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Archive for December, 2015

My announcement on this blog last December that I was starting treatment for lymphoma included a mention that I’d update people about my condition and treatment on CaringBridge and keep the focus here on journalism.

I acknowledged that maybe I’d blog less frequently here because of my treatment. But I didn’t understand how profoundly treatment would affect all my blogging, in good ways and bad. I have four blogs and each has been affected differently but significantly by the chemotherapy, complications, surgeries and stem cell transplant that have dominated my year.

Let’s start first with the issues of volume and frequency of my blogging: While I anticipated a decline in how much I could blog, my illness and treatment not only provided all the material for my newest blog, but it provided many sleepless nights at home and in the hospital when the focus that writing provides was a helpful respite. This post was written in several sittings over a few such nights in December.

But the treatment also affected my frequency of blogging. During two stretches after my brain surgery and during my transplant, I was so immobilized I was unable to blog anywhere for a few days. If I even had the ability to hold a writing device, I had the concentration and stamina only for short messages by email, text or social media. Blog posts would have to wait.

Beyond those general ways that treatment affected my blogging, it shaped each blog differently during the year:

CaringBridge Journal

CaringBridgeWhen I first encountered cancer in 1999, I was a newspaper reporter/columnist, so I wrote a column about having cancer. Well, now I’m a blogger, so a cancer blog was probably inevitable.

But an even bigger influence on my decision to blog frequently about treatment was the CaringBridge journal posted by my brother-in-law, John Devlin, during the illnesses of his children, Patrick and Kat. I posted twice in 2009 about John’s use of CaringBridge, and knew I needed to share my story there. (Patrick died of leukemia in 2009. Kat is thriving as a college freshman nearly five years after her stem cell transplant. They and their parents have inspired me through this treatment.)

So my illness and treatment launched my own CaringBridge blog that has produced more than 120 posts. I’m sure writing about my treatment helped me through that difficult journey, and the loving network of CaringBridge (and the social media where I shared my CB posts) boosted my spirits more times and in more ways than I can say.

Everyone feels differently about transparency and privacy, so I’m not saying anyone undergoing cancer treatment or facing another serious illness should do what John and I have done. But I’m a writer and a blogger and I simply can’t imagine going through an illness without a CaringBridge support network and a place to write about what I’m experiencing.

2 Roads Diverged

2roadsMimi and I launched our travel blog in 2012, sharing our different perspectives of the fun places that my work travel (and occasional pleasure travel) would take us. Well, 2 Roads Diverged was a pretty idle travel blog in 2015. My year-end post there recounts all the travel I turned down or canceled in 2015. We had to cancel travel not just because of my condition but because my schedule changed constantly because of unexpected medical developments.

I was so vulnerable to infection most of the year that sitting on a crowded airplane just wasn’t a good idea. The one flight we took this year was for the wedding of our youngest son, Tom, and Ashley Douglass. That was a wonderful trip, even if lots of disinfectant wipes were used on airplanes. And I wrote about it here, since I vowed in that announcement here of my lymphoma diagnosis that I would dance at his wedding. So our biggest trip of the year went unnoted on the travel blog (until our holiday letter, which we publish on 2 Roads Diverged).

2 Roads Diverged didn’t go dormant, just had a slow year. I posted about a day trip to St. Francisville and our first Louisiana swamp tour. Before those local trips, my only attempt to keep the blog from going completely dark was inspired by a hilarious Mother Jones roundup of one-star Yelp reviews of national parks. So I wrote some mock one-star reviews as if Mimi and I hadn’t enjoyed all our national park visits. It was a weak attempt to keep the travel blog active by revisiting past trips.

But five posts in a year barely make an active blog.

I’ve been fortunate to have all my health care locally and to get excellent care in Baton Rouge. But even if your health care involved heavy travel (as it does for many, including the Devlins), I simply can’t imagine maintaining a CaringBridge journal and a travel blog during a year of treatment as intense as mine has been. People who travel for health care seldom get to see the sights.

Hated Yankees

Hated Yankeeshatedyankees is where I indulge my lifelong love of the New York Yankees and my boyhood fantasies about being a sportswriter someday (a job that actually held little appeal for me as an adult).

I’m sure I’d have blogged about Yogi Berra’s death and Alex Rodriguez’s return to the Yankees whether I was in treatment or not. I’d have to be feeling pretty sick not to take a swing at A-Rod’s bizarre post-season TV studio pairing with Pete Rose. And I’d have turned my attention to the Kansas City Royals for their championship run (as I did last year for their World Series run).

If you’d told me a year ago how intense and lengthy this treatment would end up being, I probably would have predicted as quiet a year for Hated Yankees as for 2 Roads Diverged. But those sleepless nights produced a whole lot of Hated Yankees posts.

Sometimes my mind turned to baseball on its own when I couldn’t sleep. But some nights I’d start writing about a journalism topic and make the conscious decision that I wasn’t sharp enough that night to write for this blog. I built and maintain much of my professional reputation on this blog, and I think I do my best work here. I’m not saying I don’t try to achieve quality in my baseball writing, too. But my passions are different and my audiences are different.

The Buttry Diary is my contribution to the journalism conversation, and it has more than 15,000 followers. If a few drug-influenced rants or poorly edited posts caused colleagues around the country and world to wonder if Buttry’s slipping, that could damage my career.

But Hated Yankees just passed 1,000 followers this year, presumably mostly from that tiny niche of Yankee fans (probably with strong interests in history, stats or the Hall of Fame) who can’t get enough sports minutiae and commentary from the pros. I never gained more followers than during my two October binges about the Royals, so lots of my followers probably tune out my Yankee posts anyway.

So really, it seemed to me that the potential consequences of a Hated Yankees post that seemed a bit disjointed or drug-clouded were trivial in at least two ways:

  1. The resulting post would not be easily distinguishable from the Yankee-fan cloud I readily embrace as the premise for the blog.
  2. If someone did notice, they’d be less likely to be a journalist who’d wonder privately or out loud or online: Is Buttry OK?

So some nights professional vanity or prudence steered me toward baseball. Other nights baseball provided a pleasant and even needed escape. The boy who studied stats on the backs of baseball cards through some childhood illnesses felt a bit better as an ailing old man searching Baseball-Reference.com for trivial stats.

Early in the year, I began two separate series of posts that I wouldn’t publish for months, but that kept the blog active every weekday for a long stretch of late September and early October, plus a separate post written in the spring and timed to run with the September Subway Series against the Mets.

