Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Does it Feel Good to Touch Down? What's the First Thing You're Going to Do? Michael? Mike? Mike?



When important or famous people arrive in town, it's not uncommon for journalists to greet them at the airport and ask them questions.

So, when Michael Phelps landed in Arizona after the Rio Olympics, members of the media were there to greet him and ask him questions.

Except this time, Phelps asked for privacy.

Do you - as a journalist - continue pursuing him in order to get the story? After all, he is the most decorated Olympian of all time. Given that he had just won five gold and one silver medal and had announced his retirement, he seems very newsworthy, right?

Or do you allow him space, and maybe try to get in touch a few days later? He deserves his privacy, right?

What would you do? Is it wrong to keep asking questions, as the reporter in this video did?

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Can Traditional News Outlets Use Comedy?

On Sunday, the Boston Globe ran a satirical front page, presenting news from one year in the future - if Donald Trump becomes the president of the United States.

In the bottom, left corner of the paper, it reads:

"This is Donald Trump’s America. What you read on this page is what might happen if the GOP frontrunner can put his ideas into practice, his words into action. Many Americans might find this vision appealing, but the Globe’s editorial board finds it deeply troubling."

Inside the newspaper, they have an editorial that explains why they feel a Trump presidency would not be good for the country.

But should they have used their front page to make such a statement?

The front page not only mocks a leading presidential candidate but it offers numerous other jokes: they list Kid Rock as the ambassador to Japan, they announce that Trump has won a Nobel Prize, and they say that Trump named his puppy after the wife of China's president.

Does this help shed light on the the situation? Are they making the significant interesting and relevant? Or are they taking sides when they should simply be presenting the news?

In an era when there is so much competition for readers, and readers are reluctant to absorb "boring" news, is satire acceptable from traditional news outlets? Or does this sacrifice their overall credibility?

(You can find the full front page here).

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Jenni Joyce: "I Fell in Love With This Career More Than I Could Have Ever Imagined."

Jenni Joyce was a child actor, performing on stage from a very young age. That experience set her on the path to the career she has today.

“I was always interested in journalism,” she said. “I was always asking questions.”

When she was 16, her singing teacher connected her with Carol Erickson, who was then a weather person at CBS3.

Jenni began making weekly trips from her childhood home in Cherry Hill to Old City, where CBS3 was located. She made that commute regularly for the next three years until they ultimately hired her.

“I fell in love with this career more than I could have ever imagined,” she said.

By then, she was a broadcast journalism student at Temple. She continued working at CBS3 until she graduated a semester early, in 2006.

She took her first on-air reporting job in The Bronx at News12. She was a one-man band, showing up at locations in a News 12 Prius with a bunch of equipment – camera, tripod, microphone, etc. She shot and edited video, including stand-ups.

“Every day was so exhausting,” she said, noting that one-man band reporters are becoming more and more common in broadcast journalism.

She did stints at CBS 21 in Harrisburg and at Action News here in Philly before landing at Fox 29. These days, she is a general assignment reporter, filling-in on the anchor desk when needed.

Most days begin with staff meetings, where everyone presents story ideas.

“If you’re not bringing anything to the table, it’s not good,” she said.

She reads the local newspapers and websites, follows a lot of social media, connects with various organizations and she looks for national stories that she can put a local spin on.

“Eventually people will start coming to you with story ideas,” Jenni said.

For the evening news, she’ll begin gathering interviews and b-roll around 6 pm and then write the script by 8:45. It goes to her director for approval by 8:45 and the photographer begins editing around 9:00. She usually goes live during the 10 pm newscast.

“I love what I do,” she said. “You learn so much about people. You go on adventures with them.”

