Posts Tagged ‘journalism’

Community engagement in the form of public news meetings

News as we know it is changing, shifting — and hopefully — becoming even more robust. From social media to the Apple Watch, the means by which we receive our news is also constantly changing. One thing that won’t change in the way we gather and receive news is the importance of community engagement.

Without a community of some sort, news can’t exist. There would be no target audience, no local events and most importantly, no input about what is being covered and how by news organizations everywhere.

A recent Q & A done by the International Journalists’ Network about engaging your community via social media got me to think about all the opportunities journalists now have to give and receive feedback digitally with the audiences they serve in their respective communities. But what if tech isn’t the only way to move community news engagement forward?

The Indianapolis Star held its very first public news meeting on Friday at a local coffee shop here in Indy. Here was their intent for the meeting according to their Facebook invite:

“We want to hear what matters to you.

Join the IndyStar news team for Coffee+News as we hold our morning news meeting — in public — at 10 a.m. Friday at Hubbard and Cravens, 4930 N. Pennsylvania St., and join in on the conversation.

Share your story ideas, let us know what matters most to you in our community and meet the people behind the news.

At the very least, have a cup of coffee on us.”

So, I went. I was curious to see the turn out, the vibe, who came, who participated and what staff and attendees had to say.

Overall my initial thoughts had to do with the overcrowded room and the loud coffee shop, but the overcrowded problem is a good problem to have when a news organization seeks community engagement and opinion. More is more. The loud coffee shop problem is just the result of underestimating the number of attendees who were going to show up and only reserving a small room in a rather busy establishment.

Regardless of the logistics, the meeting was interesting. It began with the Indy Star staff being introduced (the staff filling up a lot of the room space making the ratio 2 staff members to every 1 community attendee) and going through what they had planned for the day and the weekend’s news budget. Other than a story about a stage collapsing at a local high school, most of the topics at that point in their news process were filler content, but talking through their thought processes about how they decided what stories to cover, when and how was informative. Kind of a yawner, though. At least for people who are educated in or at least have a small idea of how a newsroom makes content decisions. But, in the spirit of transparency, I guess it was needed.

Then came the comments. The floor was opened up for “audience members” to contribute thoughts, suggestions and ideas for the staff to take into consideration. None of the input really had to do with the weekend’s news coverage. Instead, there was a little bit of agenda pushing about past coverage and future coverage — mainly concerning political issues. Yes, there were a few constructive suggestions about covering more entertainment and sports topics, but not a lot that were of value.

What was of value was the newsroom getting outside of the newsroom. The staff being able to engage with the community face-to-face was invaluable. The community, in this specific room, ranged from early 20 year-olds to late 70 year-olds all with various reasons for attending, from concerned citizen to political candidate pushing.

I talked with Jeff Taylor, the Star’s executive editor and vice president, after the meeting and asked him why they wanted to hold this meeting, something that isn’t done by a lot of news organizations, to which he replied, “Why not give people a chance to see us, be transparent, see how we conduct our news meetings, see what our thought process is and give people a chance to weigh in and ask questions?”

He said the end goals of the meeting for them were:

1. To make themselves visible and accessible to the public

2. To get story ideas and input

3. To give people a chance to tell them what they think about how they do their jobs

Did the Indy Star get some story ideas from the meeting? Possibly. Did those in attendance get a platform to vent frustrations they had with the news organization and praise what they perceived as triumphs? Yes. But, the real benefit at this event was the opportunity it presented — personal community engagement and access.

I think it is worth it for the Indy Star, and other news organizations for that matter, to try it again. Maybe change the location, maybe make it more of an open forum for a conversation rather than an actual news budget meeting, but one thing I wouldn’t change is the opportunity for the personal involvement it gave the public.

Social media is great. I am obsessed, professionally and personally. But, call me old-fashioned, it will never be a substitute for the value that comes when news organizations have face-to-face discussions with who they are serving on a daily basis.