My 20-part series (I’m telling you, there were a lot of sleepless nights) on Yankee starting pitchers was probably pretty close to my usual Hated-Yankee standards, maybe a notch below. For years, my someday to-do list for the blog had included doing posts on Whitey Ford, Allie Reynolds and Don Larsen, and I think I did justice to all three, as well as Dave Righetti, who wasn’t on that list but should have been. Maybe a few more.

But really? Twenty posts on Yankee starting pitchers? I’m not saying any of them sucked, but if I were to rank the 101 Hated Yankees posts I’ve written since 2009 in best-to-worst order, I doubt any of the starting-pitcher posts would be in the top 10 and at least three or four would be in the bottom 10. But they helped pass those sleepless nights, and they fit my blog’s niche.

On the other hand, my five-part series on continuing racial discrimination in Baseball Hall of Fame selections might all be in my top 25 to 30 posts. The lead-off piece in that series, noting the absurdity of baseball having a Pre-Integration Era Committee this year to consider whites-only candidates for the Hall of Fame, when Negro League candidates are no longer eligible for consideration, might be one of my five or 10 best Hated Yankees posts.

I was proud enough of that lead-off piece to offer a localized newspaper-column version to editors who might have a local interest in the players mentioned, and a few used it, at least online. I’m pleased to say that this year’s Pre-Integration Era Committee did not select anyone from baseball’s segregation era for the Hall of Fame. (My series noted the worthiness of several African American and Latino players who’ve been rejected in recent years by Golden Era and Expansion Era committees.)

And some sleepless October nights helped fuel the Royal blogging I’d have done anyway, sharing my sons’ euphoria over Kansas City’s return to glory. (We lived in KC in the ’80s and I spent many evenings at the ballpark with one or all three sons. They ignored all the stuff Dad was telling them about the Yankees but fell in love with the team they were watching.)

I’d have blogged about the Royals’ championship anyway, but the World Series came when some strong drugs kept me awake, so I’m sure I wrote more and longer posts than I could have squeezed into a normal life, even with the Royals winning.

Anyway, cancer treatment helped make 2015 my most-productive and most-read year ever on Hated Yankees. And I still have a couple of drafts from those sleepless nights that are likely to publish in January. Jan. 7 update: My post suggesting a Scoundrels Committee for the Baseball Hall of Fame was published today.

The Buttry Diary

Buttry Diary LogoI’m not going to tell you this was my most productive year ever on The Buttry Diary. Traffic will fall about 20,000 views short of last year’s record of 351,000, but most of my traffic comes through search to posts from my archives. Only one 2015 post would make the list of 10 most-viewed posts of the year, and only four new posts would make the top 20. My production here was down notably.

In the six full calendar years I’ve been blogging here, my slowest year was 2010, with 136 posts. I actually topped 250 posts in two separate years. I’m not a full-time blogger, so I work this in around the demands of work, and that’s been the previous biggest influence on my productivity. (To add to the health issues, I moved to a more demanding day job this year.) This is my 116th post of 2015, so this was easily my least-productive year, counting just by frequency of publication.

Before I deal with how my health affected this blog, I should note another factor in the decreased productivity here. I was part (the weakest part, I should admit) of a five-person committee led by AP’s Tom Kent, editing the Online News Association’s Build Your Own Ethics Code project.

I’m really proud of the helpful tool we’ve developed to drive newsroom ethics discussions and development of ethics codes for a variety of types of news organizations. But the writing, editing, email exchanges and long-distance meetings with Tom, Katy Culver, Alan Abbey and Wendy Wyatt came heavily or entirely out of the time I otherwise might have spent blogging here. It was one of the most satisfying projects I’ve ever worked on, but it did affect productivity here.

More times than I can remember, I saw or heard about an issue in journalism and thought: I should blog about that. But I didn’t have the energy or time that day, because of health or the ONA project or normal work duties. That always happens, but it certainly happened more this year. And sometimes my treatment or my efforts to juggle work and treatment made me late in noticing developments, so I didn’t feel I had much to add to the conversation when I caught up.

Sometimes I’d start a blog post but not have the concentration to finish it. I have three or four such drafts that I might finish and publish next week. Or never.

The New York Times’ Our Path Forward document came out right before Tom’s wedding in early October, so I couldn’t blog about it then. But it’s the kind of thing I might weigh in on late anyway, so I filed it away as something to work on during an upcoming hospital stay. But other things were higher priorities when I had the energy to write during the two hospital stays I’ve had since then, and I had less energy for writing during the transplant than I’d hoped. I’d really have to struggle to find a news peg if I decided to weigh in on it now (but I still might).

I had a great email exchange with some excellent copy editors, addressing a question from a colleague about pronouns to use in writing about transgender people. I asked them if I could use their responses in a blog post, thinking I’d work on it during the December hospital stay (at the time, I think I was still scheduled for a November start to the transplant).

But by the time I got to the hospital and had the energy to maybe write about the topic, Merrill PerlmanJohn McIntyre, Bill Walsh, Tom Freeman and others had covered the issue thoroughly.

That lack of travel certainly cut into my productivity here. I nearly always blog about journalism conferences I attend or blog about the points, links and slides from presentations I was making. I blog my keynote speeches, but 2015 included none of those.

Still, I was determined to keep this blog active and I think I wrote some good stuff. And the treatment, or the timing of my treatment, played into some of the year’s most notable work:

Marie Christmas

My post about the Marie Christmas hoax was my most-read new post of 2015, and that was originally written, then updated, over a couple days when chemo made me restless but not yet exhausted (not a bad condition for writing).

If that hoax had happened the week before, I’d have been too busy at work to even notice it. If it had happened the week after, I’d have been too exhausted (from the chemo drugs I got the week of the hoax).

Whether it was good or bad, and I wouldn’t call it one of my best, that post happened only because of treatment.

David Carr

I was a big admirer of David Carr personally and as a journalist, but our acquaintance was only digital and not close. He died late on a Thursday evening (Feb. 12), and the Friday outpouring of reaction by journalists who knew him much better than me was swift and amazing.

Without treatment, I probably would have learned of his death Friday morning from the reaction. Or I might have learned Thursday night on social media and thought maybe I’d do something the next day. But that swift reaction by others would have brought one of two likely responses from me:

  1. I’d decide others have covered this well and I don’t have much to add to this conversation (a decision I make frequently).
  2. I’d curate some of the best tributes by others and add a few comments.

But I was taking a steroid at the time that severely disrupted my sleep. I saw the news of Carr’s death shortly after it happened. I read a riveting and extensive Twitter tribute by David Brauer, his former Twin Cities colleague. And I spent a few late-night hours writing one of the first tributes to Carr, including a curation of Brauer’s tweets.