Here are a few things she said that stood out to me: 

• Finding a good story isn't always easy. Sometimes, you need to pull people aside. "Engage them," Jenni said. "Get to the heart of the story."
• Having good writing skills is crucial to putting a story together. "Writing is everything," she said, and then quoted a former boss, "If you're a good writer, you can go anywhere."
• When she was new to the industry, she would DVR her reports, watch them and critique herself. That's how she improved.
• In addition to her on-air reporting and anchoring, she regularly tweets and updates her Facebook page. Recently, she has been presenting live video feeds via Facebook Mentions.
• Fox 29 is a local news station and they do not have the same political agenda as the Fox Network.
• As a broadcast journalist, your appearance matters. "You have to look put together," Jenni said.
• Because she is on television, viewed by thousand of people every evening, she gets recognized, which kind of makes her a celebrity in town. "I really don't think about it," she said.
• As a journalist, she is always working. Everywhere she goes, she's looking for story ideas. But she makes sure to have a personal life. "I make sure to go to happy hour every week," she said. "I need that outlet."

What stood out for you?

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Should Student Journalists Fight For or Against The Proposed Stadium?

Temple University has proposed building a new 35,000-seat stadium that will be primarily used for football. It would be located between Broad and 16th streets, along Norris.

When rumors of the project started floating in the fall, The Temple News wrote in an editorial:

"While the prospect of such a landmark building brings students exciting visions of football Saturdays on Main Campus filled with pep-rallies, tailgates and short walks to the game, the reality is that a new stadium would bring much darker conditions to the already tense state of relations between the community, the university and its students."


Referring to the university president, The Temple News wrote:

"Theobald cannot claim to have the best interests of the North Philadelphia community in mind while simultaneously campaigning to for a project that will be such a burden for area residents."

Should the student newspaper be so critical of a proposed project that has yet to fully take shape? Is it their job to form an opinion and influence the public?

Or should they simply present the information they discover and then present the reaction that follows?

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Do Local Television Weather Crews Inflate Numbers to Draw Viewers?


CNN meteorologist Chad Myers took some heat (ironically) for saying that news directors at local stations will sometimes tell their weather crews to make forecasts sound more ominous, especially during times of potentially severe storms like this past weekend.

"Hey, bump up your numbers a little bit," he said during a live report this weekend, referring to what his former news directors told him. "Make it sound more juicy."

On twitter, many meteorologists denied that that happens. An informal poll by TVSpy reveals that around 1/3 of voters said that their news directors did give such orders.

Who do you believe? Do you trust your local TV news?

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Should The News Orgs Do Stories About Their Own Staffers?



Someone harassed a pregnant meteorologist in Oklahoma City on twitter recently:

“How much longer till the grotesquely pregnant weather lady goes on leave,” wrote someone using “nvrqt” as their handle. “She covers 1/2 the screen.”

This comes just four months after Philadelphia meteorologist Katie Fehlinger experienced the same type of harassment. After appearing on air delivering the weather while pregnant, she found a comment posted to her Facebook wall that said she looked like "sausage in casing." Another commenter said, "Sticking your pregnant abdomen out like that is disgusting."

In a facebook retort, Fehlinger wrote:

Frankly, I don't care how "terrible" or "inappropriate" anyone thinks I look. I will gladly gain 50 pounds & suffer sleepless, uncomfortable nights if it means upping my chances to deliver 2 healthy baby girls.

News organizations began writing about her reaction.

Her own station talked about her pregnancy frequently on air - presenting her situation with the online commenters, visiting the nursery she set up for the yet-to-be-born twins and then reporting when her twins were actually born.

Clearly, being pregnant on air should not evoke such negativity - despite some people suggesting women present themselves in a certain way, regardless of the weather or other factors.

But should the station have done stories about their own staffer?

First of all, there is a conflict of interest in reporting on your own team. Can you be fair and objective? Second, by doing stories after the hype of her Facebook response, following up with other stories about her pregnancy seems almost exploitative.

On the other hand, her response to the online haters evoked a powerful response from viewers. And journalists should be providing information pertaining to what people are interested in, right?

Would you do a story about a colleague?

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Can the Hollywood Actor Be a Journalist?

