“Good Night and Good Luck”


The last two introduction to journalism class periods we watched the movie “Good Night and Good Luck”. The movie is a fact-based drama, which was George Clooney´s second feature film as a director.  The plot of the movie is about Edward R. Murrow (David Strathairn), who is one of the best-known newsmen on television. At the beginning of the movie he gives a speech about the important task of the television, which should inspire instead of distract and isolate people. Murrow is the moderator of the CBS television show “See It Now” and the producer of the show is his most important friend Fred Friendly (George Clooney).

In 1953, Murrow and Friendly investigate a case on the Air Force pilot Milo Radulovich, who was dismissed because he was regarded as a security risk. He was accused of being a communist, because his father had subscribed to a Serbian newspaper and his sister had been seen at a demonstration for socialist civil rights. The critical report by Murrow on the unfair dismissal of Milo Radulovich makes waves. In addition, he reports on the case of an African-American employees, who was moved from the cafeteria in the encipher room at the Pentagon. And then she was accused of being a communist spy. Murrow reports critically on the Senator Joseph McCarthy and plays original recordings to demonstrate the dubious methods of the Communist hunter. With the public debate, US President Eisenhower distances himself from the Senator.

The Cultural Historical Background

“Our history will be what we make it!”

To understand the movie better, it is important to find out some information about the movie´s historical plot. The background of the political drama “Good Night and Good Luck” is the anti-Communist witch-hunt, which was operated by the Republican Senator Joseph McCarthy. In the late 1940s and early 1950s a lot of events produced a sense of a national crisis in the United States. For example, the first test of a Soviet atom bomb, the outbreak of the Cold War and the Korean War encouraged strong anti-Communist awareness in the United States. Especially at this time Home Secretary tend to use the fear of terrorism to restrict human and civil rights.

Those who did not support Senator McCarthy’s tactics, later to be known as McCarthyism, were denounced by McCarthy as communists. McCarthy´s name is synonymous with the period of witch-hunting hysteria, which started after the Second World War and peaked in 1954. Murrow stood up to McCarthy and rebelled against him when most sat on their hands. He imagines that good journalism should defense the existence of press freedom and freedom of speech.

Significance of the Movie

The movie “Good Night and Good Luck” is valuable for journalism and communications students to watch, because the movie enables them to recognize that the television has not only the duty to entertain people, but especially to teach critical. The movie also shows the power of the media that you should be aware of in your job. In addition, it is valuable to create a feeling of responsibility to your country and family in a time of political crisis.

Edward R. Murrow´s Impact

“We don´t make the news, we report the news.”

Did Murrow set out to form the next seventy years of broadcasting with his actions? Or did he just try to do the best job he could? I think Murrow had and still has an impact on the news industry. His well-known reporting on McCarthy gave birth to a form of reporting, which is still practiced on the air. Regarding this kind of reporting you use the sound and video to really tell a story, rather than just as unreferenced background. His reports are famous for using film and other records to give viewers an exact picture of the Senator. This investigative reporting had a tremendous impact in the nation at that time. With his monologue at the beginning and at the end of the movie he showed each own of us the stupidity of much of what we do and watch. His message is that through the television we

“escape and isolate from the realities of the world in which we live”.

In addition, Murrow mentions the lack of serious news content and attacks the entertainment-focused approach. It is still relevant today, because our culture gets more and more celebrity-obsessed. As future journalists we should take Murrow as a role model and continue with investigative reports and to set an agenda to move the needle toward public good.


Surviving Solo as a Backpack Journalist


Your task as a backpack journalist is to produce a video story from A to Z all by yourself. Backpack Journalism requires the journalist to take on several roles: reporter, editor and producer of stories, cameraman, and audio engineer. Oftentimes you have to work in distant locations that are inaccessible to ordinary reporters and their camera crews.

The Backpack Journalist as a “One-man-band”

The backpack journalists work as a “one-man-band”, because they have to do the work of an entire crew. Many reporters like to work alone and have more creative control over their stories. In these days, the technological advances allow more and more journalists to become a “backpacker”, because you can do more with less. They can use equipment like: a digital camera, satellite phones, a laptop, and a smartphone.