Writing about writing on drugs

I’m not saying I’m Hunter Thompson, in either the good or bad ways you could take the comparison. But I think I was honest about what was happening to me, and how my drugs affected my writing. In posts about inspiration in writing and about earworms, a secondary (or even primary) theme was candid discussion of how chemo drugs were influencing my writing.

Another post or two might have acknowledged the effects of chemo insomnia. Both of the baseball series that I worked on in the wee hours included disclaimers at the end, though I edited all during more normal waking hours:disclaimer

Nancy Levine

Nancy Levine

Nancy Levine

I get occasional emails suggesting that I address this or that journalism issue (often an ethics issue). Most such emails don’t prompt me to blog about the suggested topic. Sometimes I’ve already blogged about it and reply with links to those posts. Sometimes I’m too busy. Sometimes I disagree with the writer but don’t feel like turning our disagreement into a blog post. Sometimes I reply privately but don’t feel like developing my response into a blog post (though I’ve developed many posts from email responses to such inquiries).

If Nancy Levine had messaged me in early August about the New York Times’ refusal to correct an eight-year-old story, she’d have gotten the too-busy response. If she’d messaged me Aug. 21 or later, her message would have received little or no attention because it would have been buried in a mountain of emails that accumulated when I had my Aug. 22 brain surgery.

But she wrote me Aug. 20. I didn’t sleep well that night, and her email caught my attention. Typing just with my right hand, because the brain bleed that would cause the surgery had made my left fingers useless, I told Nancy in an email at 10:38 that evening that I was interested and may blog about the case:

I am swamped through Sunday, but may call you Monday.

Well, I didn’t call Monday, of course, but Nancy emailed me more information about the case. When I was home from the hospital Aug. 26, I emailed Nancy that I was still interested. We did talk on the phone, and my Aug. 28 post about her quest to correct a fundamentally flawed 2007 New York Times story (still showing up high in Google searches) was my third most-read 2015 post. That was the first of five posts on the topic, the most recent taking note of an examination of the issue by Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan. Margaret called Nancy persistent and both of us dogged (labels I think Margaret meant kindly and I know Nancy and I both accept proudly).

But I don’t think Nancy’s persistence would have mattered with me if she hadn’t written at just the right time in a month filled with professional and medical challenges. She wrote on the day that I couldn’t sleep because I was wondering what was happening in my brain. That ethics challenge seemed a welcome escape that particular night, almost like baseball.

What about 2016?

Well, if there’s anything I learned (or relearned) in 2015 (and 2014, for that matter), it’s that life will surprise you. So I don’t know how 2016 will affect these blogs, but here’s some speculation:

CaringBridge: I’m cancer-free and finished with treatment. This blog won’t slow down as much as 2 Roads Diverged did in ’15, but it’s already gearing down, as I noted in a post today. I don’t anticipate much more than brief occasional updates about my recovery and follow-up doctor visits.

2 Roads Diverged: Mimi and I will be back on the road, and I expect to be more active here. But I doubt we’ll resume our previous pace. That new job I accepted this year needs and deserves my full attention, and I still have a few months of recovery before I’m back to full strength. But I hope to take a few special personal and/or professional trips this year, and blog about them.

Hated Yankees: I can’t imagine the Yankees having either the wonderful year or horrible year that would be needed to even approach this year. This will slide back to the occasional blog that it has always been and should be. I have plans for a post that could be really special, but I won’t boast about that unless I can pull it off.

The Buttry Diary: This blog is important to me, and I expect to return to previous production levels unless life throws me another surprise. Again, I have plans for a blog post that could be really special. I want to be a bigger part of the journalism conversation in 2016.

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SullivanI’m disappointed that the New York Times screwed up again in its over-reliance on unnamed sources. But I’m pleased that this screwup finally appears to have prompted a Times examination of this biggest weakness in our nation’s most important news organization.

Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan, who has been a more persistent and effective critic than I of the Times’ promiscuity with unnamed sources, reported today that mistakes in the Times reporting on the visa screening of terror-attack suspect Tashfeen Malik finally drew a commitment to act:

I talked on Friday to the executive editor, Dean Baquet; to one of his chief deputies, Matt Purdy; and to the Washington editor, Bill Hamilton, who edited the article. All described what happened as deeply troubling. Mr. Baquet said that some new procedures need to be put in place, especially for dealing with anonymous sources, and he said he would begin working on that immediately.

“This was a really big mistake,” Mr. Baquet said, “and more than anything since I’ve become editor it does make me think we need to do something about how we handle anonymous sources.”

First I’ll note that Baquet visited LSU this month and addressed the use of unnamed sources in his Q&A with students and faculty after an address in the Holliday Forum.

Of course, that tweet oversimplifies what Baquet said in response to the question, but it was not a detailed response. He cited national security reporting as an area where using confidential sources is essential to the excellent reporting the Times has done through the years.

This was an important national security story, but those stories demand not only greater use of unnamed sources but greater insistence on documentation and verification from those sources and others.

I’m in the hospital and don’t have the strength to say much new about this. Sullivan covers it better than I would if I were at full speed. I’ll just quote Sullivan again (but you should read her full post), then link to previous posts about this persistent problem at the Times (followed by a late-Friday update and some Twitter response):

The Times needs to fix its overuse of unnamed government sources. And it needs to slow down the reporting and editing process, especially in the fever-pitch atmosphere surrounding a major news event. Those are procedural changes, and they are needed. But most of all, and more fundamental, the paper needs to show far more skepticism – a kind of prosecutorial scrutiny — at every level of the process.

Two front-page, anonymously sourced stories in a few months have required editors’ notes that corrected key elements – elements that were integral enough to form the basis of the headlines in both cases. That’s not acceptable for Times readers or for the paper’s credibility, which is its most precious asset.

If this isn’t a red alert, I don’t know what will be.

Previous posts on NYT use of sources

Dean Baquet needs to get mad about NY Times’ use of unnamed sources

New York Times story based on unnamed sources: 2 big corrections

New York Times frequently violates its attribution standards

Again: journalists, not sources, are responsible for the accuracy of our stories

Applause to the New York Times for effective use of an on-the-record source

Judith Miller still blames sources for her false reporting

Jonathan Landay elaborates on Judith Miller’s flawed Iraq reporting

Do I despair for the New York Times? No, but I’m often disappointed and pleased

Eric Nalder responds

About the same time that I was posting this, two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning investigative reporter Eric Nalder replied on Facebook to my post about Sullivan’s original post (I hadn’t yet shared this post there). His advice on vetting investigative stories is helpful and important as the Times reassesses its use of unnamed sources and its verification of what they tell you. With Eric’s permission, I am adding his comment to this post:

Nalder

Nalder absolutely nails the Times’ failure here. The reporters should have been demanding of the sources and the editors should have been demanding of the reporters: Show me a tweet. Show me a screen grab. If we’re reporting that our visa screening process missed her open embrace of jihad, we need to show that threat, even if it’s in a foreign language. We’re the New York Times, we can find translators.