“This really helps make us better journalists and makes us think how people perceive what we do, how people perceive what we write,” Taylor said.

Taylor Carlier Headshot

Taylor Carlier | Photo credit: Matt Thomas

Taylor Carlier is the communications coordinator at the Society of Professional Journalists. She is a 2014 Purdue University graduate of Mass Communication: Journalism and previously was the special projects editor at The Exponent. She can be reached at or on Twitter at @Taylorcarlier.

Notes on the news, Twitter and public hunger for accuracy

There was a lot of bad.

The bombings — tragic.
A city gripped by fearful uncertainty — terrible.
News media spewing inaccurate information — beyond disappointing.

Much has already been said about the journalism mistakes: the impact on the industry, the misuse of social media and what to consider the next time big news breaks.

Among those valuable takeaways, it’s important to highlight news consumers’ reactions to media blunders.

More than ever, they’re not having it.

That’s my unscientific observation. In my year with SPJ, I’ve monitored the social media reactions to the SCOTUS ruling on the Affordable Care Act, the theater shooting in Aurora, Colo., damage caused by superstorm Sandy, the Newtown, Conn., school shooting and now the Boston Marathon bombings and the manhunt that followed. (There was the U.S. Presidential election, but that went smoothly. Did I miss anything? Probably.)

As big breaking-news events occurred, news consumers became increasingly intolerant of inaccurate reporting. Via Twitter, Facebook and Reddit, they ask for verification and urge news deliverers to exercise patience and ethical judgements.

Setting aside the inaccuracies churned out on those same platforms, it’s wonderful to see a hunger for quality journalism. Plenty of journalists got it right, but the ones that didn’t must take note of their audiences’ reactions. People want — they demand — informative, accurate reports.

Give the people what they want.


FYI, the SPJ Code of Ethics is a great reference »

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter,@cdigang.

Applying for a journalism or communications position? (Don’t) do this.

Here at SPJ HQ, we have been sifting through scores of internship applications for our two summer positions and the yearlong communications internship.

Based on what we received, we compiled advice for job-seekers. Here are some application dos and don’ts, based on this year’s applicant pool. (Kudos to those of you whose materials included the dos.)

When applying for journalism or communications positions:

  • DO include a cover letter. DON’T misspell the name of the person you’re addressing. Also, DON’T mistype the name of the organization you want to work for.
  • DO read and follow all directions. DON’T forget to send all required materials.
  • DO include links to your website, relevant online profiles and anything that helps an employer learn more about you. DO include your twitter handle alongside your name, email address and phone number. In this industry, it’s just as relevant as the standard contact information.
  • DON’T mess up your own contact information.
  • DO carefully choose relevant writing samples. DON’T send a college term paper as a writing sample. If you don’t have clips, consider starting a blog about topics related to the position.
  • DON’T apply for a position that you are not interested in. DO clearly articulate your interest in the position by citing related experiences.
  • DO tailor your résumé and cover letter to the job you seek.
  • DO research your potential employer. DON’T repeatedly tweet at him or her.
  • DO find the “about” tab on the organization’s website.
  • DO whatever you must to send a legible application. You may look at your application and think, “That’s great penmanship!” but next to typed applications, it looks sloppy.
  • DO structure your letter like a letter. DON’T send a one-paragraph essay for the one-page essay portion of the application. DON’T send a three-page essay for the same requirement.
  • DO follow up. Once.

There is plenty of job-application and résumé advice out there, so take advantage of it. This is a small list of tips based on the more than 100 applications that have come across our desks so far.

Here’s a final thought for you from Tara Puckey, SPJ’s chapter coordinator who is also processing internship applications.

“This is a large stack. If you want me to notice you, you have to do something different.”

No matter what job you want, keep that advice in mind.


Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Chat tonight: Manti Te’o and journalism’s history with hoaxes

Failure. Disappointing. Sloppy. People had a lot to say about the role of journalism in the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax, and much of the commentary assailed the media.