It is a great advantage for news stations to have backpack journalists who can do everything on their own, because now they are able to triple the amount of stories that can be covered.

How to succeed in the field alone?

 “When it gets on the air, you will never know the difference.”

First of all, it is very important to learn how to handle the technical details to be capable to capture moments solo and create an urgent story. As a backpack journalist you cannot just take your camera, get out of the door and expect to be accepted as a professional journalist. The reporters have to know exactly where to plug in the microphone, otherwise they risk that their interview subject choose not to do the story. This means it is important for them to practice how to set up their camera gear. In addition, backpack journalists have to build their interviewing skills all the time, because strong interviewing skills let their interviewed person build trust in them.

Another thing how backpack journalist can tell better stories, is to make the station web site to their domain. This means they should spend a personal investment of an hour-and-a-half to put a text version, with a video clip and a slideshow online. It is favorable to have web skills and to be able to be a journalist on different platforms. With putting their stories online they give the people the power to share their stories with the world.

In addition, it is very important that backpack journalists have a plan and a budget to show their news director, if they want to hit the road for getting a new story. They should try to be specific and sell their stories. The travel aspect in this job is not a paid vacation on the company, but a great chance to do real storytelling on their terms.

Patch Panel


Last week I had a panel of patch.com in my introduction to journalism class. The six panelists were five local editors and the regional editor Kurt Greenbaum who is a counterpart to Holly Edgell, another guest speaker from patch who visits my class before. The five local editors were Jim Baer from Ladue-Frontenac Patch, Tamara Duncan from Lake Saint Louis Patch, Maggie Rotermund from Wentzville Patch, Joe Barker from St. Peters Patch and Chase Castle from Ballwin-Ellisville Patch.

Editors Background

Greenbaum covered courts at the newspaper in South Florida. Afterwards, he worked as online news director at the Saint Louis Post Dispatch.

Baer has been a journalist since he is nine years old. During the Vietnam era he was a broadcaster, editor and writer. He was sports editor of the St. Louis Suburban Journals for 16 years.

Duncan worked as a teacher, reporter, freelance writer and magazine editor. She already started to write for the newspaper in the 5th grade.

Rotermund worked for three years at The Missourian, before she made the decision to complete her master´s degree in international relations. After her degree she went back in journalism.

Barker studied journalism and worked on the campus newspaper. He spent the last two years at the Hannibal Courier-Post and worked there as a sports editor.

Castle was inspired by the movie Almost Famous to start a journalism career. He wrote stories which appeared in The Associated Press and the Chicago Tribune.

Something they would do in young age

Greenbaum mentioned that he should have appreciated how important his first job was. He should have read more financial reports to understand the importance of business news. Additionally, he informed the class that intellectual curiosity is really important. Barker said that “we were 60 people working for the college newspaper. Now we are only five people working for the daily newspaper.” He wished that someone told him earlier how more stress and effort it is to work for a daily newspaper. “I did not know how important some classes are”, added Rotermund. Nowadays, she recognized that you always have to do something that you do not want to do. Castle agreed, but he also told us that “your craft always come first.” Baer mentioned, “learn multimedia skills at school would be great” because you have to know how to shoot, write and photograph.

Advices for future journalists

“To start out hyperlocal is great”, informed us Rotermund, because it is a good opportunity to learn how to handle criticism. It is also a good opportunity to learn how people are impacted. Baer followed up by telling us that we should “care about words more than pictures.” Duncan gave us the advice to “make sure to stay current with the new stuff.”

“You can´t be a writer when you not read.”

Advice on finding a career in journalism

Baer told us that we should “set a laser focus on the job you want.” And Barker agreed, because “you just need one job.” Rotermund informed us that it is “not realistic anymore just to work for one company.” These days you have to constantly reeducate yourself and “keeping up what´s going on in life.” Greenbaum gave the entire class a hope that there still exists a huge demand of information. This means that “journalists are still needed.” Rotermund agreed that journalists are still important.

Where do journalists get their stories?