Nalder, by the way, far surpasses my own journalistic credentials and those of the vast majority of New York Times reporters. He won Pulitzers for investigative reporting on the Exxon Valdez oil spill and on corruption in a federal housing program for Native Americans. He knows how to nail down facts on important stories.

I have cited Nalder before on his effective use of “ratcheting” to persuade reluctant sources to go on the record. It’s a technique that probably wouldn’t work on a national-security story like this, but it illustrates the sophistication of his experience and technique in this area.

If I were Dean Baquet, I might start addressing this topic by asking Nalder if he’s available to do an investigation of Times’ reporters dealings with unnamed sources and the vetting by Times reporters and editors of the information that sources provide.

Twitter responses

End notes

Margaret Sullivan: Sullivan also told Poynter today that she will complete her run as public editor when her second two-year contract expires this September. On this issue and more, she has been far and away the best public editor the Times has had (and the others were all good). We first met nearly 10 years ago when she was editor of the Buffalo News. I don’t know what her next step would be, but if I were hiring a newsroom leader, journalism dean (or endowed chair), media critic, columnist, media organization executive or almost any other journalism job, she’d be at the top of my list of people to talk to. I’ll be interested to see where she goes next and wish her well in whatever lies ahead.

My hospital stay. This is my first blog post here in 13 days. I’m not sure if that’s a record hiatus since I started this blog, but if not, I bet it’s close. My stem-cell transplant has been a rough experience, with more than a week where I could barely muster the energy for a few emails or social media posts a day, if that. But the cells are making new, healthy blood. I may be home next week, and I’ll definitely be blogging again before the end of the year.

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I have never shared the view that a newspaper’s front page needed to be a sacrosanct opinion-free zone.

The New York Times published a front-page editorial about gun violence today, and I blogged separately about that.

As I wrote that post, my mind quickly turned to the Des Moines Register’s wonderful run of cartoonists who produced editorial cartoons running regularly for Page One. This started out as a section of that post, but I quickly decided it was worth a separate post.

I worked a decade (in two hitches, 1977-85 and 1998-2000) for the Register. During both stretches, and for decades before I showed up and eight years I left, the Register published page-one editorial cartoons by three of the greatest artists in journalism history: Pulitzer Prize-winners Ding Darling and Frank Miller, as well as Brian Duffy (who should have a couple of Pulitzers).

I’d like to see a newspaper today revive the front-page editorial cartoon (with digital animated and/or interactive versions). Innovation doesn’t have to be a tug-of-war between invention and tradition. It can mean updating and adapting the best parts of your heritage. Editorial cartoons, particularly at the Register, are a piece of newspaper heritage worth updating and adapting.

Brief reflections on each of the great Register cartoonists:

Brian Duffy

Duffy is a model for innovation and perseverance as a cartoonist.

I was disgusted in 2008 when the Register cut Duffy’s job after 25 years, losing an important voice and a valuable distinction for one of my favorite papers. I was editor of the Cedar Rapids Gazette, and Duffy produced some cartoons for us, one of his first steps in establishing what is now a statewide network of media customers. We explored the possibility of a deeper arrangement with the Gazette, but I left in 2010 without being able to work that out.

He also draws national cartoons for King Features, local cartoons for the weekly Cityview newspaper and draws live cartoons on a Thursday morning television spot on KCW123 Great Day. An avid cyclist, he draws monthly cartoons for Momentum Magazine. Duffy published another book of his cartoons this year.

I asked Duffy this morning for an update and some cartoons to use. The cartoons he sent, from 1994 and 1999, illustrate how persistent the gun violence issue in our nation is and how long Congress has been under control of the National Rifle Association:

Duffy Golden Idol

TARGET PRACTICE

Duffy has been lampooning the Iowa Caucuses since 1984:

duffy_trump

Like Miller and Darling before him, Duffy frequently addresses issues in Iowa agriculture.

Iowa tourism brochure

As you’ll see shortly, Miller was the master of the obituary cartoon, a form in which Duffy also excels:

Duffy Schulz

Frank Miller

One of the regrets of my career is that I was too shy as a young journalist at the Register to ask Miller, a fellow Yankee fan, for the original of a cartoon he drew (alas, for the sports section, not the front page) to accompany a sports commentary that I wrote.

One of the most-heartbreaking stories of my early career was editing Miller’s obituary, masterfully written by Ken Fuson.

Miller won the 1963 Pulitzer Prize for a cartoon on nuclear war:

Frank Miller 1963

No one was better at the obituary cartoon:

John Lennon

I wasn’t able to quickly find another of Miller’s obituary cartoons in the excellent Iowa Digital Library collection of his work, but will add one if I find another.

In an earlier post, I used these Miller cartoons about Richard Nixon:

Frank Miller cartoons

I liked Miller’s tribute to the Des Moines Tribune, which died in 1982, a year before Miller did:

Occasionally a huge breaking story would chase an editorial cartoon off the front page, but the Page One cartoon was such a Register institution that Miller held his place on the cover on a day with two historic stories:
Des Moines Register front page, Jan. 21, 1981

Ding Darling

Darling was before my time, but launched the tradition of cartooning excellence on the Register’s front page, winning Pulitzers in 1924 and 1943.

This cartoon won Darling the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

This cartoon won Darling the 1924 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

This cartoon, with the caption, "What a Place For a Waste Paper Salvage Campaign," won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

This cartoon, with the caption, “What a Place For a Waste Paper Salvage Campaign,” won the 1943 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning.

In addition to his cartoons, Darling is perhaps best known as a champion of conservation. The J.N. “Ding” Darling National Wildlife Refuge at Sanibel Island, Fla., is named for the activist cartoonist who led efforts to protect the area from development.

Darling conservation

Which editorial cartoonists are updating?

If you know someone who’s using editorial cartoons on Page One or updating cartoons successfully for the digital age, please share images or links. Editorial cartoons are a rich part of journalism tradition. I hope they are an important part of our future, too.

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As LSU’s Director of Student Media, I occasionally fire off messages to student editors and station managers with suggestions that I usually expect them to ignore. They are independent and they are rightly in charge of their newsrooms, and I didn’t follow a lot of faculty advice when I was their age either.

