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Posts Tagged ‘Omaha World-Herald’

Omaha World-Herald front page, Jan. 23, 1973Two big stories happened 41 years ago today. One would affect the nation’s politics for decades to come. But it didn’t lead the front page of the next day’s Omaha World-Herald (or very many morning newspapers, I suspect).

Note the Roe vs. Wade story squeezed under a two-column headline off to the left, getting a tiny fraction of the space devoted to the death of former President Lyndon B. Johnson.

I’d be interested to know how many morning newspapers made a similar call that day. The story by Eileen Wirth (now chair of the Creighton University Journalism Department) says the initial reaction in Nebraska was a promise to keep their abortion laws as strict as the Supreme Court ruling allowed. (I’ll send Eileen a link to the story and invite her to add any memories of that story and that paper.)

Update: See Eileen’s response toward the end of this post.

But I doubt any of her sources or the editors who downplayed the story had any notion that we’d still be fighting about Roe vs. Wade in our fifth decade after that ruling.

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Parween Arghandaywal pronounces words during English class at the University of Nebraska Omaha for visiting Afghan teachers in 2002.  (Omaha World-Herald Photo by Bill Batson, used by permission)

Parween Arghandaywal pronounces words during English class at the University of Nebraska Omaha for visiting Afghan teachers in 2002. (Omaha World-Herald Photo by Bill Batson, used by permission)

This continues my series on updated lessons from old stories.

One of the most profound privileges of my career was to spend most of five weeks in late 2002 with 13 Afghan women teachers.

After 9/11, much of my reporting at the Omaha World-Herald focused on the work of the Center for Afghanistan Studies at the University of Nebraska Omaha. It was the nation’s only academic center studying Afghanistan, so we suddenly found ourselves with some of the nation’s and the world’s leading experts on the distant country that suddenly mattered more to America than any other.

I proposed several times that my editors send me to Afghanistan to cover various UNO projects abroad in Afghanistan and Pakistan. That would have been expensive and it would have been difficult, but we absolutely should have done it. My editors’ failure/refusal to make that happen remains one of the deepest disappointments of my career. I connected by satellite phone and email with UNO officials when they were in Afghanistan on projects we should have been covering. I used similar means to reach Afghan officials, U.S. officials and leaders of other aid organizations in Afghanistan who were working with UNO. I did my best but it was all second-hand reporting, grossly inadequate.

My best shot at first-hand reporting came when UNO won a State Department grant to bring 13 Afghan women teachers to Nebraska for five weeks to teach them American culture and educational techniques. After years of Taliban bans on schooling for girls, these committed and courageous teachers were back on the job and UNO was going to help them be better teachers and teach their colleagues back home to be better teachers.

Finally, I would get to witness UNO working directly with Afghans. I sought and was granted full access to the visit, invited to virtually embed myself at times in the Afghan teaching project almost as if I were covering a U.S. combat unit over in Afghanistan. I traveled with them around the Midwest. I visited in the homes of host families where they lived. I followed them to classes in UNO and around Omaha schools.

Seldom have I been as touched and moved by the people I covered as I was by these Afghan women. Their courage, joy, perseverance and optimism amazed me day after day after day. I could see that these women had been changing the lives of Afghan girls and women for years (before and after the Taliban, Afghan schools were segregated by gender, so the women taught only girls and other women) and would do so again. (more…)

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This was a handout I developed in 2006 for a series of ethics seminars for the American Press Institute. It appeared online originally at No Train, No Gain, but has not been available online for the last couple of years. I am republishing it without updating to accompany a new blog post of the issue of advance review of news stories by sources

Some ethical issues in journalism are black-and-white: Every newspaper agrees that you don’t fabricate and you don’t plagiarize. Do either and your career may be over. Advance review of copy is an area of wide disagreement. For some editors, it would be a firing offense for a reporter to show a story to a source prior to publication. Other editors want their reporters to show stories to sources before publication, at least in some circumstances. Some prominent reporters make it a regular practice. We’re not going to resolve that issue here. That’s for your editors and you to decide. We will examine arguments on both sides of the issue and things to consider if you do show stories to sources, either as a routine or in special cases.