The criticism has merit, but in the weeks since the scandal unfolded, the more bizarre and complex the details have become. The media cannot be wholly blamed for or excused from the mishap, and all that mess is meaningful to journalism and its mission to report the truth.

Instead of compiling an expert-laden media analysis, SPJ wants to talk to you about it. An issue of this magnitude deserves wide discussion, which is why SPJ will participate in tonight’s #muckedup chat about the media’s tangled history with hoaxes.

Join us tonight at 8 EST for the chat hosted by Adam Popescu (@adampopescu) for Muck Rack. The more SPJ members we can include in this conversation, the better — the topic means a lot to the growth of journalism.

Follow the #muckedup hashtag to participate, and we (@spj_tweets) will see you there.


Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Messy SCOTUS coverage is damaging for media

Today, I am disappointed in journalism.

Not everyone botched the announcement of the Supreme Court’s Affordable Care Act ruling, but plenty of trusted media outlets did a disservice to their audiences by prioritizing speed instead of accuracy.

Like half a million others, I turned to SCOTUSblog at 10 a.m. today, toggling between that and my Twitter feed. At 10:08, the explosion began: The Associated Press said the Supreme Court upheld the Affordable Care Act. CNN said it was ruled unconstitutional. The Daily Beast said it was struck down at 10:08 but retweeted The AP at 10:09. Confused, I went back to SCOTUSblog to read their measured reports.

twitter feed

My Twitter feed in the seconds following the ruling announcement.

From the SPJ Code of Ethics: “Journalists should test the accuracy of information from all sources and exercise care to avoid inadvertent error.”

Many of the erroneous tweets and headlines have disappeared from their primary sources, though those blunders live on, thanks to screen shots and the copy-paste function. But the confusion was costly from a future credibility standpoint. The networks and publications that got it right should take note of the ridicule and criticism raining down on their Twitter-happy peers.

Most of my frustration came from seeing the incorrect reports retweeted. As the minutes after the announcement passed, I continued to read posts of misguided happiness and anger, all because a friend of a follower of a follower of a news organization perpetuated the seemingly reliable information.

(Jeff Sonderman of Poynter has a good roundup of and reaction to the inaccurate reports/tweets.)

The social media response to the blunders proves that people would rather get correct information as it becomes available, rather than quickly receive an imperfect report. The point of engaging with a news outlet is to stay informed.

I don’t want to have to congratulate the journalists who waited to verify the ruling to publish the result. They just did their jobs correctly, which I expect of them. I am disappointed that this expectation was not met by others.

The winner in this brawl to break news is SCOTUSblog — it’s a non-traditional outlet started by law professionals, and they presented reliable coverage of the complicated ruling. By 10:22, they had 866,000 people tracking their live blog.

But for the millions who referenced Twitter, breaking news alerts, live TV and 24-hour-news-cycle websites, the day was one of defeat. Regardless of one’s opinion on the legislation, news consumers were exposed to a slew of unreliable reports before being corrected.

I hope health care isn’t the only industry that sees reform after today’s ruling.

Christine DiGangi is the communications coordinator at SPJ headquarters. She graduated from DePauw University and has worked in journalism and communications. Connect with Christine through email,, or Twitter, @cdigang.

Big hashtags for journalists

Twitter is an exciting place for new and seasoned journalism professionals to come together and share ideas and opportunities. One key to optimizing your Twitter experience is to take advantage of its hashtag resource, which links related topics together with a simple # at the beginning of a word, acronym or phrase.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve researched some of the most frequently used journalism-related hashtags and their benefits. For new tweeters out there, or those still thinking about using Twitter, I hope you’ll take advantage of these hashtags for journalists and all those interested in such topics.

Leave a comment below and tell us what journalism-related hashtags you like to use. Of course, the below list isn’t exhaustive. Thanks in advance for your input.