I sent this message to the editorial board of our newspaper, the Daily Reveille, on Oct. 1:

Message to students

I just checked. I didn’t carbon anyone from the New York Times on the message. But the Times ran a front-page editorial this morning, calling for an end to “the Gun Epidemic in America.”

My students sort of followed my advice (or moved that direction on their own), running some opinions on the front page but more frequently than I suggested. That’s OK, too: The Reveille’s front page and editorials should reflect their judgment, not mine. I’m proud of their work, which has included excellent opinion pieces by columnists and the editorial board on page-one this semester, about such topics as mental health and racial discrimination at bars near campus.

As Kristen Hare’s Poynter piece that I shared with the student editors indicated, newspapers are increasingly responding to important issues by stating opinions on newsprint once reserved for “straight news”: the front page. The New York Times is following this trend, not leading it (nor am I, obviously). Hare’s piece was prompted by this Chicago Sun-Times cover: (more…)

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These tweets early in the San Bernardino shooting Wednesday attracted a lot of media attention, including a blog post from me last night and the initial version of this post (most of which will be retained here, with updates noted):

shooting tweet 2

shooting tweet 1

As I noted in both posts, this was either an eyewitness who could provide helpful accounts for reporters working on a breaking news story or a prankster playing the media. She answered tonight:

it was a prank

I exposed the media

“Marie’s” success included a telephone interview with CNN’s Anderson Cooper and a bogus “Gamergate” reference in an AP story that was published online by the New York Times.

My own original version of this post raised doubts about her. But I concluded she was probably legit (but I said wouldn’t use her tweets in a breaking news story without a phone interview). We never had a phone interview (though I gave her my number), but I thought my analysis of her media interactions fit well in the context of a blog that addresses media issues. Despite some passages that are now embarrassing, I think most of it holds up as valid analysis. I hope it improved after the liar started boasting about the hoax.

Let’s be clear about several things here:

  1. You can call it a prank, “Marie,” but it’s also a lie. That may make you smarter than some journalists, but you’re still a liar.
  2. Exploiting a tragedy for fun and laughs is lower on the scale of humanity than whatever you think media do in seeking to interview witnesses to tragedies. Enjoy your end zone dance, but I think you should attend the funerals of each of the San Bernardino victims whose deaths gave you such glee.
  3. “Marie” didn’t expose “the media.” She exposed a few media outlets (albeit some big ones; more on them later). As far as I can tell, most journalists who contacted “Marie” didn’t use her story. Some told me privately that they were skeptical. I will be asking them if I can use their time-stamped expressions of skepticism, all before her victory tweet.

Another important point here is that this may not be a one-woman (if “Marie” is, in fact, a woman) hoax. Shortly before she started her end-zone dance on Twitter, I had a direct-message exchange with a possible co-conspirator (unless this is another lie) who had posed as a CNN reporter early in her exchanges with the media. Some other fakes (detailed below in the original post along with the fake-CNN reporter) might also be co-conspirators.

Here are my DMs to and from “Paul Town,” the fake CNN reporter:

Town

Paul Town 2

Paul Town 3

For what it’s worth, I don’t think you fight for ethics in journalism, by lying, so that’s just another lie. I did note Marie’s tie to Gamergate, a running controversy over sexual harassment and conflict in video game development, in the original post.

Some journalists were skeptical from the first

Andrew Seaman of Reuters first called Marie to my attention by direct message Wednesday night, noting this tweet from Brian Ries of Mashable:

Ries

He elaborated in direct messages Wednesday night after my initial post, which focused more on the San Bernardino Sun’s breaking-news coverage, but reported his doubts:
Ries 1

Ries 2

Later in the original post, you’ll see several journalists who tweeted at Marie, asking for interviews. In most cases, I can’t see any indication that the journalists used anything from Marie, so I think skepticism was widespread, though obviously not universal.

Reported.ly, which specializes in real-time reporting from social media, and produced a social-media timeline of the San Bernardino shooting considered and rejected Marie’s tweet. Reported.ly chief Andy Carvin explained the decision to me in a Facebook message (I add the last names and Twitter profile links of the journalists he referred to by first name):

I just took a look at our chat log; we discussed the tweet in Slack. Kim Bui found it, then noted she hadn’t used it. I suggested we take a close look at the timestamp to see what if anything we could glean from it. Malachy Browne urged caution and noted it was the first time the user had ever mentioned San Bernardino. So we moved on and left her on the cutting room floor.

Monday update: Browne elaborated on Twitter:

Malachy Browne tweets

Gadi Schwartz of NBC LA reached out to Marie (you’ll see his tweet below), but told me later by DM that the timeline “seemed fishy so i quickly moved on.”

Scott Schwebke of the Orange County Register asked Marie to contact him, but eventually decided not to use anything from her:

Schwebke tweet

Shortly before Marie began gloating about her lie, Seaman, chair of the Society of Professional Journalists Ethics Committee, expressed strong skepticism in a Twitter DM:

Seaman DM

Who fell for the story?

While lots of journalists backed away, Marie did successfully troll some of the biggest names in the media, using the names “Marie Christmas,” “Marie Port” and “Marie A. Parker” in various media reports:

CNN

On CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360, the host interviewed “Marie Port” by telephone Wednesday night. I have asked CNN spokeswoman Erica Puntel for an explanation of how Cooper and/or his producers vetted Marie before putting her on the air, and will update if I hear from her.

I can’t find a clip of just that segment from Wednesday night on Cooper’s show site and don’t plan to watch the whole episode to catch that interview on an official CNN video. (I suspect CNN will ask YouTube to take the clip below down, so I’ll embed the video, followed by a screengrab):

AC360 screengrab

Marie and her friends commented on Twitter about the interview. I used those tweets in the original post and left them in place if you care to read that far.

Associated Press

When a liar suckers the AP, that means potentially 1,400 newspaper members and thousands of broadcast members might have used the story.

Here’s an archived version of the AP story of “Stories of those who survived mass shooting in California,” which included this sneaky reference to Gamergate:

The woman said he had a strange emblem on his shirt with the letters GG on it.

Friday morning update: AP Vice President and Director of Media Relations emailed me this bulletin, saying it was sent to members about 8 p.m. Thursday:

AP kill bulletin

The current AP story has a correction at the end:

This story has been corrected to eliminate the testimony from Marie A. Parker. That person has publicly retracted the statements.