Why you shouldn’t show

For many years, journalists had pretty strong agreement on this subject: You didn’t show stories to sources before publication. Many journalists, probably a majority, still feel this way in most, if not all, cases. These journalists cite multiple reasons not to disclose the contents of stories in advance of publication: (more…)

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I loved my job as editor of the Minot Daily News. I reported to work 20 years ago today thinking I was at the pinnacle of my career and would stay there for many years to come.

North Dakota seemed like the right place for me, even with sub-zero wind chills much of the winter and huge mosquitoes through the summer.

Mimi was a popular columnist and had a thriving freelance writing business. Our sons were doing well in school. We had a nice home on a hill with a lovely view of the city in the valley below. We had fallen in love with Teddy Roosevelt National Park, just a couple hours’ drive away.

My staff was performing good journalism. We were doing watchdog reporting for our community. We were providing a strong editorial voice. We were learning and improving together as journalists.

Other newspapers in North Dakota were noticing the rise of the smallest of the state’s “big four” newspapers (yes, “big” is relative; in most states all of those papers would be mid-sized or small). I had been elected president of the North Dakota Associated Press Managing Editors my first year in the state. My staff won more awards at the North Dakota Newspaper Association’s summer conference than anyone could remember us winning.

After tumultuous experiences when afternoon newspapers had died in Des Moines and Kansas City and I questioned decisions by top leaders, I wanted to run a newsroom myself. I had ideas about executive leadership that I wanted to try and they seemed to be working. We had smoothly managed a change earlier in the year from afternoon to morning production. I was enjoying the momentum I felt my career had.

Then I got fired. Twenty years ago today.

I never got a good explanation for the firing, and probably wouldn’t have believed it if I did. In retrospect, I can see clearly that the owners were planning to sell the paper. It was jointly owned by the Buckner News Alliance and Donrey Media, and that partnership was probably never a good idea. Unloading big salaries was part of a plan to make the newspaper more attractive financially to a buyer. In less than a year, the publisher fired the editor, advertising manager, business manager and production manager, replacing us, if at all, with people who clearly made less money. Then the owners sold the paper to Ogden Newspapers, which still owns it.
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I was surprised to see this week that the Des Moines Register building, my workplace for nearly a decade, may soon be demolished.

I shouldn’t have been surprised. As I’ve noted before, nearly every organization I’ve worked for has been sold or closed or both. Two of my former workplaces have already been leveled.

I spent more than a decade (in two hitches) at the Omaha World-Herald and a year or so after I left, they moved across the street and demolished the building where I worked. The photo below is me sitting in the park that now occupies my former workplace.

While I have many fond memories of working at the World-Herald, they center more on the people than the building. A couple memories of the place: (more…)

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A quick roundup of pieces I don’t have time to break down in detail:

Journalism and education

Ken Doctor

In The newsonomics of  News U, Ken Doctor suggests that news organizations can expand their community news and information role and play a formal role in education in the community:

As the tablet makes mincemeat of the historic differences among newspapers, magazines, TV, and radio, we see another bright line ready to dim: that seeming line between what a news organization and what a college each do.

I’m not going to try to summarize Ken’s piece, but I encourage you to read it. I will respond to one of Ken’s suggestions for the news business: (more…)

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Note displayed at APILike a drawing on the Etch-a-Sketch that is so popular in politics now, my journalism past has pretty much been shaken clean. Almost everywhere I worked has been shut down or sold:

  • Columbus (Ohio) Citizen-Journal. Newspaper carrier, 1968-70. Citizen-Journal died in 1985.
  • Shenandoah (Iowa) Evening Sentinel. Sports reporter, 1971-72; intern 1975; reporter, editorial page editor, managing editor, 1976-77. The Tinley family sold the Sentinel to Park Newspapers in the 1980s and the Sentinel died in 1993. (more…)

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Iowa Caucus Game

Iowa Caucus Game, 1983

I’ve had a lot of fun covering the Iowa caucuses. It feels odd to be mostly sitting this one out.

