Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

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.

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.

Ethics and authenticity

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, two sets of keyboards, both connected to microphones, appear before a musician. He sits down and performs three tracks from his album – a performance that is as intimate as it gets, a performance that is powerful and can showcase talent.

His name is Sampha – a singer, songwriter and producer from south London who has come to DC for a Tiny Desk concert, part of the All Songs Considered series, and as it provided some very good background music as I made research calls today, it also made me think.

Although this is a performance, there is a lesson that can be taken from it for journalists – the ability to be authentic, amid the competition of being the first at everything.

In this age where social media has helped organizations disseminate news, information and other content, it has also been a more competitive environment. Who can get to Twitter the quickest with that exclusive or that first bit of new information? Who can I tell first about that story or that performance?

Its a tricky situation, because sometimes in the rush of getting it out there, some errors are made when it comes to information, or you feel because you wanted to be first you couldn’t do justice to the story you wanted to tell, or because that FOI officer with the government in San Diego didn’t respond to your request that an element of the story was missing. When all is said and done, you feel uneasy and concerned, wondering if you did your best work that day.

Allow me to say this: Breathe – it’s okay.

In this social media age, some emphasis has been made on likes for quantity, not quality. (Photo: Pixabay)

The Society’s Code of Ethics calls on journalists to seek truth and report it, that one should be responsible for the accuracy of the work, and that neither speed nor format excuses inaccuracy.

I think however in this social age it has become more than that. It is a reason to be authentic, to go in-depth, to do some uniquely awesome stuff for your audience.

Take these Tiny Desk concerts, for example – these concerts take time and precision. A performance cannot be rushed. A performance is a story, after all – you don’t want it to abruptly finish when clearly the storyteller has more to write or the performer has more to perform of the song.

You could also make the same argument for that interview on Fresh Air or that report you hear on All Things Considered or Morning Edition – stories and interviews that probe and provide context cannot be rushed, and shouldn’t end when there’s more to be seen.

There is room for these in-depth stories, and an appetite for them, whether its a long narrative in the New York Times, on NPR’s web site or in podcast form. Indeed, some of this in-depth stories recently helped NPR to achieve record audience figures.

Yet, in the world of in-depth stories, also exists is the world of deadlines – deadlines which must be met. Even if its a quick story you’re going to do, there still is an opportunity to be authentic. Ask yourself these questions:

  • What are some unanswered questions that come from it?
  • Is there an under-reported part of this story that can be incorporated? If it can’t be done immediately, can it be for a future story?
  • Is this angle just to help with space or time – or can it really help my audience understand the story better?

In this age of journalism, I favor stories that take time to tell – something that can go beyond what is reported daily. If that approach is taken, I know my audience will get something that is not just helping them understand the world around them, but I’m also offering something authentic.

So when you’re thinking about your story, take a step back. Think about the subject and the type of story you want to tell. Give yourself an excuse to go beyond the norm, and to experiment.

Then take the time to do it, channeling not just your role to seek truth and report it per the Ethics Code, but this – it is not only better to be right than be first, but to do something well instead of doing it at all.

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member, is a member of SPJ’s Ethics Committee and a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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.

Querying fact checking

At NPR's headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

At NPR’s headquarters in Washington, its fact-checking transcript generated significant interest from audiences online. (Photo: Stephen Voss/NPR)

Geopolitics has been at the epicenter of the news the past few months, from the news of Britain’s referendum on leaving the European Union with a new Prime Minister, and the diplomatic conversations surrounding the conflict in Syria, to the closely watched campaigns for elections for president of the United States.

As the 8th of November nears, a subject that has been debated is that of fact-checking, and what role it should have in the context of modern political journalism. In the recent debate between Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, NPR had a running transcript with annotations going, the checks being communicated on Twitter, Facebook, and the web site.

When all was said and done, NPR achieved its highest traffic day ever, and the transcript got 7.4 million page views.

Beth Donovan, the supervising senior editor for its Washington Desk, who has worked on previous election output, said the public broadcaster had been trying to perfect engaging audiences when it came to fact-checking.

“Fact checking has long been a priority for NPR,” Donovan said in an interview by email. “Even before this particular race shaped up, we had been trying new things in the fact check lane in hopes of connecting with our audience and helping them engage with political rhetoric through this prism.”

Donovan said audiences had valued a second screen accompaniment to live events, and this fact-checking feature was a way to hone NPR’s engagement strategy. She says similar plans will be in the works for the forthcoming debate this weekend and the final debate later this month.

“There was a transparency to our fact check, people could see us highlighting facts we were about to check (as well as a lot of typos in the first and even second draft of the transcription),” Donovan said. “The audience could see the statement in context, our journalism, and source links. And the page kept moving and changing right on your phone.”

