t have wanted it that way,” said Dave Garino, Foundation president, speaking at the time the scholarship was established. “He was for every student getting an equal chance.”

Conference site extends deadline on discounts

SPJ in STL 2013The special hotel rate reserved for attendees of the Region 5&7 conference next month in St. Louis has been extended by one week.

Management at the Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch agreed this week to extend the conference rate after seeing a spike in registrations through March. The conference is scheduled for April 26-28 at the hotel.

Besides several programs, there will be Mark of Excellence awards handed out during dual luncheons at the conference.

But the hotel says just a few rooms remain in the block reserved for conference attendees, so anyone interested in an overnight stay needs to book reservations right away.

A happy-hour mixer with free drinks for hotel patrons is Friday, April 26, and a meeting of region leaders is slated for Sunday, April 28, starting at 9 a.m. The conference events take place from 9 a.m. through 5 p.m. that Saturday.

Drury management also urges those attendees who drive to the conference to arrive early for parking, as the baseball Cardinals will host the Pittsburgh Pirates a couple blocks away on Saturday and the hotel shares parking space with Busch Stadium.

More big names sign up to speak at dual regional

The lineup for April’s dual regional conference is growing. Drone journalism, hyperlocal news gathering and computer-assisted reporting are all on the agenda, as well as a session on how to be your own best editor.

SPJ in STL 2013And there’s more in store, but if you want to see any of it, sign up soon, so you can get the early bird registration rate and special hotel room discount.

Among the distinguished speakers:

Bill Allen, assistant professor of science journalism at the University of Missouri, who will explain the potential and peril of using civilian drones to gather news and information.

Holly Edgell, a former regional editor for Patch.com, who explains why it’s way too early to write an obituary for hyperlocal journalism.

Mark Horvit, executive director of Investigative Reporters and Editors, who will show time-challenged reporters how to do quick-and-dirty enterprise stories using data records.

This year’s conference is a joint production by Regions 5 and 7, covering a broad swath of the nation from Nebraska to Kentucky. There will be two banquets, one each for the regions to hand out their Mark of Excellence awards. There will be free breakfasts, courtesy of the host Drury Plaza Hotel, for conference attendees.

And there will be plenty of activity in downtown St. Louis away from the hotel, in the shadow of the Gateway Arch.

So, visit www.spjinstl2013.com now to land a great deal on a great date with top journalists and educators. You’re bound to have fun, and you’re certain to learn something.

Joint regional conference to be held near the Gateway Arch

When Region 7 and Region 5 have their joint spring conference in St. Louis next April, the event will take place in the shadow of the Gateway Arch.

The Drury Plaza Hotel at the Arch has graciously agreed to host the conference on the weekend of April 26-28, setting aside a large block of rooms reserved for conference attendees and preparing two luncheon banquets for each region’s Mark of Excellence awards. The tentative conference schedule includes an informal welcome gathering on Friday, sessions on Saturday, and a regional strategy meeting Sunday morning.

The location not only has fine amenities and fabulous views, but also is close to downtown historic sites, sports venues, shopping, and nightlife.

This is the first time St. Louis has hosted a regional conference in three years. At the suggestion of Region 5 leadership, the Gateway City’s proximity to south central Indiana and western Kentucky also proved an optimum location for that region’s burgeoning membership in those areas.

Details about the conference sessions are pending, but anyone interested in making individual or group reservations now can do so at this link at a reduced rate for SPJ attendees. This special rate and availability are guaranteed up to March 26.

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Region 7 to have a voice at ACES national convention in St. Louis

If you haven’t heard, Region 7 will host the next national conference of the American Copy Editors Society, April 4-6 at the Hilton at the Ballpark in downtown St. Louis.

American Copy Editors SocietyBesides that though, yours truly will help carry the flag for Region 7 when I give a presentation on copy editing for freelance journalists at the convention. Though I’m not sure yet what I’ll say on the subject at this point, expect the presentation to elaborate on themes I wrote about for the new SPJ digital freelancing guide.

Members of the ACES executive committee were in St. Louis recently to scope out the convention venue, as well as host a daylong copy editing “boot camp” at the DoubleTree hotel in Westport. There, ACES president Teresa Schmedding and I discussed the need for a session on freelancer copy editing at the conference. (Full disclosure: I am a longtime member of ACES.)

Other details of the ACES program schedule are coming together, but anyone interested in attending can find out about hotel reservation information now at the conference website.

Key among the projected events is a plagiarism summit that includes SPJ and several professional and educational groups. The summit was inspired by ACES and spurred by a Poynter blog post about the raft of ethical issues confronting journalism this summer.

ACES planned to hold its 2013 convention elsewhere and the 2014 gathering in St. Louis, but moved up the Gateway City on the agenda when logistical problems at the original location arose. The society has about 800 members spread among a handful of chapters, including a college affiliate at the University of Missouri.

This past April, just over 350 members attended ACES national convention in New Orleans — at the same venue SPJ teamed with the Radio Television Digital News Association for Excellence in Journalism 2011.

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