Update on J-School’s Community and Ethnic Media Initiative

Welcome, new students! I wanted to let you know about an initiative that the
Journalism School is undertaking to help bolster the work of the city’s vibrant
community and ethnic press.

In May, we acquired an online publication called Voices That Must Be Heard
(www.indypressny.org) and are currently re-designing it in order to re-launch
it in the fall. It curates and re-publishes the best work being done by the small,
independent community and ethnic-based press in the city.
With over 350 of these publications, New York is the epicenter of the country’s
ethnic media: there are 14 Bangladeshi newspapers here, 7 Chinese-language
publications, and 54 that are in Spanish.

We need your help! We are looking for students who might want to spend 4-8 hours
each week helping us scour publications for stories worthy of re-publishing. And if you have language skills, we may have work (as in, paid) for you as a translator.

If you’re interested in any or all of this, please contact me at
sarah.bartlett@journalism.cuny.edu. Or come visit the Voices team, led by Jehangir
Khattak and Arao Ameny. You can find them in the Voices office – room 446.

In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your summer!

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Know the news: How many people live in NYC

Once Mayor Bloomberg insisted that New York City was home to 8.4 million people and would hit 9 million in 2030. Now he’s grudgingly willing to settle for saying that the city contains 8.2 million people as is explained in the New York Times story City Says 50,000 Weren’t Counted. What does that mean? We will see. (The author, Sam Roberts, will speak to my NYC Business and Economy Class in September, as he does most years).

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Know the News: A perplexing social problem

Amid all the improvements in the city, one problem seems intractable: the poor job prospects and high incarceration rates of African-American and Hispanic youths. So Mayor Bloomberg has decided to put some of his billions to work to try, again, to tackle this problem. This story from the Times, Bloomberg to Use Own Funds to Aid Minority Youths, explains the problem and tells you something about our mayor.

This is the second last know the news post; are you ready for the quiz during orientation?

Otherwise, see you next week

Greg David

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Know how to tell stories in all formats

Want inspiration for the storytelling you’ll be doing at the journalism school – whether in print, broadcast or multimedia? Your daily diet of news media should give you plenty of great content to peruse. But if you’d like an extra dose of top-flight storytelling, it pays to scour the landscape for model work to dissect.

There are numerous repositories for such exemplary journalism. Web sites for the myriad awards contests are the obvious place to start. In addition to the highest-profile contests mentioned in tip No. 8 from our Getting off to a Fast Start at the CUNY J-School blog post (such as the Pulitzer PrizesDuPontsPeabodys and Online Journalism Awards), there are many, many others.

For instance, Investigative Reporters and Editors celebrates the best in investigative journalism with its annual IRE awards, which also honor the best work in various media, like newspapers and magazines, television and radio, online and books. You can also peruse the winners of the highly coveted George Polk Awards for a menu of great journalism — whether it be foreign, national, state or local reporting, beat reporting from business, sports and environment pages, or media like magazine or television.

National Press Club Awards go to a wide range of categories, as does the Society of Professional Journalists with its Sigma Delta Chi awards, which go back decades, with more than three dozen categories of prizes. The Radio Television Digital News Association also gives its Edward R. Murrow Awards for electronic journalism, as well as its RTNDA/Unity Awards for covering cultural diversity.

As you look through these prizewinners for inspiration, trying picking out one piece for a second read or viewing, and consider the work with the x-ray eyes of a journalist. How is the lede crafted? How strongly does the piece close? What key point does the piece make and where? What’s the overall structure of the piece? And when and how does the journalist introduce critical pieces of information, new characters or color details? You might also think about how you would approach this same topic, or check similar coverage to see how other news organizations handled this story or stories like it. And remember, nothing’s ever perfect – consider what about the piece you think could have been done better.

If you want more exemplary work from a specific medium, you can go beyond awards sites to find it. Particularly for interactive storytelling, get some great examples at sites like InteractiveNarratives.org. The site allows users to rate and comment on entries, so you can see what colleagues in the profession think about various story approaches. Meanwhile, Cyberjournalist.net’s Great Work galleries offers the best of breaking news and enterprise work, as well as multimedia, Flash and interactive stories, blogs, community journalism, student work ad award winners. The award-winning multimedia work at MediaStorm is always worth keeping up on, as is the New York Times‘ Multimedia/Photos page and its Lens photojournalism blog, and the Washington Post‘s Multimedia page

If after all of your explorations, you’re even more confused about which medium is best to tell your particular story, here are a few useful guides. The Knight Digital Media Center has a tutorial on picking the right media for reporting a story, digital media educator Mindy McAdams has a useful blog post on how to tell a good story with images and sound, while the Mastering Multimedia blog has suggestions on how to best approach a video story.

