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Archive for February, 2009

When I started in the newspaper business, “local news” often meant who was sick and who was visiting.

My first job as a journalist was at The Evening Sentinel, a daily newspaper of about 4,000 circulation in Shenandoah, Iowa, that went out of publication in the 1990s. I was a sports writer, covering the school teams in nearby towns even smaller than “Shen.”

Chuck Offenburger, the sports editor, and I filled some space in the back of the paper with game stories and features on local athletes. The front page reported big (for Shen) news such as the city council and school board actions and an occasional crime or court case. But the heart of the newspaper was what we called the “locals,” a string of one-paragraph tidbits giving updates on someone’s illness or telling whose kids were visiting from college or from the distant big cities where lots of Shen’s kids moved off to (and if you were in Shen, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City were big cities). (more…)

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Update: I spoke by telephone and direct message this evening with April Samp, news director at KGAN/KFXA. She doesn’t think she misrepresented herself in her interview request. I will concede that Twitter doesn’t allow many words for a detailed interview request, so maybe it was more a matter of poor communication rather than misrepresentation (but I’m not hard to reach by email either). I’ll also stress that nothing in her Twitter profile identified the organization that was asking for the interview. She told me that her Twitter stream makes frequent references to KGAN and that she would be easy to find on Google. All true, but when you ask for an interview, the obligation is on you to identify yourself and your purpose. The person asking for an interview shouldn’t have to research to figure out who you are. (Perhaps I should have done some of that research before blogging, though.) April also told me that she responded by BlackBerry to my Twitter message that gave her a couple of possible interview times, saying that they wanted to do the interview at one of the times I suggested. But her Twitter direct message log confirms that the message didn’t go out. And since I never confirmed that we were on for an interview, we never had an interview set, as KGAN reported. So I am comfortable in saying that the original report on KGAN was inaccurate. The story I just watched on the 10 p.m. newscast was at least accurate. So I thank KGAN for correcting the report. But I didn’t hear any acknowledgment that they were wrong in the 6 p.m. newscast or the original web report, so I feel comfortable standing by my original blog post, which follows.

KGAN apparently misrepresented itself to me in an interview request last night and reported falsely about me to the public today.

Here are the details:

I received a direct message on Twitter late Monday evening (Feb. 16) from someone identified on Twitter only as @aprilsamp. The message asked: “Are you available for sit down interview on Tuesday re: future of newspaper biz? If not, can you have someone else do an interview?” (more…)

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Live chat with Steve Buttry

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Bad judgment is bad judgment.

Journalists have said stupid things in print and on television and that didn’t mean those media presented ethical problems for journalist. Journalists have said stupid things to sources in person, in emails and on the telephone and that doesn’t mean journalists should avoid using email, telephones or face-to-face conversations. Journalists will also say stupid things on Twitter or other social networks. When they do, the problem is the stupid thing you said, not the platform you used to say it.

(Before I go further, I should say that the “stupid things” someone said in the examples that follow involve foul language that I don’t use in this blog. Click the links below if foul language doesn’t bother you.)

A Twitter exchange that appears to be between National Post technology reporter David George-Cosh and marketing consultant April Dunford has drawn a stir on the Internet. (The Twitter feed identified as George-Cosh’s in accounts of the dustup indicates that someone might have hacked his feed.) (more…)

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This is a handout I use in Upholding and Updating Ethical Standards, an American Press Institute seminar underwritten by the Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation. It doesn’t attempt to provide all the answers, but to ask a lot of questions for journalists and news organizations to consider as they use social networks for valid journalistic pursuits. I offer these questions for my staff and other journalists to consider. We will be discussing these issues in greater depth among our staff.

Social networks are a rapidly growing part of society and communication and journalists and news organizations need to connect with them as we gather content and build audience for our products. We also need to keep ethics in mind as we operate in this swiftly changing world. If you are an editor, you need to discuss with your staff members how they are using social networks and what standards and issues you think are important in dealing with networks. If you are a staff member, you need to tell your editors how you are using social networks and discuss any questions you might have about policies and boundaries. Some questions and guidelines to consider:

Consider everything public. Even though social-networking sites generally allow you some control over who sees your contributions, you should regard everything you post online as public. Some of your “friends” could pass along what you have posted. Once you post anything even to a closed network, you lose control of it. (more…)

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This will be somewhat redundant for those who have followed this week’s posts. This is my column for Sunday’s Gazette:

A longtime staple of newspapers has been event coverage: We send a reporter to an event and he or she writes a story for the next day’s newspaper.

We’re still doing that, but the staff of The Gazette and GazetteOnline is leading the way in development of a new technique in journalism: liveblogging during the event.