Most Common:
#journalism – Obviously one of the most encompassing journalism-related tags, it is the most used and is great for mixed industry-related posts. While similar, each of its three following variations often differs in content.
#journo – One of the four most encompassing related tags for journalism trends, it is great for mixed industry related content.
#journos – See above.
#journ – See above.
#news – A wide array of real-time, streaming news content as well as trends.

AP Style:
#apstyle – For talking about thoughts and trends related to the Associated Press Stylebook.
#apstylechat – Monthly chat devoted to various issues of the Associated Press Stylebook.

Professional Development:
#journchat – Weekly chat (Mondays, 8 p.m ET) between journalists, bloggers and PR pros.
#wjchat – Weekly chat (Wednesdays, 8 p.m. ET) for Web journalists discussing all things journalism, technology, ethics, content and the business of journalism on the Web.
#pubmedia – Weekly chat (Mondays, 8 p.m. ET) for public service media practitioners and supporters. Also for general topics in public media outside of weekly chat.
#spjchat – Weekly chat (Thursdays, 8 p.m. ET) sponsored by SPJ DePaul University chapter and national Digital Media Committee. Features specific topics and trends in the profession. Founded by Mike Reilley.
#HARO – Help a Reporter Out is for journalists seeking sources for a wide range of specific topics.
#journorequest – Similar to HARO and mostly used by UK journalists seeking sources for a wide range of specific topics.
#ddj – Geared towards data driven journalism topics, trends and tips. [Added:1/20/11]
#datajournalism – Focused on methods and advice for finding data. [Added:1/20/11]
Editing and Jobs:
#copyeditor – Includes thoughts, tips and frequent copyediting jobs that come available. [Added:1/20/11]
#copyeditors – Mostly thoughts and trends, the one character difference provides diverse content from the above hashtag. [Added:1/21/11]
#copywriter – Great for thoughts, advice, jobs and trends on copywriting.
#journalism #jobs – Resourceful combo for finding journalism and media jobs.
For Fun:
#jpeeve – Where journos and others vent their journalism pet peeves about style, grammar, clichés, newsroom issues other news topics.
#partylikeajournalist – Often humorous, sarcastic, celebratory thoughts from journalists in action.
#followjourn – recommended journalists to follow on Twitter by [Added:1/21/11]
Open Government and Freedom of Information:
#FOIA – Current news and trends concerning the Freedom of Information Act and public records on the local, state and federal levels.
#FOIAchat – Weekly chat (Fridays, 2-3 p.m. ET) focused on issues in freedom of information and public records.
#opengov – Covers news, trends and strategies for developing better open government and public records access.
#ogov – Covers news, trends and strategies for developing better open government and public records access. Content often varies from #opengov content.
#opendata – Another source for information and trends involving open government and public records.
#edem – Open government trends and news related to electronic democracy. [Added:1/20/11]
#pressfreedom – Covers trends, struggles and those fighting for unabridged free speech and press freedoms. [Added:1/28/11]

Digital Journalism:
#jtech – Designed for topics involving journalism and technology.
#digitaljournalism – Content related to the digital application of news.
#hyperlocal – Refers to stories and events that are located within a well defined, community scale area.
#ireport – Derived from CNN’s public journalism initiative that allows people from around the globe to contribute pictures and video of breaking news stories from their own towns and neighborhood.
#crowdsource – Trends on leveraging the mass collaboration enabled by Web 2.0 technologies to achieve business goals.
#photojournalism – Latest trends on news photography content.
#photojournalist – Often showcases trending photojournalists and their work.
#tog – Trends, thoughts and other news pertaining to photographers. [Added:1/28/11]
#togs  – The once character addition creates similar but diverse content. [Added:1/28/11]

#ascj – Content related to the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at USC.
#cojosm – Content for online journalism, social media and other trends from the BBC College of Journalism social media trainers. [Added:1/20/11]
#cronk – Trends and news related to ASU’s Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication, for coverage of public policy issues affecting Arizonans. [Added:1/28/11]

Here are some other Twitter resources for journalists
What the Hashtag – Helps to distill chatter and analyze real-time metrics for hashtags.