I would prefer a stronger description than “retracted.” That person (whose name most certainly isn’t Marie A. Parker) is gloating about pulling a hoax on the AP. The correction should note that AP fell for a lie and quoted someone fictitious.

gloating over AP

And in that spirit, I should note that Marie gloated about me, too:

Marie trolls buttry

New York Times

While most AP members probably didn’t use the story (that’s true of most AP stories; every member selects a minority from a huge budget of news coverage), the New York Times did, and that prompted gloating from Marie and her friends/followers:

NYT gloat

I understand the Times story occurs as an automatic feed from AP with no Times handling. The Times story did not carry the correction when I updated this story late Thursday, but it carries the AP correction Friday morning.

Times Standards Editor Phil Corbett emailed me:

As far as I can tell, that story was part of the automated feed of AP (and Reuters) stories that readers can access through nytimes.com. Those stories are not selected or edited by Times editors. Corrections to them, when needed, are handled by the AP.

The Times did write its own story on a hoax involving a possible suspect’s name, but I’m not going into that here.

International Business Times

The International Business Times, quoted “Marie Christmas,” saying she lived in “La Puerta, Calif.” The story didn’t say whether they communicated by phone or Twitter DM. I can’t find any tweets between them. Google Maps shows a couple California businesses in the San Diego area named La Puerta, but not a community by that name. La Puente, Calif., is about 50 miles west of San Bernardino. I’ve asked IB Times contacts for explanation and will update if they respond. At 11:30 p.m. Central time Thursday, the story was not corrected.

Jay Dow

New York TV reporter Jay Dow of WPIX-TV made the best media mea culpa:

Jay Dow guilty pleaWhat’s left of my original post

Pieces of the original post have been moved up and updated. I don’t unpublish without a good reason, and embarrassment isn’t a good enough one. So here’s what’s left of what I posted Thursday evening shortly before Marie started boasting about the hoax. I will note some updates and add comments on where I am pleased or disappointed with what I originally wrote. But it’s all here, unless I moved it up and updated:

Eyewitnesses who tweet about horrible news events can be important, willing and helpful sources for journalists covering breaking news.

All journalism ethics codes stress accuracy and verification. Coverage of breaking news has always tested journalists’ ability to verify information in a hurry. The 2006 Sago mine disaster in West Virginia, well into the digital age, but at the birth of the social media age we’re experiencing now, resulted in inaccurate front-page banner headlines and late-night broadcasts trumpeting the “miracle rescue” of 12 trapped coal miners. It later turned out that only one miner had survived. The mistaken source in that story was then-West Virginia Gov. Joe Manchin.

Unfolding breaking stories today often call on journalists to vet lesser-known sources, such as “Marie Christmas,” whose tweets above offered journalists a chance to connect with an actual eyewitness, while awaiting those official reports (which, as the Manchin case reminds us, can be mistaken).

Breaking news stories have always required journalists to try to connect with eyewitnesses, some of whom want to talk to us and some of whom don’t. Asking them for interviews can be difficult, and sometimes a single witness will attract a media horde. Crude bunch that we can be, journalists (and our sources, too, I suppose) sometimes call this horde a clusterfuck. Which might be a good time to warn you that I’m not cleaning up language for this post. The rest of the F-bombs won’t be coming from me, but mostly references to journalists in the media horde.

When journalists try to verify that people actually witnessed events they have tweeted about, we can be annoying, even insulting. Verification — and media inquiries in general — can be an uncomfortable. Even when we’re doing good journalism we can be intrusive and we have to be skeptical.

Before I was able to ask “Marie Christmas” about what she saw and experienced Wednesday, I mentioned her (though not by @JewyMarie username or the obviously fictitious name on her Twitter account) in a post yesterday about breaking news coverage. (If you don’t want to read or reread the full post, just search “eyewitness” at the link above and you’ll find the section where I mentioned her tweets and why Brian Ries of Mashable raised questions about whether she was an actual witness.) I believe Ries’ concerns were valid and thoughtful, but I won’t elaborate on them again here.

Update: Yeah, this paragraph is embarrassing: After closer examination, I believe “Marie” (she used the last name Port in a CNN interview) actually was an eyewitness, even though I’m not sure we know her true name. I saw the red flags that prompted Ries’ concerns. But I saw many reasons to believe she was a true eyewitness. She had interactions before, during and after the incident that convince me strongly of her legitimacy. This will be a long post, with about 50 screenshots of tweets among Marie and friends, strangers and journalists. Some of the tweets will repeat ground I covered yesterday, but with screenshots this time, rather than just quotes.

I didn’t use screenshots last night because Marie had taken her Twitter account private. I asked to follow her (you can’t read tweets from a private account unless the user accepts you as a follower). She accepted my request and after our discussion by direct message, I have decided to use screenshots of tweets from, to and about her. She has decided to speak publicly about her experience yesterday, and I think her direct messages and Twitter exchanges illustrate some points about breaking news coverage and verification, as well as about the toll journalism can take on sources and how some of the public views our work.

Interspersed with the screenshots will be my comments. I won’t use screenshots that address some personal matters Marie tweeted about before her moment of fame, but those tweets contributed to my belief that she’s legitimate. We’ll start with my direct-message exchange with her:

DMs 1

I normally wouldn’t ask someone that bluntly about verification and whether she was actually there. A phone call would have allowed more gradual and polite vetting, some basic questions about who she was, etc. But since we were communicating by Twitter, I got to the point more directly. I also had already given her a link in which I discussed reasons for skepticism about her specifically. So I got to the point. I think you can detect irritation in the messages below, and I understand and respect that response. If we have more exchanges, I will add them to this post.

Second DM string

She has not DM’d me since, which I understand, but since she had answered questions and had done an earlier interview, I decided to grab screenshots and use her Twitter exchanges.

Clearly, she was right about her birthday. Before her birthday lunch, she got lots of greetings from Twitter friends:

happy birthday

birthday 1

birthday 2

Long birthday

birthday plans

chef boyardee

The birthday greetings don’t verify that Marie witnessed the shooting. But they do identify that the person who tweeted about the shooting is a real person with real friends who knew it was her birthday and acted friendly toward her. All of that could describe a prankster. But I’d be more suspicious of someone with a fairly inactive previous Twitter history. Marie is active and lively on Twitter. This looks like someone who would tweet if she saw something terrifying unfold on her birthday.

Plus, the tweets identify lots of friends you could contact for verification. Some might connect you with Marie directly. Some might have been at the birthday gathering and shot their own photos of it. I didn’t try to contact the friends, but would have if I were covering a breaking story. I did check their timelines and didn’t find anyone who had been at the birthday gathering, but also didn’t see anything suspicious. They appeared to share interests and personality traits. One tweeted about hearing Marie on CNN that evening. Update: Trying to contact the friends directly would have certainly raised suspicions. 