Castle mentioned that twitter has a great potential to find new stories. He also said that “sometimes you just hear something in a bar about a man.” Regarding to Greenbaum the key to find a story is to be curious and ask people questions. Rotermund jumped in by quickly and said it is very important to be an active part in your community. It is significant to be out and go to events, because of that people have the chance to get to know your face and trust you. She followed up by telling us, if we are interactive “you can end up get good stories.” Baer told us that you should have a lot of contacts and scanners and stay connected all the time to get good stories.

To sum up I have to say that it was a great experience to hear the panelists talk about careers in journalism as well as their jobs today. For me, their job sounds really interesting but I am not sure if I want to work as a patch editor, because they have to work 24 hours each day to be able to cover every important story and to stay up to date.

“Do reporters need a guideline to write?”


After a while every newsroom develops style guidelines for writing about places, people, and things. But what is a stylebook and why do reports need one? In my introduction to journalism class we spoke about the usefulness of “The Associated Press Stylebook and Briefing on Media Law”.

What is “The Associated Press Style”?
The Associated Press (AP) style is merely a standardized way of writing everything from addresses to numbers to titles. Editors and reporters use the AP Stylebook as a guide to practices and principles of reporting and as a guide to capitalization and punctuation. The AP Stylebook is used a by reporters, broadcasters, magazines, and public relations companies in the United States. It shows journalists what are the correct options to write.
AP style was developed by The Associated Press, which is the world´s oldest news service. This service provides national and international stories, graphics and photos to more than 15,000 news outlets all around the world. The AP stylebook is used by the majority of newspapers in the United States, but some newsrooms use other stylebooks. If you start with your reporter career you should start with the AP stylebook.

Why do reporters need a stylebook?
Do reporters really need a guideline to write? I think it is really useful for them to have a uniform guideline, because they do not have the time and energy to figure out their own complete guide to the English language. This means it is just easier for the reporters to use the AP stylebook to have a proven and professional official guide. So when they are unsure about usage, grammar, or names they do not have to discuss about each small item.
To take everything into consideration, I can say that the use of a stylebook is a really good gold standard for the journalists. It is necessary for journalists to write in this certain way, because it could set you apart from being a brilliant front page story, to the stories that never are looked at.

A hint for using the AP stylebook is that you should not read the book in the true sense of the word, but scan and think over it. It is advisable to read those sections that catch your eye and those topics that give you the most trouble. Additionally it would be helpful to memorize a few important elements of the style.
Test yourself if you are an AP style professional and take the AP style quiz.

“Reveal your source – or go to jail”


Today we discussed the privilege and protection for sources and stories in my introduction to journalism class. A very important principle every reporter needs to understand is the shield law. The first state shield law was passed in Maryland on 1896, because a “Baltimore Sun” reporter went to prison for refusing to reveal a source to a grand jury. Shield laws, which exist in 34 states, protect journalists and news organizations from having to reveal their confidential sources, unpublished information and documents. Missouri is still one of the states without any shield law. The shield laws vary from state to state. A shield law aims to provide the classic protection of a reporter cannot be forced to reveal his or her source.

The Fight for a Federal Shield Law

Until today there is no federal shield law and state shield laws vary in scope. In the latest step in a seven-year effort to pass a federal shield law, Mike Pence, who has announced he will run for Indiana governor, has re-introduced a bill in the House of Representatives. This proposed bill would provide protections for journalists in federal courts. In addition, the bill will provide a qualified privilege for journalists, except for the prevention of body injury or death, national security, or information that is necessary in a criminal case. Journalists are defined as persons, who regularly reports and writes for a substantial part of their livelihood. The Society of Professional Journalists and a lot of other journalism organization support the Federal State Law, because many journalists have lost a lot of money fighting the battle to deliver information and source names.

Judith Miller & Josh Wolf  – call for federal shield law

Former “New York Times” reporter Judith Miller spent 85 days in jail for refusing to testify before a federal grand jury investigating a leak named Valeria Plame as under cover CIA personnel. After the 12 weeks in jail, Judith Miller could say she has a huge interest in getting a federal shield law that would protect journalists from being forced to hand out their sources. Miller was set free after her source gave her permission to reveal his identity.

