For the second time in as many months, I find myself writing about the firing of a public media journalist over matters related to journalistic integrity.
Last month, it was Marketplace reporter Lewis Wallace. This time it’s Jacqui Helbert, fired from WUTC in Chattanooga after state lawmakers complained to the station’s license holder, the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, about one of her stories.
The lawmakers said Helbert hadn’t properly identified herself as a journalist in meetings they’d held with high school students about a proposed transgender bathroom bill. They said they were unaware the meetings were being recorded for broadcast, although multiple accounts suggest Helbert was wearing press credentials and carrying conspicuous recording gear.
Continue reading “Firewall Shmirewall: Three warnings from the WUTC case”
When reporter Lewis Wallace was fired from the public radio business show Marketplace, public media’s simmering debate over the principle of journalistic objectivity came to a boil. (For those who don’t know, Wallace was fired for writing a blog post questioning the objectivity principle.)
The key question he raised is whether journalists must adhere to traditional rules about objectivity in an age of “alternative facts.” Do we have to sit on the sidelines of gatherings that aim to defend values and principles that many thought were settled in American society, issues that some see as questions of human rights, not political policy?
Some journalists are starting to say no. My answer is still yes.
Continue reading “In Defense of Objectivity”
I have a wine blog.
Yes, in addition to being a public media nerd, I’m also a wine nerd. I go to at least a couple of tastings a week, I hang out with sommeliers, I sniff, I swirl, the whole bit.
Last year, under pressure from – and with the encouragement of – a small group of wine enthusiast friends, I started the blog.
It was called My Wine Blog. (Scribbles & Scruples is the only clever blog name I will ever dream up.)
Continue reading “What my wine blog is teaching me about digital media: Part 1 – Localism”
New overtime rules that go into effect next month are forcing newsrooms to do some much-needed soul-searching.
(I can speak with authority only about my own field, but I know these conversations are going on in many organizations, particularly nonprofits, which also pay relatively low salaries to passionate people who usually aren’t in it for the money.)
There’s been a lot of consternation about this change, from news managers and employees alike. There’s no doubt implementation will be painful at first, but if the next administration doesn’t reverse the new rules, I think they could begin to correct our society’s longstanding and extremely detrimental work-life IMbalance.
Continue reading “New Overtime Rules Inspire Necessary Newsroom Soul-Searching”
You’ve made it through one of the most grueling election cycles in recent history! What are you gonna do now?!
You’re relieved it’s over – we all are – but you may feel a bit disoriented too.
After all, you’ve just finished a huge project that’s occupied a great deal of your time, energy, and focus over the past year. No doubt there’s plenty of follow-up coverage to do, but the big push is over. You’re tired, a little burned out, and not quite sure what to do next, right?
If so, here are some tips for fighting those post-election doldrums:
Continue reading “Now What?! 3 Tips for Fighting Post-Election Newsroom Lethargy”
Amid the post-election media hand wringing this week, a post from PRX’s John Barth stood out. He urged journalists to tackle their blind spots when it comes to Middle America – “fly-over country,” as it’s been known; the place that swung the election, as it’s now known. John, who lives in St. Louis, urged journalists to spend more time in the small towns of the Midwest … with this caveat:
Don’t go there to do STORIES. Go there first to listen. Listen for the big stuff and small stuff. Then you’ll see how rural America has been gutted spiritually as have major urban areas. You need to earn their trust back to hear what might, might become stories. Listen.
John put his finger on a potentially existential problem for journalism:
Most journalists don’t have TIME to simply listen.
Continue reading “Make Journalism … Journalism … Again.”
Despite the swirling criticisms of “the media” these days, there have been several recent examples of high-quality public service journalistic efforts. They provide good opportunities for a closer look at how this important work gets done.
News flash: It’s not cheap. It involves big investments of people, money, and time.
Here are a couple of case studies.
Continue reading “Good Journalism Doesn’t Come Cheap”
I’ve written plenty about the importance and craft of editing – about how it’s a collaborative process that starts with helping the reporter shape the pitch and plan the story, continues through the reporting process, and doesn’t end until the facts and audio have been checked and the text and photos in the digital piece are in place.
I’ve also written about how editing tends to be undervalued. After all, it happens behind the scenes, and managers rarely understand how time-consuming and labor intensive it can be.
I now have data that sheds light on the time question.
Continue reading “How long does it take to edit a story? I can tell you. And I have proof.”
I live in Orlando.
Today was the first time in my adult life that there’s been a huge breaking news event in my backyard (the shooting was less than two miles from my house) and I haven’t had to cover it.
The only thing I’ve ever done in response to tragedy was work – from 9/11 when I was in DC, to the 2004 hurricanes when I was in Florida, to the Aurora theater shooting and deadly fires and floods when I was in Colorado.
Today, I found out what everybody else does in response to tragedy. They sit. They watch. They feel helpless. They watch some more. And then, they come together.
I sat in my house for ten hours today watching and listening to wall-to-wall coverage, taking notes on press briefings and live Tweeting updates. Because even though I don’t work for a news outlet anymore, that’s all I knew to do.
This evening, I had to decide whether to go to a “Swanky Sixties Cocktail Party” that a group of my good friends had been planning for weeks. The hosts asked the group on Facebook whether people thought it was appropriate to go forward with the event. The group collectively decided that, today more than ever, it was important to celebrate life and love and friendship.
I agreed with them.
I realized I wasn’t doing anybody any good watching rolling coverage in my living room, so, while I felt a little weird about it, I donned a cocktail dress and pearls and headed out. But I still wouldn’t agree to be in this great Facebook photo of everyone in their Swanky Sixties attire.
Continue reading “What the Orlando shooting taught me about how non-journalists deal with tragedy”
Public media has become obsessed with podcasts in recent months. Many think they may be the silver bullet that will finally bring coveted millenials into the public media fold. Many more feel threatened by the success of podcasts in the commercial world and fear public media is missing the boat.
I’ll be honest. This conversation is making me nervous. Not because podcasts are bad or because I’m scared of new things, but because the debate and many of the resulting actions seem to be minimizing three core public media values:
Unbiased news, localism, and public service over profit.
Continue reading “Don’t ignore pubmedia core values in podcast debate”