COVID-19 exposes limitations of local pubmedia journalism

COVID-19 has been a slow-moving disaster since the beginning. There was no terrorist bomb or mass shooting or natural disaster. The virus was a creeping, insidious mole slowly burrowing into our consciousness and then into our lives and our news agendas. And unlike any crisis in recent history, it will be with us for a long time to come.

Whether we like to admit it or not, there are “scripts” for most types of breaking news. There’s a big event followed by a period of special coverage that’s intense but relatively short – usually a couple of days to a couple of weeks. Then, there’s an off-ramp of aftermath coverage when newsroom operations and schedules can get back to normal. 

To the extent newsrooms have prepared for breaking news at all, they’ve prepared for that kind of breaking news.

COVID-19 is not that kind of breaking news.

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COVID-19 exposes limitations of local pubmedia journalism

Crisis Coverage: Making (not Finding) the Time to Plan

I just got back from a two-hour hurricane supply run, as we Floridians watch Hurricane Irma’s slow march towards our state.

In this brief lull between Harvey and Irma, I’m reminded of the many clients and trainees over the years whom I’ve encouraged to make a plan for covering disasters and other breaking news. I can think of only one or maybe two that have actually done it.

Of all the barriers to crisis coverage planning, the one I hear most often is, “Where do I find the time?”

You won’t find the time. You have to make it.

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Crisis Coverage: Making (not Finding) the Time to Plan

Congrats on your award! Now thank your editor.

Three years ago, I wrote a post called “Editors Often Left out of Journalism Awards Bonanza.” Another awards season is upon us, and the situation is pretty much the same.

Kudos to PRNDI for trying to change things with its first-ever Editor of the Year Award. Nominations are due TOMORROW (April 14) at noon. If you know a great editor, a nomination is the perfect – and let’s face it, pretty much the only – way to send some recognition his or her way.

Continue reading “Congrats on your award! Now thank your editor.”

Congrats on your award! Now thank your editor.

Firewall Shmirewall: Three warnings from the WUTC case

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.

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Firewall Shmirewall: Three warnings from the WUTC case

In Defense of Objectivity

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”

In Defense of Objectivity

What my wine blog is teaching me about digital media: Part 1 – Localism

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.)

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What my wine blog is teaching me about digital media: Part 1 – Localism

New Overtime Rules Inspire Necessary Newsroom Soul-Searching

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.

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New Overtime Rules Inspire Necessary Newsroom Soul-Searching

Now What?! 3 Tips for Fighting Post-Election Newsroom Lethargy

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:

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Now What?! 3 Tips for Fighting Post-Election Newsroom Lethargy

Make Journalism … Journalism … Again.

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.”

Make Journalism … Journalism … Again.

Good Journalism Doesn’t Come Cheap

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.

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Good Journalism Doesn’t Come Cheap