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Tips on covering events

I’m teaching my Media Writing class about event coverage today. So here are some tips on event coverage:

Prepare

Before the event, learn what you can about what’s going to happen. A sporting event might have a program or roster with the players’ numbers and names. A public meeting might have an agenda. A conference program will list the speakers. A more informal program will have an organizer who can provide an overview and some background.

But sometimes you need to go beyond the handouts and the organizers. Find some contrarians who can let you know about interesting turns the event might take. Continue Reading »

This week’s flood in Cedar Rapids brings a sick, familiar feeling.

I hope the current forecast of a crest at around 22 feet is right this time. That’s a bad flood. But I do know that flood forecasts can be wrong. The email below, sent late the night of June 11, 2008, warned of a crest at 24.7 feet, which would have been a record. The actual crest less than two days later was more than 31 feet.

It was a record-setting disaster for my then-community, similar to the flood my now-community experienced this summer. (This time I wasn’t involved in flood coverage.)

I don’t have much new to say about this flood, except that I’m confident Executive Editor Zack Kucharski and his staff will excel in covering this flood. Many veterans of the 2008 flood have moved on, either voluntarily or as the Gazette cut staff. But I count more than 20 veterans of the 2008 flood still on hand, including Zack and several others who played key roles. They know what to do.

I hope the waters don’t rise above expected levels again. But I’m certain the staff will perform at whatever level the community needs, whatever the obstacles.

The Gazette has some good aerial photos of this year’s flood, but they’re not showing nearly as extensive flooding, especially in areas with homes and businesses, as what we experienced in 2008. I hope it never again approaches that level.

Here are previous posts I’ve written about the 2008 flood, and the award-winning double-truck front page, designed by Rae Riebe, with a design suggestion from Michelle Wiese and a powerful photo by Liz Martin:

Our June 13, 2008, front and back pages.

Our June 13, 2008, front and back pages.

The Cedar Rapids flood: Hard to believe it was four years ago

Mississippi Gulf Coast recovering slowly

If “The Fifth Season Is Progress,” it better be a long season

No Pulitzer, but still high honor for Gazette staff

Gazette flood coverage wins Sigma Delta Chi Award

Recognition for Gazette’s outstanding journalism

Disaster coverage in the digital age

Time for Cedar Rapids to get pushy

These are blog posts that relate to my “Revenue Roundup” discussion at the Online News Association today:

A possible new business model for obituaries

Jobless journalists could find a business model in obituaries

‘A Death Notice for Obituaries?’ Or an opportunity for entrepreneurs?

Obituaries: A chance to tell a loved one’s story

Personal storytelling sometimes overlaps with journalism

 

I encourage watching Storyful’s video about processing vicarious trauma as we cover horrible news.

In my community of Baton Rouge, journalists this summer have covered fatal shootings by and of police officers as well as a widespread natural disaster. Other journalists cover war, terrorism and mass shootings. Even if you don’t witness death and destruction yourself, interviews with survivors can be difficult for journalists. The Storyful video focuses on the impact of dealing with graphic images of traumatic news.

The Dart Center for Journalism & Trauma provides helpful resources for journalists, both for effective and sensitive coverage of traumatic news and for dealing with the secondary trauma that journalists may experience.

Related posts

Digital First Media newsrooms collaborate on trauma coverage, peer-support program

Tips for reporting on traumatic news

How do you ‘steel’ yourself to ask tough questions

Scott Blanchard’s advice on asking tough questions

 

LifepostsI’ve shifted much of my writing time from blogging about journalism to personal storytelling. So I thought I should blog about personal storytelling and its place in journalism.

My work days are still filled with journalism matters: leading LSU’s student media operations and teaching journalism classes (though didn’t teach a summer class). But I used to spend considerable time on weekends, early mornings and evenings writing on this blog, where I am certainly practicing journalism, usually about journalism. I spent less time, but occasionally considerable time, on two other blogs that are types of journalism, my Hated Yankees blog about baseball and Mimi’s and my 2 Roads Diverged blog about travel.

More and more, I find that personal writing is crowding journalism out of my non-work writing. And it’s not all related to my experience with cancer. Certainly, since my 2014 diagnosis of lymphoma, I have chronicled much of my treatment and observations about cancer on my CaringBridge journal. That, and the treatment itself, have cut into my time spent here.

But another project recently, unrelated to my illness, also took many hours. Steve Waldman called my attention a while back to a new product he’s working on called LifePosts, and I thought it would be a great tool to tell my father’s story. Dad died in 1978 at age 56. He died before his oldest two grandchildren’s second birthdays, so none of his 22 grandchildren has any memory of him. So I spent a few weeks earlier this year developing a timeline of Dad’s life. It was a mix of writing and research, and I enjoyed working on it immensely, stirring up many fond memories of Dad and learning (or relearning) things about him from various family documents. Continue Reading »

This has been updated to add a response from NPR at the end.

Jay Rosen does an excellent job of parsing NPR’s comical gymnastics to avoid using the P-word in its reporting on Melania Trump’s plagiarism last week.

I won’t go into the detail that Jay did, but I recommend reading Jay’s post. I’ll concentrate on one point: whether plagiarism must be intentional, as NPR reporter Sarah McCammon argued:

McCammon also argued that professional journalism standards are somehow different from academic standards:

I don’t know where McCammon learned ethics, but she couldn’t be more wrong. I’ve spent decades longer in journalism than in academia, and I never recall a newsroom where intent mattered one whit. If you stole someone else’s material, that was plagiarism, period. Continue Reading »

I led three workshops Thursday for the staff of the Penny Hoarder in St. Petersburg, Fla.

First I led a workshop on coming up with original story ideas. I used many of the tips in my blog post on story ideas. Here are the slides:

My next workshop dealt with interviews. I used some of the tips in these posts:

Shut up and listen

Getting personal

Interviewing advice from veteran journalists

When it’s good (and bad) to be ‘stupid’ in interviews

Tips for persuading reluctant news sources to talk

Eric Nalder’s advice on interviewing reluctant sources

‘Uh-huh’: Does it ruin audio or keep a source talking (maybe both)

Here are my slides for the interviewing workshop:

I didn’t have any slides for the third workshop, on using data to find and support stories, but I showed the data available at these sites (thanks to Tom Meagher and Maryjo Webster for steering me to some of them):

Census Reporter

American Fact Finder

Census Bureau

Data.gov

Bureau of Labor Statistics

Bureau of Transportation Statistics

Pew Research Center

Boston College’s Center for Retirement Research

The workshop used some of the tips in my post on mining the data on your beat.