Thursday, May 28, 2009

Random stories of the day

I found a few interesting stories today that I thought I'd share. The first, from the American Journalism Review, discusses whether Twitter is just the latest techno-fad or can be used as a serious reporting tool.

The article does discuss the fact that may "tweets" are boring and/or useless (I'll admit that mine aren't always interesting); however, it does discuss the many ways in which the micro-blogging site can help reporters.

While I'm sick of the trend of older TV journalists (By that I mean those at least the baby boomer age) "discovering" Twitter and getting all excited about learning the new-fangled technology, I certainly appreciate the possible applications of Twitter as a reporting tool. The first photos of the crash of a plane into the Hudson were posted to Twitter, after all. Is most of the stuff on Twitter pretty useless? Probably. Is it depressing that more people follow Ashton Kutcher than CNN? Absolutely. CAN it be used as a reporting tool (both to find sources and to disseminate information) by journalists who know what they're doing and know the difference between useful information/links and crap? Definitely.

This article I found today has some reaction to the story I posted a few days ago about that claimed the New York Times had tips about Watergate before the Washington Post but dropped the ball on the story. I'm not familiar with the site the story is on, but it's interesting.

• This story is several days old, but I'm going to post it anyway because it is another example in the debate over who qualifies as a journalist (and when). An unnamed student at San Francisco State University who was present on the scene of a murder refused to talk to police, claiming that journalism shield laws protect him because he was there as part of a photojournalism project for school.

It is a bit unclear whether the SFSU student was with the victim, who was a subject of the project chronicling life in the community, or if the student just happened upon the scene of the crime. But he knew the victim and called police and the victim's family after the murder. An LA Times column says police did confiscate the student's photographs and points out that courts have made it clear that journalism students are covered under shield laws. The student's lawyer, who is quoted in the LA Times column, says there is no evidence the student saw the murder happen. I am of the opinion that student journalists should have the same protection under shield laws as professionals, but the question of who should be protected and under what circumstances is an interesting one in an age where anyone can start a blog, take photos and claim to be a journalist.

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Monday, May 25, 2009

Tough times

There's not much going on here. It's a tough time to be looking for work in journalism, particularly in newspapers. It seems that every time I consider giving up and looking to work for a different medium, something reminds me how exciting it can be to work at a newspaper.

A story in today's New York Times reports that during the Watergate scandal, the director of the FBI allegedly divulged sensitive information to a NYT reporter -- including the involvement of Attorney General John Mitchell as well as White House involvement -- before the Washington Post got the story.

The reporter in question had quit the paper and was leaving to attend law school but went back to the office and told an editor what he had heard. The editor took notes and recorded the conversation. But as we know, the Washington Post got the story first — from Mark Felt, then the number two man at the FBI ("Deep Throat") — and the Times never got the story.

It's rare that we hear about the story the paper didn't get, so it's interesting to look back on now. But what this does for me is remind me of what journalism is all about.

Watergate started out as a cops beat story. What seemed like just a break-in, only interesting because it happened to be at the Democratic headquarters, took down a president because a reporter (who happened to be friends with the number two man at the FBI) followed his instincts and looked into who the burglars were. The question today is, if that NYT editor had followed up on his reporter's tip all those years ago, how would the story be different?

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