The actor Sean Penn traveled to the jungle in Mexico to interview a Mexican drug lord named Joaquín Guzmán Loera, who had elaborately tunneled out of prison last summer. Mexican authorities have been hunting for the man better known as El Chapo ever since he escaped.

Penn's story appeared in Rolling Stone this week:

"I take no pride in keeping secrets that may be perceived as protecting criminals, nor do I have any gloating arrogance at posing for selfies with unknowing security men," Penn wrote. "But I'm in my rhythm. Everything I say to everyone must be true. As true as it is compartmentalized. The trust that El Chapo had extended to us was not to be fucked with. This will be the first interview El Chapo had ever granted outside an interrogation room, leaving me no precedent by which to measure the hazards."

The New York Times reported that Rolling Stone made a few concessions to El Chapo as an agreement to do the story:  

"In a disclosure that ran with the story, Rolling Stone said it had changed some names and withheld some locations. An understanding was reached with Mr. Guzmán, it said, that the story would be submitted for his approval, but he did not request any changes."

This whole situation raises numerous questions:

• Should a journalist do a story with an escaped convict? Or do they have an obligation to provide location and other information to law enforcement?

• Should journalists make deals to get stories? Should the magazine have allowed El Chapo the ability to approve the story (or not)? Does the deal undermine the magazine's credibility?

• Why send an actor to do the interview? Shouldn't the interview have been performed by a more seasoned journalist who would have dug deeper into the story of El Chapo?

What do you think?

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Marc Zumoff: "I've Pretty Much Reached Nirvana."

When Marc Zumoff was 11 or 12 years old, growing up in Northeast Philadelphia, he would listen to the DJs on Top 40 radio stations and imitate them. That was the genesis of his career in broadcasting.

"The silly things I did as a kid lead to the realization of my gift," he said yesterday in class.

In a world with billions of people, we can seem relatively insignificant, said Marc, a broadcasting veteran who has been the Sixers play-by-play announcer since 1994. But what makes us all special are our individual characteristics and that gift we all have - that one thing (or things) in which you truly excel.

"What is your gift?" he asked.

These days, Marc sits on the sidelines at NBA games, performing what he called "the best job ever." He travels first class, stays in posh hotels, narrates the action involving some of the world's greatest athletes and he gets paid to do it.

He made it all sound so easy, right?

But he works very hard. Before evening games, he arrives at the arena around noon to begin assembling his notes for the night. He reads newspapers and websites, pours through team stats, talks to players and coaches and otherwise amasses a world of information that he uploads onto a spreadsheet, which he then spends hours mastering.

"It's very much like studying for an exam," he said.

He then works with his producers to develop the show open, as well as graphics for the game. He also participates in other programs done at Comcast Sportsnet.

He said he couldn't ever imagine having another job.

"I've pretty much reached nirvana," Marc said of his life, which includes a wife of 32 years and two children.

Here are a few of his suggestions for those looking to reach their career goals:

• Avail yourself to people in the industry you want to be in. Put yourself in places where there are other like-minded people.
• Internships are a great way to see people doing what you want to do, and learn from them.
• For your internship, arrive early, be quiet, polite and agreeable, stay late and offer to assist with everything.

• Try reaching out to people and ask if you can speak with them about their career path.
• Should you kiss their butts? "Abso-frickin-lutely," Marc said. "Ask questions. Butter people up."
• Treat those informational sessions like interviews. You are building your network of contacts.
• In addition to knowing the right people, you also need to have multiple skill sets - shooting, writing, editing, etc. "You cannot just be a talking head anymore," he said.

• You have to believe that you can achieve whatever you want.

What stood out for you?

Monday, November 9, 2015

Mark Horvit: "Every Single One of You is Data."

A reporter from a small, 30,000 circulation daily newspaper in Virginia learned that there was gas being extracted from under the land in the newspaper's coverage area. Many people were affected but they didn't even realize.

