Monday, March 23, 2009

The journalist's lament

This weekend, I volunteered to mentor a teenager in a journalism workshop at my old paper. It's the seventh time they've done the workshop, in which high school students come in on a Friday night to hear a guest speaker and have dinner, then on Saturday morning go out and do interviewing and reporting for a story, which they write on Saturday afternoon. It's a pretty good crash-course in what it's like to be a reporter at a daily paper. My experience was a bit different.

The student I mentored was only in eighth grade, making her the youngest to ever to do the workshop. She had no previous experience, but was great to work with. She was enthusiastic and very willing to learn. We went out on Friday night — another first — and covered a DVD release party for "Twilight," which I know nothing about, but which she loves. The best part of the party was that while we both went in expecting a lot of girls her age, what we found was that women my age and older are really, REALLY into "Twilight." Our main characters were a group of women all wearing shirts that read, "Over 30 and dazzled," with pictures of the male lead in the movie on the backs. They were VERY excited about the movie and more than willing to talk about it. When we came back in the morning, we wrote during the time other students were out doing their reporting, so we had time to do a second story. We went out to do a quick piece on a giant yard sale to raise money for the graduation party at one of the high schools. Doing a second story was yet another first for my student. It was a blast, and the photographers on both stories were so great. The photo and story from the "Twilight" party were so good that package wound up running as the centerpiece on today's "Homefront" (what would be the city or metro section in a bigger paper) section.

The weekend was a blast, my student was awesome, and it was great to see so many young people interested in journalism. I don't know how many of them are interested in doing it as a career, but it's still exciting.
For better or for worse, going around with my student helping her interview and write just solidified my determination to stay in journalism. On one hand, it's nice to feel so passionate about something, on the other, the news about daily papers just keeps getting worse and worse. At this point, even if I found a job, there's very little job security. Even a paper that appears to be doing well could make cuts in a few months in order to try to get ahead of the storm. I've decided to move back in with my parents, which will allow me to save my unemployment checks instead of budgeting every cent while I look for something new. Taking away that stress will make it easier to be a bit pickier, but will give me time to look into other options. If nothing else, I'll freelance on the side. I'm already doing a bit of freelance editing and have been accepted to some freelance writing Web sites. I just need to DO the writing. Hopefully it won't take too much longer to find the right job.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

Why I love journalism

The Nieman Foundation at Harvard recently awarded The Charlotte Observer an award for fairness in journalism for its absolutely amazing series on "the human cost" of the poultry industry. The series, which originally ran in February 2008, looks at the injuries suffered by workers at one of the largest poultry plants in the nation. Workers can suffer injuries related to repetitive motion, but for many reasons, the injuries often go unreported and the workers are left in pain, sometimes crippled by their injuries. The series is very long, but is definitely worth a read.

The Web presentation is great — it puts all the articles in one easy-to-access place and has links to interactive features including a diagram of the hand that explains in plain English how these injuries happen — but I wish I could read the series in print. I love to read investigative series in print and see how they unfold each day. It's easier to read that much text on paper rather than on screen and waiting for the next days' articles gives some suspense to picking up the morning paper. That being said, without the Web, I would probably never have read this series.

[via Romenesko]

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

The lay-off song

Still no responses in my job search. Most of the ads I've responded to are still active, so here's hoping. In the meantime, I have a lot of time to surf the Internet. I found the site for a journalist and musician who wrote a song about the laid-off copy editor. It's the first song linked. The writer has never worked as a copy editor, but he's got it down. The song would be funny if it weren't for the malaise I'm feeling lately.

"The Copy Editor's Lament."

[via Poynter]

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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Really, CNBC?

Jon Stewart's take on CNBC's coverage of the recession. One of the better "Daily Show" segments in the last week or so.

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

In support of the Emerald

Edited to add that the description of the Oregon Daily Emerald publisher job does say the publisher would not have control over content. The entire description, including the following paragraph, was posted on Steve Smith's blog.

“The publisher is responsible for all hiring within the company with the exception of the editor, who is appointed by the board, and the newsroom staff hired by the editor. In areas of business management, the editor reports to the publisher. However, the publisher does not have and cannot exercise any supervisory control or authority over the editorial content of the Daily Emerald newspaper and its related online and mobile sites.”

I've read several articles and posts on this today, and I still feel the staff is right to question the board's actions in this situation and to take the steps they have taken. I had not read the job description (the full description is posted way down in the comments on Smith's blog) before I made my initial post here. I do not believe Smith would be a bad choice for the publisher position (he has since withdrawn his name and the board will be conducting a search), and I am sure the work he has done to try to help the Emerald is appreciated. However, the staff's demands (outlined in the Emerald article linked below and in other sources I've linked to) are reasonable. They are right to be concerned.

The editorial staff at the Oregon Daily Emerald, the independent student paper at the University of Oregon, is on strike.

The Emerald has been completely independent since 1971. It is a contracted service and the only funding from the University comes from a small "subscription fee" that comes out of the overall student incidental fee. As someone who worked for a term as the higher education reporter, I know how necessary it is to ensure that no member of the faculty or staff have control over decisions at the paper. In order to provide the most truthful, objective reporting on the University administration, the paper must remain independent.

The Emerald is keeping a blog to update people on what's going on there. I'm fully in support of what the editors and staff are asking. If the demands are not met today (March 4), the Thursday edition of the Emerald will not be printed. It will be the first time in the paper's 109-year-history that an issue was not printed. I'm afraid for the future of the paper, but I'm proud of the staff for sticking up for the paper's legacy. If I were still a student, I'd be right there with them.

Romenesko post on the strike here
Chronicle of Higher Education article
Oregonian article

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The death of newspapers?

It seems that every day, there's a new article on whether newspapers are really dying. I of course prefer the ones that take a more optimistic view. I liked this interview with Bob Woodward, who says he and his former Washington Post editor, Ben Bradlee, believe newspapers will survive. It's hard to stay positive under my current circumstances, but reading that one of my heroes believes my industry has a chance makes me feel better.

[via Romenesko]

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