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Posts Tagged ‘John Robinson’

The Bloomington Pantagraph's first "Scoop," a Waco "90" biplane, pictured in 1929. Reprinted with permission of The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

The Bloomington Pantagraph’s first “Scoop,” a Waco “90” biplane, pictured in 1929. Reprinted with permission of The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.

In the way that one idea leads to another which leads to another, this post is a flight of fancy. We start with an old family story about the ride my Uncle Pleas took 85 years ago on a plane called Scoop, then to some other stories I found from a bygone era when newspapers could afford their own pilots and planes, then to some flying stories from my career.

My mother, Harriet Buttry, was a tireless archivist of family writings before Alzheimer’s took over her mind. A shelf in her home displayed books by authors in the family, and notebooks collected magazine articles and other writings, including too many of my newspaper stories, columns and blog posts.

After helping Mom with a recent move, my brother Dan thinned the collection a bit and sent me some boxes of family writings. Most were my old newspaper stories. I was surprised how faithful I had been sending clippings to Mom, but not at all surprised how faithful she was at filing them away. But Dan sent me more than just my own work. The collection included The Great Depression: True Stories of Trials and Triumphscompiled by the McLean County Home and Community Education Association in Illinois in 2006.

That book had three family connections: My cousin Mary Lou Lawson was one of the editors, and a story toward the back of the book was written by my uncle, Pleasant J. Buttry (we called him Uncle Pleas and he also went by Pat). His sister (Mary Lou’s mother and my aunt) Minda was a key character. Here’s Uncle Pleas’s story: (more…)

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When news organizations correct errors, we should not mislead readers.

That sounds like an obvious statement, but it’s actually the topic of a debate on Twitter that I’ve joined today. I should preface this by noting that the people I’m arguing this topic with are friends and outstanding journalists whom I respect. But they are wrong about this.

Here’s the situation: When newspapers (and perhaps other news organizations) correct errors, we tend not to place blame. But when an editor adds an error to a reporter’s story, the correction misleads, implying to any readers who read bylines that the reporter erred. The correction is also misleading to sources, who usually know who the writer was and regularly make decisions about whether and how much to trust reporters.

On its surface, this feels like a journalists’ argument about how many angels (or perhaps devils, in this case) can dance on the head of a pin. Good friends have dismissed my suggestion on Twitter today as “finger-pointing.”

But when you take a phone call from an angry son whose living father was identified by an editor’s insertion into your story as “the late,” you see that this is not a trivial matter and it’s not about finger-pointing. It’s about accuracy. And responsibility. And accountability. (more…)

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Jason Plotkin's new Cover.

Jason Plotkin’s new Cover.

Journalists should go to extraordinary lengths to protect our integrity. But when a courtesy or kindness doesn’t threaten our integrity, we should say “thank you.”

Jason Plotkin, an extraordinary (Emmy-winning) visual journalist for the York Daily Record, blogged recently about a marine giving him his “Cover” (“The Army wears hats. The Marines wear Covers,” the marine explained).

Jason wrote about all the gifts he had given away over the years, or passed on to a YDR charity auction, guided by the ethical imperative to maintain independence from sources. His colleague, Buffy Andrews, called the dilemma to my attention, asking what I thought.

Here’s what I think: We should absolutely – and insistently, if necessary – politely refuse gifts of significant value that could threaten our integrity, if only by appearance. But journalists don’t have to be assholes. Our jobs too often force us to annoy – asking difficult questions, refusing pleas not to publish embarrassing information, intruding on grief and other private situations. I defend (and have practiced) all of those actions and many other unpopular things journalists need to do. But we don’t have to insult people who are being kind in ways that don’t threaten our integrity.

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I really liked John Robinson’s blog post about fixing local news, so I tweeted about it:

Since I was tweeting after midnight, I figured my tweet might go unnoticed. But 20 people retweeted it and 17 favorited it (not all the same people). And a couple people responded. Cory Bergman, general manager of Breaking News, offered a valid criticism:

Then Lisa P. White, a Digital First Media colleague who covers the communities of Martinez and Pleasant Hill, Calif., for the Contra Costa Times, responded with several tweets.

While I still think John raised some valid observations about the need to rethink how we cover local news, the questions and criticisms were also valid. So I’m going to encourage John to share some specific suggestions to improve local news. (Update: John has responded.) But I’ll also note that I shared some suggestions earlier this month, asking what newsrooms should stop doing and earlier this year, I posted about how Digital First reporters on any beat should change their work and about beat blogs.

I’ll continue here with some more thoughts on how a newsroom might change some or  all of its beats: (more…)

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I call your attention to seven recent pieces about the business of news. I don’t feel strongly enough (or have enough new to say) about any of them to comment at length, but I’ll comment briefly.

Dean Starkman of Columbia Journalism Review continues to pretend that paywalls are a panacea for the news business, saying that the Washington Post needs one immediately. Let’s assume for the sake of argument that I’m wrong and paywalls are a good idea. At best, they’re only part of a solution. If they were the path to posterity, the news organizations with paywalls wouldn’t be struggling the way they are. Even if a paywall works, we need a lot more than paywalls, and the single-minded focus on paywalls is slowing the development of other solutions.

Mathew Ingram’s response to Starkman is, not surprisingly, much more insightful: “This focus on a paywall as a magic solution misses the point about the larger risks facing both the Post and the industry as a whole.” (more…)

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With all due respect to John Robinson, he is dead wrong that it’s time for his newsroom “to have new leadership with new ideas.”

Maybe it’s time for John to enjoy something else in life. But he brought outstanding leadership and an endless flow of new ideas to the Greensboro News & Record in 13 years as editor. Whoever the new leader is will have a tough act to follow.

John announced his resignation Tuesday, with his last day scheduled for Dec. 2. (more…)

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