While there was success for NPR in its engagement strategy, it came amid some concerns, before and after the debate was over. The fact-checking annotations commenced amid concerns of trust in the media, according to a study from the Pew Research Center.

In addition, after the debate, concerns had been raised by the ombudsman Elizabeth Jensen, who, in addition to some listeners, said some questions were missed, despite the best efforts of reporters and editors in Washington. Donovan said her team did the best they could under the circumstances, even as concerns of bias were prevalent.

“We just do our best every day to cover the news and to report fairly and accurately,” Donovan said. “Fact checking is no different.”

Yet, Donovan notes, there is difficulty in accomplishing such a task.

“Even in a news room with as much policy depth as NPR’s, live fact checking is hard,” Donovan said. “The biggest challenges are often the littlest things.”

However, Donovan says, there is something that makes it all worthwhile — the drive and collaboration between its journalists.

“It can look easy or obvious the next day, but watching our annotated transcript come to life was inspiring,” Donovan said. “This is a remarkable newsroom. I always feel especially proud to be part of it on debate nights and in breaking news situations.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, is SPJ’s Community Coordinator and is a contributor to the SPJ blog network. 

Outside of SPJ, Veeneman is a Managing Editor and contributing writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

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.

Learning from Chicago’s social runoff

Rahm Emanuel, who won re-election as Chicago mayor after the first runoff in city history. (Photo: danxoneil/Flickr under CC)

Rahm Emanuel, who won re-election as Chicago mayor after the first runoff in city history. (Photo: danxoneil/Flickr under CC)

On April 7, Rahm Emanuel was re-elected as the Mayor of Chicago in the first runoff for the office in the history of the city.

Emanuel, known to many as a Congressman and the former chief of staff to President Barack Obama, defeated Cook County commissioner Jesus “Chuy” Garcia, 56 percent to 44 percent. The runoff came after an election earlier in February where no candidate had reached a majority of votes.

As the runoff campaign took place, Twitter had become a hub for reporting on the campaign, and for Lauren Chooljian, the City Hall reporter for NPR station WBEZ, she wanted it to become a core tool in her telling the story of the campaign.

“Because there was so much interest in the runoff (we hadn’t been there before), I wanted to be as open and transparent as possible,” Chooljian said in a telephone interview, noting she wanted to do snapshots of the campaign, with views also from voters. “As the race was ebbing and flowing (days that some thought Garcia performed better or Emanuel performed better), I did snapshots and longer pieces. I was tweeting much more often too.”

With the large profile this had gotten not just in the city, but also nationally on a political scale, Twitter had become a new way to engage not only those interested, but also attract new audiences. Chooljian had been getting followers from RTs from WBEZ’s Twitter account as well as from other followers.

However, Chooljian says, the traditional on the ground reporting still played a central role.

“Face time still means the most to the Mayor and Garcia,” Chooljian said. “All the tweets in the world can’t do what showing up and doing reporting can do. It can move the stories out further and get people involved.  I have no idea how many people hear my stories, but some of my tweets can go all over the place. Twitter is a way to reach a different segment of our audience.”

Chooljian looked at the human aspect as well of the story, trying to build the longer story of the campaign and the affect on the people of the city, and with Twitter, Chooljian said it made a difference as far as audiences go. She will continue to share her stories as she did with the campaign, and will cover City Hall the same way – trying to find that human interest, as well as information that is necessary to know.

“When it’s a big talking point, I’ll tweet about it,” Chooljian said. “It gets the info out and engages new audiences. That is when Twitter becomes a new tool for us.”

Yet, the bottom line for all journalists, Chooljian says, is trust in your reporting from audiences, whether or not it is on social media.

“If they trust your reporting, they will trust your reporting however you give it to them.”

Alex Veeneman, a Chicago based SPJ member and founder of SPJ Digital, blogs on social media’s role in journalism for Net Worked, and serves as Community Coordinator for SPJ. Veeneman also is Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a writer for Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can interact with Veeneman on Twitter here.

Tamara Keith on social political journalism


Instagram was unveiled as the largest growing social network last year, according to the Pew Research Center.
(Photo: Zenspa1/Flickr under CC license)

It was announced last week that Instagram was the fastest growing social network in 2014. The research from the Pew Research Center indicated that 26 percent of the US adult population was using the Facebook owned social photo and video site, an increase of 9 percent from 2013, while 53 percent of 18-29 year olds use the service.

The same week of that study, as speculation continued as to who would be running in the 2016 presidential election, former Florida governor Jeb Bush launched his PAC, Right to Rise, on Instagram, with Hunter Schwarz of the Washington Post writing that the 2016 election could be the first Instagram election.