CNN tweet

Of course, that could be amazement about a friend being on CNN to discuss what she witnessed. Or it could be amazement that a friend pulled off a con. More on the CNN interview later.

As I noted yesterday, Ries saw concerns in Marie’s timeline: (Update: I used this screengrab up higher, but decided to leave it in its original place, too.)

Ries

Sarcasm is a frequent tone in Marie’s timeline, and nothing I could see before Wednesday indicated any connection to San Bernardino (as Ries noted in a direct message). And I saw tweets about pranks, though they seemed to be appreciation for pranks by others, not a pattern of playing pranks herself. I saw valid reasons to wonder about the authenticity of Wednesday’s claim. But I have no doubt this is an authentic person’s oft-used Twitter account, even if the name is fictional. Frequent interests of Marie are Anime, video games and the Gamergate sexual-cyberharasssment controversy (in which Roguestar is a figure):

anime

videogame

samurai jack

Roguestar

Marie Christmas, media star

I have taught thousands of journalists in recent years to use Twitter to connect with eyewitnesses to breaking news events. My first blog post on the topic was six years ago this month, noting how slow media organizations were in catching up with a survivor who tweeted immediately and extensively about a Denver plane crash. I have used that example in dozens of workshops, seminars and classes.

Back then, watching carefully on Twitter was a certain path to a scoop. Update: In teaching verification techniques, I noted that the survivor’s username, @2drinksbehind, should be a red flag, as Marie’s obviously bogus name was. But his timeline provided more help in verifying his authenticity.

Well, today someone who tweets from the scene of a breaking story gets plenty of media attention, more than I noted in yesterday’s post. Marie received multiple inquiries from some news organizations (it’s not uncommon to have lots of journalists working a story this big and duplication is difficult, if not impossible, to prevent).

I am messaging the journalists cited here in a variety of ways, before and after I post, and will update if they respond.

New York’s Gray Lady and tabloid Daily News both wanted to talk to Marie:

NYT

NYT 2

NY Daily News Fairfield response

More shortly on John Fairfield and others who objected to journalists seeking interviews with Marie.

reuters

This next inquiry came from the Chicago Tribune. Of course journalists should emphasize safety over media contact, as Scott Kleinberg did here:

Kleinberg location

Update (after initial publication but before the hoax-boasting started): Kleinberg, social media editor for the Chicago Tribune, send this detailed explanation of his Twitter approach to possible eyewitnesses (before the hoax was revealed):

First and foremost, I’m a stickler for accuracy. My tweets about this situation were careful … using official accounts, etc.

Maybe you noticed that I sent an angry tweet with all caps to the general world telling them not to tweet verbatim from the scanner. Ever since Boston it’s been a thing and it drives me mad.

With , I had a few thoughts at the time. Remember … I’ve been live tweeting in one form or another since 2008-2009 so I’ve learned a thing or 100 along the way. First thing: Never tweet and provide email addresses or phone numbers. That makes you look desperate and I bet it’s what attracted those naysayers.

They say be careful and launch into the contact thing so it seems disingenuous. I was careful to put safety first and let her know that we’d love to talk to her but I didn’t want to put any specifics out there yet.

Right or wrong or helpful, those other journalists don’t realize how much perception matters. So for me I immediately thought of telling her to stay safe … I do that when I ask people to tweet weather photos so I’m all about safety.

I figured that if she responded, then I’d go into the deep verifying and ask her a whole bunch of questions. In the meantime I was looking at her feed and trying to get a sense for who she was. I instantly thought she was young and in high school based on the subject matter, the lack of capital letters and next to zero punctuation. I’d guess a senior in high school as some of the friends wishing her happy birthday had 15 in their Twitter handles, which I believe is their graduating year.

At that moment I just wanted to make the connection. And I wasn’t looking per se to talk to an eyewitness, but I just happened to catch hers and the tone resonated where I wanted to reach out. The people who put in phone numbers and act desperate often send the same tweet to multiple people and that adds to the desperation even more.

Kleinberg did not get a response from Marie, but I like his thoughtful approach. I’m not opposed to tweeting a phone number, but I think he makes a valid point. I know many journalists who’ve gotten great interviews (and been able to vet sources effectively) that way. But perhaps that was more effective before today’s Twitter media horde.

Update: After being informed of the hoax, Kleinberg added:

Kleinberg DM

MSNBC invited a phone call. You can vet a source better and more politely over the phones. Phone numbers may be a your-mileage-might-vary situation:

msnbc

NBCLA Gadi Schwartz

This next inquiry is from the Daily Beast. (I recommend that journalists reaching out to news eyewitnesses identify themselves in the tweets, rather than counting on the person to check your profile to learn who you are.)

Daily Beast

Even a Russian media outlet wanted to talk to Marie:

RT producer

Multiple responses here. I’m not sure why I haven’t been able to see ABC producer Ali Ehrlich‘s tweet to Marie. More shortly on some of the others, but this string shows the horde Marie was attracting.

Media responses

As this next tweet indicates, Marie was not going to be easy to interview (clearly a red flag in retrospect, though some journalists, as noted above, backed away in part because of the lack of a phone). The “Buzzfeed Afghanistan” inquiry is clearly a fake, but the media inquiry at the end of this string was legitimate.

No phone

Backlash to media inquiries

John Fairfield, mentioned above, was the most consistent scold of journalists seeking interviews with Marie. But he had plenty of company:

CBS News Campa Fairfield response

Fairfield ABC responseKaty Conrad CBS response

KCBS response

KNBC thread

roaches

Update: Jenna Susko of NBC LA says:

I messaged with her but did not use it.

Fake fake fake

Merry Fyrsmas, included above in a string of legitimate media inquiries, does not appear to be an actual journalist, nor is Fyrasec News, which she cited, an actual news organization (or one you can find on Google, at least). I suspect this is a friend, mocking journalists’ inquiries of Marie.

Fryasec Fairfield response 2

Update: @Fyrasec confirmed my conclusion:

Merry Fyrsmas

The inquiry below appears to be a fake, too. Merry Coyote’s link in the Twitter bio is not to a political blog and I could not find such a blog. Might be a friend of Marie’s mocking all the media attention. Or just a stranger joining the clamor.

Crazy Coyote

The question below appears like something an actual journalist might ask, but the inquirer doesn’t identify himself and discloses in his Twitter bio that the “Counterspin Central” blog he once authored is no longer active. Hesiod Thogony, whether a fake or real name for this Twitter user, has its roots in antiquity that I don’t care to read about.