The journalist, Daniel Gilbert, was able to track the money and get thousands of local residents royalties. Gilbert was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for his work and then was offered a job at the Wall Street Journal (where he worked for 5 years before moving on to the Seattle Times last month).

"He couldn't have done that without taking our workshop," said Mark Horvit, the executive director of Investigative Reporters & Editors, speaking of the IRE bootcamps. "He couldn't have done that without understanding how to use big data."

Mark defined data as, well, everything.

"Every single one of you is data," he told the class. "Everything you do turns into data that all these companies monetize."

When you use your phone, when you log into a computer, when you purchase goods, you leave a trace.

Time, words, images are video are all a part of the data system, he said, things we can analyze and process and turn into news stories. Sports stories are all about data.

Journalists have used data to find where potholes are filled (or not), where crime occurs most frequently and where bridges are in need of repair. A news team at a television station in California used data to determine that $77 million in small business loans were actually going to major corporations, like Oracle and Microsoft.

"It's an outrage story, Mark said. "It's the little guy being crushed by the big guy."

And it might not have been told unless a reporter studied the raw data, created a spreadsheet and added up the numbers.

Journalists have been using data and data visualizations forever, Mark said. What's different today is the amazing wealth of data that exists.

Rather than blindly accepting information from official statements or press conferences, journalists can dig through the raw data themselves.

"If things don't sound right to you," Mark said, "you, as a journalist, can go ahead and test stuff yourself."

What stood out for you? Do you see how data could be useful to you as a journalist or citizen?

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

They Have Articles?

Playboy magazine recently announced that in 2016, they will stop publishing images of naked women in their magazine. The March issue will be the first without nudes since the magazine was created in 1953.

In their announcement, however, they also mentioned that they stopped running nudes online last year.

"Last year we re-launched Playboy.com as a safe-for-work site and discovered something about our readers and our identity: The Bunny transcends nudity. Tens of millions of readers come to our non-nude website and app every month for, yes, photos of beautiful women, but also for articles and videos from our humor, sex and culture, style, nightlife, entertainment and video game sections. We are, and always have been, 'entertainment for men' – with award-winning journalism and fiction to boot is a cultural arbiter of beauty, taste, opinion, humor and style."

Is it a smart move to change the direction of the magazine? Is this a recognition of the changing media landscape

Or are they opening themselves up to greater competition as they now will reside in the same category as all the other male-oriented magazines (and websites)?

Does this sound like a publicity stunt?

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Diana Rocco: "A Lot of People Can't Advocate for Themselves. That's What Journalists Get to Do."


Diana Rocco grew up in a home full of people engaged in local politics. She thought there might be a path in that for her, so she went to the University of Connecticut to study political science.

But she learned that holding an elected office had no appeal to her, so she switched gears. She turned to broadcast journalism - which she had long been interested in, and transferred to Syracuse University.

"I love telling people's stories," said Diana, now a reporter/anchor at CBS 3. "A lot of people can't advocate for themselves. That's what journalists get to do."

Since entering the profession, she has covered red carpet events, the debt ceiling crisis, hurricanes, murders and various random events along the way (see her latest stories here).

"Every day is different," she said.

This week, Diana did a story about a pair of students at Central Bucks South High School who were named the homecoming king and queen. Both have Down syndrome, and they were very excited to have won.

Diana and a photographer arrived for the interview at 8:30. By 9, she was writing her script and by 9:20, they were editing. The story ran on the 10 pm newscast.

"You want to captivate people," she said of the challenge of crafting stories.

While she has bounced around a bit in her career - from The Bronx to Hartford, Boston to New York and DC, she said that she is happy here. Her station is in a ratings battle with the local NBC affiliate, so her station is thinking about the focus of their 11 newscast. They are featuring more human interest stories and less hard news.

It can be a difficult business - long hours, with spot news occurring every now and then - but it is exciting to experience events and learn about people's lives, Diana said.

"That's my passion," she said. "I'm a truth-seeker by nature."