Don’t try to consume all these awards sites at once, but make it a general practice to view them regularly over time and use bookmarking tools to collect your favorite examples of the best of the best. Return to them repeatedly for ideas and inspiration, and perhaps your own work will one day serve as a guidepost for other aspiring journalists.

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Know the Ethics of Your Profession

Journalism and journalists have received some “black eyes” in the past several years, often for activities found ethically or legally problematic: plagiarism, alteration of photographs and tapes, investigating topics considered private, employing anonymous sources, or revealing material the government would like to keep secret.

While some of these activities are clearly unethical, many fall into a grey area where seasoned, experienced journalists disagree as to their propriety.

You will complete a semester-long course on “Legal and Ethical Issues in Journalism” in your first semester, which is designed to alert you to some of the potential pitfalls.  No one expects you to arrive as a master of the nuances of libel law, copyright, or even the ethical minefields you might face in what seem the most straightforward of stories.

But you can begin to develop “ethical antennae” that enable you to become more sensitive to the issues you will encounter throughout your career as a journalist, whatever the medium, and as to how you might approach them. And . . .you just may face one of these issues on your first assignment for Craft!  Here are some ways to start.

1. Several news outlets employ an ombudsman (or public editor or readers’ representative) to examine and report on stories that have provoked some question as to whether they should have been published or about the appropriateness of the conduct of reporters and editors who prepare those stories.  The New York Times just a year ago appointed its fourth public editor, Arthur S. Brisbane, whose column appears twice monthly in the Opinion section of the weekly “Sunday Review” section. He also has a blog where he discusses additional issues, http://publiceditor.blogs.nytimes.com/, and a Twitter feed, @thepubliceditor. Take a look at his columns and think about the subjects that he considers.  Would you, if you were the editor, have run the story he’s discussing?  What could have been done before publication to avoid the ethical (or legal) issue he’s considering?

2. Another good resource is a Knight Citizen News Network module, “Top 10 Rules for Limiting Legal Risk,” developed by our own Professor Geanne Rosenberg.  Several of the rules have exercises and quizzes included so you can assess how much you already know and what you need to pay attention to.  While the rules are aimed at citizen journalists, they are a good reminder and review for all journalists.

3. A persistent issue that has cropped up for reporters and editors has been how much personal information is relevant to reveal about a candidate for public office, and whether the conduct has to be recent to be an important reflection of the candidate’s character.  This will become an especially relevant issue as the 2012 election nears. Take a look at this case study from the Society of Professional Journalists and see what you think is fair and ethical in this situation.  How would you pursue it if you were the reporter or editor just weeks before Election Day? Does your opinion change at all in light of this same congressman’s subsequent resignation from Congress last month amid allegations of sexual misconduct with a teenage girl?

4. Another good exercise is to keep an eye on the Corrections column of your local newspaper.  Are there systemic changes in reporting or editing policies or procedures that might have avoided some of those errors or misleading statements?

5. One issue that has assumed a particularly high profile this summer has been the legality and ethics of the reporting and investigative tactics used by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corporation newspapers in Great Britain.  Keep a close eye on this story as it continues to develop to see whether the problems reflected a tone set from the top or just some rogue journalists, whether the tactics used in the United Kingdom spilled over to his media holdings in the United States, and what the appropriate remedy is for journalism run amok.

You will not have all the answers to these ethical and legal dilemmas even when you leave the J-School, diploma in hand.  But the earlier you start to become aware of the potential issues journalists inevitably face, and think about the consequences of your decisions, the more experience you will have to make these determinations when you’re on deadline and don’t have much time to think and discuss.

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Know the News: Default Crisis Escalates

As I write this on Friday afternoon, gridlock in Washington threatens another financial crisis. Reporters at every media outlet are covering this story and seeking their own angles.

Third-semester business student Eliza Ronalds-Hannon was assigned the task of writing about the likely impact in New York for Crain’s New York Business, where she interning. Can’t have a more complicated topic to tackle that this.

Here’s her story: The debt ceiling standoff’s threat to NY. By next summer, we hope you could handle this topic too.