@Tagalus – A dictionary-type resource for hashtags and their meanings.

Media On Twitter – A database of over 2,000 media and journalism professionals on Twitter.

40 Writing Hashtags for Twitter – A collection of hashtags for writers, editors and publishers.

Andrew M. Scott (@PRMillennial) is the communications coordinator for SPJ Headquarters. He is a graduate of the University of Mississippi and an SPJ member since 2008. Additional insights for this piece were contributed by social media trainer and freelance journalist Jeff Cutler (@JeffCutler), SPJ Director of Communications Quill editor Scott Leadingham (@scottleadingham), and Regional Editor and past SPJ Region 7 Director Holly Edgell (@HollyEdgell).

In search of storytellers (or what’s the point of storytelling, anyway?)

Posted by Scott Leadingham

What’s the point of storytelling? Specifically, in journalism, what are we trying to accomplish by “telling stories”?

At SPJ we often get e-mails and calls from aspiring journalists – students or otherwise – who want advice on becoming a full professional. There’s usually a theme in these conversations, something like: “I want to be a journalist because I love telling stories.”

Same thing goes when talking to journalists at conferences or in meetings or profiling them for Quill magazine. It’s a variation on a theme: “I got into journalism to tell stories about people and their communities, to have an impact on people’s lives.”

An NPR piece this week made me think about this with renewed fervor. Media correspondent David Folkenflik visited USC’s Annenberg School and asked: “What’s the point of journalism school, anyway?”

Upon hearing the report, I asked myself: “What’s the point of storytelling, anyway?” Why do many journalists hold it in such high regard? (Or, more cynically, why do so many journalists and outlets claim to value it when in reality so much journalism is stenography and infotainment?)

In thinking of Folkenflik’s piece, are the skills purported to be taught in journalism school – ethical responsibility, sound news judgment, mechanics for writing and production – the same as the art of storytelling? Does one really need to go to journalism school to learn storytelling the same way one learns, say, how to access public records?

All rhetorical questions, for sure.

For Quill, this blog, the SPJ website, heck, my own personal amusement, I’m looking to collect your thoughts on what it means to be a storyteller in journalism. Who does it well? What journalists, outlets or initiatives encapsulate what it means to be a “storyteller”?

Of course, there are many from which to choose. A short list in my mind includes “This American Life”/Ira Glass; “The Story”/Dick Gordon; Tom Hallman of The Oregonian; Amy Ellis Nutt of The Star-Ledger; Melissa Lyttle of The St. Petersburg Times; Boyd Huppert/Jonathan Malat of KARE-TV; and Rosette Royale of Real Change. Who do you suggest?

Leave a comment or drop me an e-mail. Heck, tell me a story while you’re at it.

Scott Leadingham is editor of SPJ’s Quill magazine. Twitter: @scottleadingham.

Why journalism should and should not copy bicycling culture

Posted by Scott Leadingham

Hang on for a moment while I invoke two strange bedfellows – comedian Bill Hicks, who built his routine on smoking, and bicyclists – in writing about what journalists should do better.

Bill Hicks, who died in 1994 of pancreatic cancer, was nothing if not passionate. His rants and stage presence are famous among stand-up comedians. He’s particularly well-known for his stance on smoking, or, more accurately, on why non-smokers made him so angry. In one bit he polls the audience and asks who smokes and who doesn’t. When the non-smokers voice their presence in laudatory, enthusiastic tones, he calls them a bunch of “self-righteous slugs.” (Warning: his language is rather “colorful.” Don’t watch if you object to such language.)


“I’d quit smoking if I didn’t think I’d become one of you,” he says in the bit.

That line reminds me of my interest in biking (the kind with carb-loading and spandex, not chaps and Sturgis).

I’d become a hardcore bicyclist if it weren’t for hardcore bicyclists. In fact, I remarked to a friend recently that “the worst part about biking culture is biking culture.”