Here are a few other things she said that stuck out to me:

• Her station is a reporter-driven shop. That means that the reporters are tasked with generating story ideas, more than simply being handed story ideas.
• The reporters are competitive amongst each other, sometimes pushing for their stories to lead the newscast.
• Philadelphia is a market where the reporters rely upon sources (as opposed to being fed information via press conferences or other public means).
• That means that journalists must constantly be developing sources.

• When covering tragedies, you have to remain professional. But it's OK to be human, as well. ""It's OK to let them know that it also affected you," she said.

• Where the local broadcasters in Boston seemed to follow the news they found in the local print newspapers, in Philadelphia, the opposite occurs, she said. Things that are on the evening newscast wind up in print the next day.

• Your first job as a broadcast journalist might be in some far off place, like Iowa. And you'll likely start as a one-man band (reporting, shooting, editing, etc all by yourself).

• Every good anchor was a good reporter before.
• Anchors and reporters must be informed about everything. "You don't punch a clock," she said. "I'm always consuming information."
• Having a dual degree gives her greater perspective and an understanding of history and context.

• She gets recognized on the street every now and then. "It's always after I work out and I'm all sweaty," she said, joking.

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Are You Warning People or Scaring Them?



On Sunday, university officials around the region notified students that vague threats had been made online, warning students to be vigilant on campus Monday.

"We continue to interact with local and federal authorities, as well as colleagues at other colleges and universities in the region," wrote Charles Leone, Temple's executive director of Campus Safety. "Law enforcement has received no additional information or any more specifics on the original threat. Should we learn anything specific that would affect the safety of those at Temple, we will let you know as soon as possible."

The news media followed up with reports about the college communities being notified of the information. Some students refused to go to school because of the vague threats.

Did the journalists further scare the public?

Or was this information that needed to be delivered, just in case?

Friday, October 2, 2015

Cater to The Audience or Represent the City?

Philadelphia Magazine has come under fire again for another misstep regarding race.

Their new issue features "a city parent's guide to schools." But there are no African American children on the cover despite the fact that the Philadelphia School District is about 68 percent black.

The school featured on the cover is the Greenfield School, where students of color make up about 58 percent of the student population.

Philadelphia Magazine does not breakdown the racial makeup of their audience but they state that the average household income of their readers is $176,200 and the average net worth of their readers is around $1.5 million.

Meanwhile, the median household income in the city is $37,192. The Philly Mag readership is thus more likely from the surrounding areas, not the city itself.

So, is there anything wrong with the magazine featuring non-African American students on the cover? If their readership is predominantly suburban and white, are they simply considering their audience with this cover? Or do they have an obligation to represent the city as it is?

Keep in mind, this is the same magazine that published a controversial story about race relations in the city about two years ago.

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Mayor Nutter's Historic and Blessed Blaming of The Media.

Mayor Michael Nutter snapped at journalists during a Monday press conference recapping the World Meeting of Families conference that culminated with the papal visit. The attendance at the events was smaller than had been anticipated by city officials.

“In some instances, you all scared the shit out of people,” Nutter said, referring to why some people avoided the city during the visit by Pope Francis.

Most news organizations reported what Nutter said but they either printed the word as s____ or they broadcast the sound bite with a bleep. Are those the best way to handle that?

Many news organizations continue to call the Pope's visit "historic" and they said the Sunday mass was "blessed."

Was history made? Was the event blessed? What do those words mean? And is it the role of the journalists to make such proclamations?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

The Pope With Dreadlocks and a Dog With a Bandana?

Progressive media watchdog group, Media Matters for America, put together the video above, with random soundbites from conservative pundits.

First, is this journalism? Is it good journalism?

Second, is it fair? Or, are the quotes presented without any context and therefore potentially misleading?

Finally, is this package convincing? Should it be?

Monday, September 21, 2015

Documenting The River Wards: "What Does This Mean for Fishtown?"