Last week I noted that I think it’s time for Iowa to relinquish its place at the front of our nation’s political line (or for political parties or federal legislation to reform the process, giving other states a turn).

Today, as Iowans get ready to caucus, I’ll note that, whether the caucuses should be first forever or not, they’ve been a fun story to cover and I’ll share a few memories from covering caucuses in four decades. (Memories is a key word here. Most of these caucuses were long enough ago that news accounts are not easy to find online. I didn’t do extensive research to verify the accuracy of all my memories, though I did verify all the caucus results – and remembered them accurately.) (more…)

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I spent 10 years at the Omaha World-Herald, so I was interested and surprised at today’s news that Warren Buffett is buying the newspaper company.

Buffett’s company, Berkshire Hathaway, is going to pay $150 million in cash and take on $50 million of World-Herald debt, taking ownership of my former newspaper and several other Midwestern newspapers and a direct-mail company. This ends more than 30 years of ownership by employees and the Peter Kiewit Foundation.

I may have greater insight later than I do today, but here are some initial observations:

  • This doesn’t say anything about Buffett’s optimism, or lack of optimism, for newspapers. As Jim Romenesko noted today, just two years ago, Buffett told his shareholders: “for most newspapers in the United States, we would not buy them at any price” because “they have the possibility of going to just unending losses.” Buffett is worth $39 billion, according to Forbes. This purchase cost about half of 1 percent of his net worth. He’s using the change he found in his sofa cushions to buy his hometown paper, a newspaper he has long expressed affection for. He also owns two other iconic Omaha businesses: Borsheim’s Jewelry and Nebraska Furniture Mart. As the Washington Post’s Steven Pearlstein told Romenesko: “It’s an emotional, personal buy.” (more…)

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I spent much of the year after 9/11 writing about the impact of that terrorist attack. I was a national correspondent for the Omaha World-Herald. The nation’s only academic center for Afghanistan studies was at the University of Nebraska at Omaha, and I wrote dozens of stories about our city’s involvement with Afghanistan before and after the attack.

A story that stands out in my memory was part of our first anniversary package. I wrote about the day before the attack, 10 years ago today. Today, I’ll review that story, published Sept. 10, 2002, discussing the storytelling techniques involved.

A  cliché about reporting (and many aspects of life: I got 57,000 hits when I Googled to see where to attribute the phrase) is that you zig when others zag. On the first anniversary of 9/11, everyone was writing stories about that day a year earlier, just as journalists this week have been writing and broadcasting stories about that day 10 years ago. That was zagging. I wanted to zig, to write about something else. So I wrote about the day before:

The big change for many in the Omaha area that day was the closing of the westbound lanes on the Interstate 480 bridge across the Missouri River.

The next day everything changed. (more…)

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One of my former newspapers, the Omaha World-Herald, has posted one of my best stories online. I wrote a 1997 narrative of the rescue of 3-year-old twins Jennifer and Kourtney Woracek. The story from the World-Herald archives was republished Sunday as a related link to an update on the twins (now 17), written by World-Herald columnist Mike Kelly, a friend for 18 years.

I don’t know what was my best story ever, but this one was close, if not the best. This was a story about heroic police and medical workers saving 3-year-old girls (both doing well now, as Mike reports).

In the years since I wrote that story, I have used it on occasion as an example in teaching narrative journalism. So I’ll repeat here some of the lessons that I learned or practiced in this story: (more…)

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Entrepreneurial journalists make a mistake if they think advertising is their only potential revenue stream.

Our entrepreneurial journalism class at Georgetown University will focus tonight on exploring possible ways to make money beyond display advertising. I doubt that many organizations would want to pursue all these possibilities. Particularly if you’re a small organization or an individual, you will need to pick your shots carefully and decide which have the most potential and which are worth the time and money it would cost to try them. Some of these opportunities are tailored for the sole proprietor. Others work better for a larger organization or at least for an entrepreneur or team with specialized technical skills.

Here are some revenue streams we will discuss in class: (more…)

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