Forgive the gross generalization, but it’s been my experience that bicycling breeds an upper-crust crowd comparable to the snottiest fox-hunting, caviar-eating, polo-playing societal elitists out there. Go into any bicycle shop (not big box retailer) and ask about the lubrication benefits of using WD-40 on your chain.

“Eh. That’s a cleaner, not a lubricant. Don’t EVER use it to lube a chain!” is a likely response. “Here’s our selection of specialized lubricants – $10 per three oz. bottle.”

This notion of superiority, the kind coming from people on bikes that cost more than my car, keeps me away from becoming fully immersed and involved in biking culture.

Transfer that to journalism.

It’s not a new sentiment to say there’s a certain amount of arrogance in the profession. One doesn’t lead to the other, of course, but perhaps it’s more apparent in an industry that sees its practitioners’ names, faces and voices constantly before the public. As Linda Thomas aptly noted in a recent Quill piece on journalists to follow: “ … having the title of journalist doesn’t make you more interesting or important than anyone else.”

If there’s a lesson to be learned in this era of “citizen journalism” and CNN iReports, it’s that acts of journalism can come from any source and any moment. And now comes the obligatory invocation of informative video and messages disseminating from Iran in 2009 from “ordinary people” and not journalists. As my boss often says: Great journalism happens everywhere. I’ll add my own addendum: And by those who didn’t mean for it to happen.

So that’s what journalists should avoid in the bicycling culture – the notion that anyone is better for any reason, primarily based on the quality and price tag attached to one’s equipment and training.


Call it a “God smack” or cruel irony or karma or whatever, but I recently found myself needing help from the very people I’d previously scorned: hardcore bikers.

Two days after remarking that the biking culture was the worst part of biking, I committed the cardinal sin of long-distance riding: no spare inner tube in case of a flat. Six miles from home, and no nearby bike shop open at the time, I began the long walk of shame down the bicycle friendly paved trail through Indianapolis. Nearly every biker I’d deem “hardcore” stopped to help or inquired of my situation. These were the type wearing team riding jerseys and specialty bike shoes more expensive than my monthly rent. One guy, who it turned out worked at the kind of bike store I avoid, offered to change my tire on the spot with his spare tube.

I denied all help, however, reasoning that I needed to learn my lesson, even if that meant walking well into the darkness of a muggy summer night. It occurred to me later that no “casual” biker – of which I saw at least 30 – offered assistance or even moral support. Nothing so much as an “are you okay, dude?” from the people in cotton t-shirts riding mountain bikes.

Perhaps that’s because they, like me, had no spare parts to offer. They, like me, weren’t prepared (another cardinal sin broken, this time from my Eagle Scout training).

Whatever the reason, I knew immediately that the “hardcore bikers” that I so passionately didn’t want to become were exactly the right model for journalists.

It’s that kind of willing-to-help attitude that more experienced journalists (the type winning Pulitzers and Sigma Delta Chi Awards) need to selflessly pass on to a new generation of reporters. Instead of getting locked into the box of “how can I turn this award-winning project into a best-selling book” (not that there’s anything wrong with that) perhaps the first thought should be “how can a younger journalist benefit from my experience?” The book deals and fellowships will fall into place. Heck, some news outlets are still lucky enough to have staff coordinate such opportunities for their high-profile journalists.

But the mentoring opportunities, such as SPJ’s program, for some strange reason aren’t as sought after as a Pulitzer or Peabody nomination. It’s not because there’s no one out there seeking help. Just take a look down the hall from your office. There’s a young reporter out there, perhaps limping along, waiting for you to put air in his tires. Stop and help. Don’t just blow smoke in his face as you walk (or ride) by.

Scott Leadingham is editor of SPJ’s Quill magazine. He quit smoking on December 31, 2009 and to his knowledge has not become one of “those” non-smokers. Twitter: @scottleadingham.


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