Julie Zeglen changed her major three times before graduating from Temple with a degree in Media Studies & Production. Matt Albasi earned his associate's degree in physics before arriving at Temple to study journalism. And Max Pulcini began his college career as a pre-med major.

"I don't know who the hell I am," Max recalled telling his friends while trying to figure out what major he should study. "I'm loud and outgoing. My friends suggested journalism so I said, 'Fuck it. Let's do it.'"

All three are now successful journalists, documenting Philadelphia's river wards - Fishtown, Kensington, Northern Liberties, Port Richmond and Bridesburg. Julie is the managing editor of The Star newspapers and Max and Matt own The Spirit.

Julie never even took a journalism class while in college. When she arrived at The Star as a staff reporter, she had never written a news story.

"I learned by reading old Star stories," she said last week in class. "I followed the format I found."

Now, she oversees one staff reporter and she handles the social media and layout, in addition to reporting/writing stories and sometimes shooting still images.

"I get to do a little of everything," she said. "It can be a little overwhelming."

Max lived in Fishtown while in college and he began writing for The Spirit. He did a story about the recently revived Kensington High School football team and that kind of set his career in motion.

Shortly after that story was published, Max found himself at the bar where Matt was bartending. They had known each other from classes. They decided then to begin a partnership. That ultimately led to the creation of their documentary, "Rise of The Tigers." It won them a bunch of awards and garnered a lot of attention.

In 2014, they bought The Spirit.

Documenting the river wards can be challenging, as each ward has its own flavor. And not being from the area means that there is not the innate trust that a local would have.

"You're not there to screw them over," Julie said. "You care about what they're doing."

"We try to avoid the notion of fishbowl journalism," Matt added. "We don't want to be, like, 'Look at what these weird people are doing.'"

He said the news staff is careful to avoid adjectives like "blighted" of "crime-addled."

"You're talking about where people live," he continued.

Julie said she reads The Spirit and Matt and Max both said they read The Star. The competition is fierce but friendly.

"I've never had a flaming pile of dog crap at my doorstep," Matt said.

Here are a few other things that stood out to me:

• Matt decided to study journalism after reading Dexter Filkins' book, "The Forever War."
• Max originally wanted to be a sportswriter.
• Julie interned at Variety while studying for the semester in London.

• Julie said The Star's readership tends to be older and there are subjects that The Star will not cover, like marijuana. They'd do investigative stories if they had a larger staff.
• Instead, The Star does stories about people who would normally not get coverage in the larger news organizations.

• The Spirit gets feedback from their audience via Facebook, emails and phone calls. But they also have readers who walk into the newsroom to complain or praise. "People have no qualms about saying the paper sucked this week," Matt said.
• "It's important to be out there, picking up fliers and talking to people," Julie said. "It's about being able to forecast what are going to be the big stories for your communities."
• Neither paper covers national events unless the staffers can localize the event in some way. "What does this mean for Fishtown?" Julie asked rhetorically.

• The Spirit internship is hands-on, Max and Matt said. At The Star, Julie said, interns begin by shadowing a reporter. Then they'll do some social media and eventually write stories for the printed edition. "An internship isn't worth anything unless you come away with a few clips," Julie said.

What stood out for you?

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Historic Victory or Massive Upset?

Temple University defeated Penn State University in football on Saturday and different news outlets around the state handled the story differently.

For many in the Philadelphia area, the focus was on Temple's first victory over PSU since 1941.

For those away from the Greater Philadelphia region, the focus was on the upset and PSU's failures.

Does the story change based upon where you are and who you root for

Does this reveal a bias in our coverage? 

Thursday, August 27, 2015

How Do You Handle the Taped Murders?

A broadcast reporter and photojournalist were shot and killed on live television yesterday.

Not only does the video of the live broadcast exist but so does a video created by the shooter, who documented the execution and then posted it to his Facebook page.

Should journalists show the videos? Or even still images from the video, such as what the New York Daily News did here?

Does showing the video and images reveal the horror and make it more real or is it too brutal for society to bear?