Hesiod theogony

A fake CNN reporter

CNN Paul Townjpg

Though Marie did eventually appear on CNN, this inquiry is a fake. CNN reporters and producers are pretty easy to Google and I can’t find any indication of a CNN employee by that name. Here’s the top of his Twitter page:

Paul Town profile

And the tweet pinned at the top of his timeline:

Indonesian boy

And the home page for paultown.com, the link from his Twitter bio:

Paul Town.com

Nothing there looks like a journalist. Erica Puntel from CNN PR confirmed by email my conclusion that he’s a fake. Will update if I hear from him. (If he follows me back, I’ll DM him questions. If not, I’ll tweet at him when I post this, inviting comment. The blog has no contact information that I can find.)

Update: “Town” followed me back and I’ve added our DM exchange up high. He’s the guy (if he’s male) claiming a “secret cabal” of media trolls.

Actual interviews

Marie later exchanged tweets from an actual CNN reporter:

CNN Hanks Farifield response

Update: Hanks would not discuss his interactions with Marie. In fairness it should be noted that he is a CNN digital writer/producer, and I could not find any references to “Marie” on CNN.com. Hanks does not produce for Anderson Cooper 360, the CNN show where Cooper interviewed “Marie Port” by telephone Wednesday night, as I noted earlier in the updated post.

The reaction to the Cooper interview seems to indicate friends regarded it as legit. In retrospect, some, if not all, were clearly in on the hoax:

cnn interview 1

Anderson Cooper

Marie and her friends wound down the evening with light banter.

verified accounts

She summed the day up:

fuck

I think if she would have gotten in touch with me on deadline, I could have verified pretty quickly that Marie was a valid eyewitness and tried to use and verify her real given name. I wouldn’t have used her tweets in a breaking story without talking to her, though. Update: I’m glad I originally said that I wouldn’t use the tweets without talking to her. And, given the fact that she was lying, I’m certain I would have been able to determine that if we had ever talked on the phone.

I feel comfortable using them here because of our Twitter exchange and the context I am providing. The work I spent on this blog post was way more than you can spend on one source in most breaking news stories.

Here were my last DMs to her (I have not heard back, but will try again and update if I do).

final DMs with Marie

I’ll update with responses, if any, from Marie and journalists I have messaged (and will continue messaging; sometimes sending the link to a published post brings a response).

Post script

Verification HandbookAs I’ve noted in earlier posts about identifying mass killers, I don’t like indulging attention-seekers, and these trolls clearly relish attention, even if for their fake names. So it sickens me to feed that disgusting behavior with this much attention. But journalists covering breaking news should learn from our mistakes. I made mistakes in my initial analysis of this episode, and other journalists made bigger mistakes. So I wrote this long, long updated analysis in hopes of making it harder for trolls to exploit tragedy, and journalists’ challenges in covering unfolding breaking news.

I suggest reading my social media verification tips (I may need to reread them myself, and update). I also suggest reading the Verification Handbook. In my chapter of that book, I used (and explained the history of) one of journalism’s favorite clichés: If your mother tells you she loves you check it out. And if someone with a phony-sounding name tells you anything, double-check and triple-check it out. Or move on to a more credible source.

One final point: This hoax was clearly rooted in Twitter, and social media have given liars and pranksters new tools. But media hoaxes way predate social media. Journalists have been interviewing teen-age boys named “Heywood Jablome” (say it out loud; the kids always spell it for the gullible reporters) for decades.

Friday evening postscript

If you’ve made it this far, you might find the comments from trolls below interesting. Fascinating patterns: Moral indignation about failings (some of them valid, obviously) by the media but completely clueless about how cowardly they appear hiding behind bogus names and how completely lacking they are in integrity, as they trumpet lying as a perverted tool of digital vigilantism. I responded to a few, because I respond to almost all commenters here, but I’m going to stop. I generally delete comments from trolls, because they are so clearly seeking attention and I don’t like to indulge attention-seekers. But they seem appropriate here, showing the psychology of the lying troll better than I could describe it.

Update: Of course, I spoke too soon. Right after I posted the paragraph above, a troll lied in a comment, so I deleted it. You can defend lying here, but I won’t tolerate new lies. Find somewhere else to troll. And another update: No sooner did I post that last update than the same troll posted another long diatribe with more lies. I’ve deleted his/her entire thread, including my responses. This was the most active troll in the comments, but I think enough others remain to illustrate the points I’ve made above.

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Southern California media has done an excellent job, from what I’ve seen, of reporting the mass shooting in San Bernardino using liveblogs and social media.

This post is my early and admittedly incomplete assessment of coverage that is still unfolding, and I fell behind in following the story as I worked on the post, so it might reflect early developments better than later ones. I admit a bias on this topic: I visited the San Bernardino Sun and taught liveblogging, use of social media and other digital skills to my former colleagues at Digital First Media there and throughout the Los Angeles News Group, where journalists pitched in on today’s coverage. I’m proud of what I’ve seen of their performance. I watched their work more closely than anyone else’s and will unapologetically focus on it more.

What I’m going to do here is identify and show examples of best practices (and some not as good practices) in covering a breaking news story on Twitter and a liveblog. In a separate post tomorrow, I’ll curate a debate I joined with some other journalists about covering these unfolding stories. Update: Twitter embed codes don’t seem to be working in this post right now, but if you click on the date in the block quotes for tweets, that should take you to the tweet.

This blog post will continue to unfold, as the coverage does, after I initially post. I won’t mark any updates unless the correct the original post.

Report what you know

sb sun facebookYou can and should report important facts, with attribution, as you confirm them. Early in a story, the facts may be vague and impartial, the attribution no more than “reports.” But be as specific as possible within each tweet and in the flow of your coverage. (more…)

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Dean Baquet

Dean Baquet addressing students and faculty at LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication.

New York Times executive editor Dean Baquet, a New Orleans native, visited LSU’s Manship School of Mass Communication Monday.

In an afternoon address, the Q&A that followed and in an informal chat with the staff of the Daily Reveille, Baquet expressed excitement about changes in journalism and stressed that our mission as journalists is more important than the platforms we publish on.

These tweets from Manship School students best summarize some of his key points:

For more detail, here are tweets from Baquet’s speech (including some interaction from Twitter):

 

Pictures from Baquet’s visit

I didn’t catch all of Baquet’s visit to LSU and Baton Rouge, but these tweets show the different groups he visited with.

The Reveille and Advocate both reported on Baquet’s afternoon speech. And here’s a video of the speech:

Dean Baquet from LSU Manship School on Vimeo.

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