The PAC for a campaign for Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who is said to be considering a run for the presidency in 2016, is also on Instagram.

As Instagram continues its user growth, and as reporting continues on the lead up to the election across many media outlets, what are the implications for those who cover politics? Can Instagram be a beneficial social resource for the political beat?

Tamara Keith

NPR’s White House correspondent Tamara Keith. (Photo: Kainaz Amaria/NPR)

Recently, Net Worked spoke to Tamara Keith, NPR’s White House correspondent, about this as well as social media and political journalism. Below is that conversation.

NW: From a social standpoint, what role do you think Instagram has now when it comes to politics? What do you think the decision by Jeb Bush to launch his PAC on Instagram said about the network overall?

TK: The Obama White House uses Instagram quite effectively. They just posted a slick State of the Union “spoiler alert” video and on a daily basis post photos of the president related to the policies they are pushing at the time. That might mean a photo of a beautiful lake and mountain and a caption about climate change. But they have multiple official photographers and a videographer. The White House really uses Instagram as an outlet on its own.

Another politician who uses it effectively is Elise Stefanik (R-NY) who just became the youngest woman elected to congress. She instagrams pictures from her meetings with constituents and other stops in her very large district.

I think it is too soon to judge Jeb Bush’s effectiveness. He doesn’t have very many followers and his videos have a home-made feel, one shot in an airport and sort of back lit, the other shot while walking down the street in NYC.

Bush’s team also posted his videos on Facebook, where he has significantly more followers than on Instagram. So, I’m not convinced they really have an independent Instagram strategy. And truth be told, many users don’t have an independent Instagram strategy. It is fun to use and easy. But it also links directly to Facebook so it’s a sort of two for the price of one outlet (for me and a number of my reporter friends).

How do you think the idea of social media has affected how you think about covering politics and the idea of storytelling?

Social media is frequently just another part of my storytelling. I tweet or Instagram or post a vine as I am working on the story. Sometimes I even edit a short video.

Other times I get ideas or suggestions from people on social media, so it is very much a two way street.

And of course now we have to keep an eye on Facebook and Instagram and even LinkedIn because you never know when a politician is going to go around traditional media and take their news directly to their followers. They usually make sure we get the message, though, because they still need the amplification that comes from traditional media.

For politicians, there’s a multi-part advantage to going around us. 1. They reach their supporters directly and make them feel like there is a more personal connection. 2. We all still report it anyway. 3. While social media is still novel, the politicians get extra attention for the ways they use social media. They get extra stories or coverage from more tech-centered publications and blogs focused on their use of non-traditional media channels.

For politicians it is a win win win. For us in the media, it’s just a sign of the times. We’ve adapted.

Do you think Instagram has traditionally been taken for granted by the media? What would you say the perception was of Instagram within those who cover the White House and politics generally?

I think the perception of Instagram is that it is for fun, fun filters, pretty pictures. For me, I also like the freedom of 15 second videos rather than the 6 seconds of Vine. But I am still not totally convinced it has the power or influence of Twitter or Facebook.

For instance, with the Bush announcement videos, most media outlets used the Facebook version of the videos and said he had made the announcement on Facebook.

As a user of Instagram, from a journalism standpoint, when it comes to political coverage, what differences do you notice in Instagram allowing you to tell a story compared to Facebook and Twitter?

Instagram allows longer captions and longer videos, which is nice. But my audience (and I think most people’s) is smaller on Instagram so I almost never post something only on Instagram.

Last year my colleagues and I did a really fun project called #shevotes where we asked people to post pictures on Instagram about their first political memories, who or what got them engaged in the political process. We got a ton of really neat responses. We also did a call out on Twitter but the photos and captions on Instagram were far more meaningful. This became two blog posts on our It’s All Politics blog.

Generally speaking, how relevant do you think social media will be for those covering politics this year and going into the election? How do you see that applying to Instagram?

It’s hard to overstate how relevant social media will be. It will be part of our reporting process every single day, from candidates making announcements to local reporters posting about what they’re seeing in their communities.

But I’m still not sure about Instagram. The smart candidates will find a way to use it effectively because it is yet another avenue to get to people. And there are people who use Instagram far more regularly than Facebook (because there are too many articles you don’t want to see on Facebook). But the big numbers and influence are on Facebook and Twitter. At least that’s my perception of it based on where most of the political news comes from.

Alex Veeneman is a Chicago based SPJ member who is the acting chairman of SPJ Digital and community coordinator for the SPJ. Veeneman is also Deputy Editor, Media Editor and a contributing writer to Kettle Magazine, an online publication in the UK. You can follow Veeneman on Twitter here.


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