Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hard at work

In the time since I last posted, I've started my new job. In this position, I'll be working primarily on Web content, including new blogs that my paper is rolling out. It's pretty exciting. In the meantime, I'll try to post a few articles here and there. I meant to post this weeks ago when I found it linked in one of my emails.

The Gazette, a paper in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, did a two-week daily series on a prostitution ring in rural Iowa. The whole thing was discovered when a 13-year-old girl who had been kidnapped and forced into prostitution escaped (with the help of the girlfriend of the man in charge) and started talking. The series is quite long -- I think several of the stories could have been condensed -- but it's an interesting piece of investigative journalism and I like the way the project was presented online.

The reader comments tend toward the negative, asking why the paper would devote so much time to something the readers felt was sensationalized, but there aren't enough of them to really make a judgment about what the majority of readers thought.

I asked in our Power Journalism class if the Internet would lead papers to move away from time-consuming investigative work, but pieces like this are proof that that doesn't seem to be happening.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

You know you're a journalist if you ....

The first item on this list was added by yours truly prior to posting the list here. I did not submit it to the site where I found the list.
* corrected the grammar on this list before posting it.
* feel stupid when you can't come up with something more creative than your co-workers.
* like to hang out with your right-brained friends because you're the "wild one."
* aren't concerned with losing your job because it's such a piss-poor field you know they would be doing you a favor.
* understand where the term "starving artist" derived.
* talk in "headline speak" for shits and grins.
* correct your church bulletin with a pen during the service or mark up any newsletter that comes in the mail while you're on the phone.
* insist on explaining to everyone where the grammar mistakes are in any publication or sign.
* actually understand the correct use of commas, semicolons and colons.
* hope you don't get an assignment that requires a lot of driving because your car might break down.
* enjoy reading your dictionary and quizzing your co-workers and friends.
* read an e-mail several times before sending it and making at least three editing changes.
* are pressured into making a list because two other journalist-types already have.
* play Scrabble and go for the word that is the most impressive, rather than the highest scoring.
* kept all the books you read in college but haven't touched them since.
* point out that someone made a grammatical error and your friends/significant others just smile and nod.
* silently deride your reporters' stupidity every time you find a mistake.
* hear about a murder on TV and sigh with relief when you realize it's not in your "coverage area."
* are bothered by the fact that you can't come up with anything clever enough for a list about what writers/journalists actually do.
* mock incorrect grammar while allowing yourself any and all "creative" uses. You are, in fact, a professional.
* are able to attribute your misspellings, such as "independance" or "milenium" to your editors' lack of skill. It's the whole point of having editors, right?
* have ever figured out how much more income you could bring in as manager of Taco Bell.
* have been prescribed at least three different anti-depressants.
* have seriously considered joining the peace corps but couldn't for fear of being stationed nowhere near a Gap.
* like to eat out but don't order wine or appetizers because you can't afford it.
* have ever spent more than three hours in a cafe and used your debit card to pay for your $1.69 grande coffee.

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

We're sorry about all the trees

In about two weeks, I will join the ranks of real, professional journalists when I start my new job at a mid-sized daily in the Pacific Northwest. Those of you who know me personally of course know where I'll be working, but I want to be careful not to mention the name of the paper here. I will have to leave Eugene, which is sad, but I'm thrilled to have a "real" job at last.

In the meantime, what I post here will be determined by whether my paper has a policy on blogging. This was the topic of As newspapers today's "Everyday Ethics" column. start taking on summer interns and young employees, the author writes, it is important for papers to decide what their policies are on personal blogs. More and more of the college-aged employees/interns are going to have them, and it is better to set a policy than for anyone to be surprised. The writer also suggests that the interns themselves be upfront about whether they blog. I certainly hope I'll be able to continue blogging in one way or another. Here are some of the suggested policies from the column:

# Write one. Maybe start a blog about policies. But do it now. It's way too late to claim that blogging is just too new of a phenomenon to merit a policy.
# Reconsider your policy if it states: No personal blogs. Telling a 20-year-old he can't blog is like telling a 50-year-old she can't write a holiday letter. You won't win that one.
# Consider what you're comfortable having employees discuss in public:

* Nothing about the newsroom at all? That might be unrealistic.
* Nothing about stories in development? That seems fair.
* Nothing that puts the company in a negative light? Sure, you've got a right to require that, but you might define negative carefully.
* Nothing about sources? Good idea. Journalists who say things about their sources that they wouldn't put into their stories are treading in dangerous territory.
* Nothing embarrassing or negative about your colleagues. (I had a young journalist once ask me if she crossed a line by blogging about a fellow reporter's bathroom habits. Yes, I told her, I thought that was rude. Maybe not unethical, but definitely rude.)

# I counsel journalists who keep personal blogs to employ a no-surprises rule. Always let your boss know if you have a blog. Ask for guidelines, if they don't exist. Never say anything in the blog that you wouldn't say out loud, to the primary stakeholders. This could all be included in a policy.

I also found a fun feature on Poynter in which journalists were asked to submit possible six-word mottos for the profession. My favorite is the title of this post. I may be concerned about the environment, but the one thing I'll be "wasteful" about is newspapers. I recycle them, of course, but I need the paper. After I move, I'll be reading three papers regularly: the one I work for, the large daily in the area, and the weekend New York Times

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