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Know the News: The big default and New York

Are you paying attention to the crisis over whether the United States will default on its debt and the contentious debate over how and how much to reduce the role of the federal government in the economy? You should be. No issue is more fundamental for the future of the country. Also, there is no better way to understand how politics and government work–or don’t work–which after all the concern of the majority of working journalists.

More immediate may be the answer to this question: What would do you next month if you were assigned to localize this story for your craft class? Here is how the Associated Press handled that assignment in NYers frustrated, angry as debt showdown drags on. This isn’t a very sophisticated story but is a typical example of the man-in-the-street genre.

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Know the News: The DSK accuser goes public

In a story of endless twists, the woman who accuses Dominique Strauss-Kahn of rape has now told her story publicly in interviews with Newsweek and ABC News. The New York Times story Interviews by Strauss-Kahn Accuser Raises Doubts About Prosecutors Plans shows how a good reporter gets beyond the news to find “second-day” angles to advance the story. This story will also increase your understand of the crimminal justice system and continues to improve your knowledge of ethics. Check out whether she was paid for the interviews.

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Know the Tools

For many years, reporters either went out on the beat armed with little more than a pad and pencil, or a broadcast crew trailing along. Now it sometimes feels we’re one person carrying a whole newsroom of gear in our pockets. But that also gives today’s journalist a big advantage over reporters of yesteryear – even working solo in the field, we can gather our news in a much wider variety of ways. And that means we can find the tool to best tell the story and produce for whatever medium our news organization’s needs.

Your job, then, is to get to know these tools and understand how they can make you a better journalist. In your first few months here, you’ll be introduced to still cameras and video cameras, audio decks and microphones, and a slew of related gear that can expand your reporting capabilities in the field (not to mention a whole catalog of software tools that allow you to efficiently edit what you’ve gathered once you’re back in the newsroom). You’ll also get extensive training in the classroom and labs, through workshops and hands-on with talented faculty and staff, not to mention via extensive online training tutorials like those found on the web site Lynda.com or Poynter.org’s NewsU, both of which will be made available to you after you arrive at school.

But don’t wait until then to get starting learning the tools of the trade. If you already have access to any of that gear – most of you, for instance, have basic point-and-shoot cameras or better – start using them this summer in ways that are more journalistic. For instance, don’t just snap off shots of friends at the beach, look around the shoreline for telling images of the businesses or businesspeople that thrive or struggle there. Don’t just go for a stroll in town, use your camera to capture something of the feeling and reality of the community you live in. It’s remarkable what happens to your journalistic mindset when you carry around a camera and constantly watch for what might make an interesting image. You’ll find you start going out of your way to find them, and your reporting instinct will kick in.

Of course, you don’t even have to carry around your camera to capture images and video throughout your day. Your mobile phone can help you do that as well – most of you have them with decent cameras and sometimes much more. You’ve already received a message from Associate Dean Judy Watson about being prepared with an appropriate smartphone when you arrive at school. It’s fast becoming the ubiquitous reporter’s tool. But again, don’t wait until school starts to begin playing with your smartphone journalistically. You can take photos, capture video and audio, send out status updates on Facebook and Twitter or other blogging platforms, and of course to consume news when you’re away from your desktop.

So let’s get you started with a very simple reporting assignment – a kind of photo scavenger hunt. In the next week, take half a dozen photos that either show us something in your community you’ll be leaving behind when you come to New York, or, if you’re already here, something you’ve found that makes New York feel like home. Post the best of those photos to the Class of 2012 Facebook page. Be sure to share a line or two in the caption about what we’re seeing, and perhaps what device you used to capture it. We’ll spotlight the most interesting of those images for all to see in an Editor’s Pick post.

Good luck getting started with these simple image-gathering tools. And enjoy the hunt!

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Know the news: Bloomberg and the economy

If you take my class on New York City’s Economy and Business (required if you are an urban student) you will have to give an answer to this question in the first class.
How much influence does city government have on the local economy?

A lot
Some
A little

I won’t give away my answer, but every mayor must try to improve the city’s economy.
The most important initiative under way in the Bloomberg Administration is an effort to lure a first-class engineering school to the city. New York has a resurgent tech sector built on Internet companies. Those companies say one of their biggest problems is the lack of engineers. So the city is offering free land up to $100 million to a school with the best proposal. You can get up to speed on the issue in NYC to Silicon Valley: It’s On by CUNY alumn Danny Massey (a graduate of the school’s first class).

There are several good followup stories available to this one that so far no one has done. Any thoughts?

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