Basically, instead of handwriting notes in a notebook, the reporter/blogger shares the notes with you as the event unfolds. It’s not a perfect process or product. Sometimes you will see a writer apologize for typographical errors (or you’ll see typos with no apology). We’re used to having more time to reread and polish our work before publication and then having an editor read the story, ask questions and polish some more.

Of course, the editing process for the print edition isn’t perfect either. I receive occasional complaints from people taking us to task for typos and grammatical errors that make it through that process. If you are one of those readers, a liveblog probably isn’t for you.

On the other hand, I also receive occasional complaints from people wanting more information on the events and issues we cover. Space limitations have always confined how much news we could print and those limitations have grown as newsprint prices rise and as advertisers in our community feel the effects of the recession. Online, though, we can tell the full story of an event. If you have the time and interest, we’ll tell you the story of an event from beginning to end. The liveblog becomes a peek into the reporter’s notebook. You can follow as the event unfolds or come back later and replay the blog. If a story in the newspaper interests you and you’d like to know more, sometimes you will be able to learn much more at GazetteOnline by replaying the liveblog.

Liveblogs are also interactive. You can comment or ask questions as the event is going on. The blogger can address your comments or questions or just post them without response. Comments and questions are prescreened, so the blogger can prevent a discussion from wandering off-topic and keep out inappropriate remarks.

Sports have been a popular topic for liveblogs, whether we are covering events such as the Outback Bowl (Mike Hlas, Marc Morehouse and Scott Dochterman collaborating) or the state volleyball tournament (Richard Pratt soloing) or just chatting with fans, as Hlas did before the Super Bowl and as various sports writers and editors do in a weekly chat about high school sports on IowaPrepSports.com.

We also are covering more and more news events live. Todd Dorman, James Lynch and Charlotte Eby liveblogged Gov. Chet Culver’s Condition of the State address. Cecelia Hanley used Twitter to liveblog from Washington on Inauguration Day (unfortunately, that liveblog became more about the crowd and the difficulty of getting to the National Mall than about the actual ceremony, but that was Cecelia’s experience). Adam Belz has covered Linn County Board of Supervisors meetings as well as Marion Mayor Paul Rehn’s State of the City speech. Cindy Hadish liveblogged last week from a meeting on air quality at Johnson Elementary School.

Some of our liveblogs are more fun than serious. Christine Doty and her daughter Alicia Ortner used Twitter to liveblog as they shopped on Black Friday. Other staff members liveblogged on their holiday travels.

We’re still in the early stages of our liveblogging experience, but we are using these tools and techniques more aggressively than most news organizations. I led a webinar Wednesday for the Canadian Newspaper Association, which wants to teach its members more about this technique.

Trish Mehaffey got some national attention, including mention in the ABA Journal, when she received permission from U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett to liveblog the Robert Miell trial from Sioux City.

We plan to liveblog more and more news events as well as to host more live chats (I’ll be hosting one this Tuesday from noon to 1 p.m. Please join me with questions about The Gazette and GazetteOnline). We appreciate your feedback as we continue to learn.

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Here are liveblogging examples I used in my Feb. 11 webinar for the Canadian Newspaper Association:

Liveblogging unfolding news stories

Virginia Tech massacre on Collegiate Times

Northern Illinois campus shootings at rrstar.com

Clovis News Journal’s election blog

Liveblogs using Twitter

Gazette liveblog on holiday travel

Gazette’s Cecelia Hanley from the inauguration

Gazette’s Chris Doty on Black Friday shopping

Wichita Eagle courts reporter Ron Sylvester’s Twitter feed

Liveblogging events

New York Times liveblog of Roger Clemens hearing

Gazette’s Adam Belz liveblogs supervisors meeting

Gazette’s Trish Mehaffey liveblogs sentencing in a murder trial

Gazette’s Jeff Raasch liveblogs Obama campaign appearance

Gazette staffers liveblog Gov. Chet Culver’s State of the State speech

Gazette’s Adam Belz liveblogs Marion Mayor’s speech

Gazette CEO Chuck Peters liveblogs API media CEOs’ summit

Gazette’s Todd Dorman liveblogs Iowa delegation breakfast at Democratic convention 

Whit Andrews liveblogs a technology conference

Gazette staff liveblogs the Outback Bowl

Palm Beach Post liveblogs a trial

Gazette’s Trish Mehaffey liveblogs from a federal court trial

ABA Journal writes about Judge Mark Bennett’s decision to allow Gazette to liveblog

Live chat examples

Gazette live chats the week of the six-month anniversary of the flood

Gazette’s Mike Hlas leads a pre-Super Bowl live chat

Gazette staff’s weekly high school sports chat

Colorado Springs Gazette hosts chat about arts in the community

Possible revenue-making liveblog approach

Colorado Springs Gazette liveblogs a store opening

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