Josh Wolf stayed longer in prison than any other journalist in the history of the United States. He was jailed for refusing to hand over a collection of videotapes. The videotapes have shown a demonstration in California. According to Wolf his case was brought directly before a federal grand jury to avoid California´s shield laws.

Finally I would like to mention a quote by Pence because I really agree with him and I also think that it is more and more important to have a federal shield law.

“Without the free flow of information from sources to reporters, the public is ill-equipped to make informed decisions.”

What makes a story interesting to readers?


For a story to qualify as news it should contain at least one of the following news values. The thumb rule is that the higher the news value (0-6) of an event, the greater its chances of publication.

1. Proximity: “North City without Power”

With reference to the news value “proximity” I found the article “hundreds without power after overnight accident in North City”. I presume that is a great example, because the accident will matter at least the 600 people in North St. Louis City who were without power after a car crashed into utility pole. Whereas people in other cities, states or countries won’t care if some people in St. Louis don´t have any power as long as it does not affect them.

2. Prominence: “Nelly presents scholarships”

Regarding the news value “prominence” I found the article “Hip-Hop artist Nelly to present scholarships” on the Newsmagazine Network website. Each year the Grammy Award-winner Nelly presents two “Black and White” scholarships to students planning to attend Lindenwood University. Because this story involves a well-known public figure, the readers are bound to be more curious.

3. Timeliness: “Flu vaccine time”

For the news value “timeliness” I picked the article “Time for flu shots, and some may get a tiny needle”. The flu season is very timely, because the risk of contracting the flu is greatest during the wet and cold season at the end of September. This is the time when all newspapers start to write about the flu shots and the new flu vaccine techniques. The article I picked is about the new flu vaccine needle, which is less than a tenth of an inch long and it works by injecting into the skin. Because before the new needle was invented, the flu shots have been injected into muscle with a longer needle.

4. Impact: “Norway massacre”

The story which impacted me most this year was the horrible massacre in Norway. In my opinion it has not just impacted a whole nation, but it also has gained worldwide recognition. Norway, which is normally known for its active peacekeeping and diplomacy missions, became a target for extremists. In “The New York Times” I saw the article “At least 80 dead in Norway Shooting”, which summarize the whole event. The article shows how one man could change a whole nation in just one hour.

The event also includes the news value “conflict”, because the article mentions that Breivik is a right-wing extremist, who has anti-Muslim views. The clash between the political extremists and the Muslims is often a huge topic in the news

5. Conflict: “Syrians vs. Syrian President Bashar Assad”

I chose the article “Uprising seems near violence”, which was published in “The Washington Times”, because it explains very well the increasing conflict between the Syrians and the government. More Syrian protesters are starting to take up arms after six months of peaceful insurgency met by severe crackdown, because they are frustrated that President Bashar Assad remains in control even though more than 2,700 demonstrators are dead. With the chaos growing, the worry that the struggle could turn into a civil war is increasing too. In addition there is an in increasing pressure on people to defend their villages and families, because the brutality of the regime has become tremendous. Another problem is to quantify the degree to which the protesters are arming themselves, because the Syrian government banned foreign media as well as restricted local coverage.

6. Unusual/Human interest: “Death of Knut”

A good example for a human interest story is the article “Tragedy in Berlin Zoo” on the German “SpiegelOnline” news website. The story is about the death of Knut, Germany´s celebrity polar bear star of Berlin Zoo. Knut had collapsed and died and his cause of death is still unclear. It does not really have an impact on any recipient’s life, but it definitely is a story which is emotional and makes us sad.

Furthermore this story also includes the news value “proximity”, because Knut´s death will matter especially the readers in Berlin. Because you have to take into consideration that Knut´s popularity ended up providing the Berlin Zoo an extra €5 million. As well as a lot of extra moneys to the hotels and the companies that manufactured Knut souvenirs.

Google – the new Gatekeeper?


One of the key tasks of the people in the news business is to decide every day which stories are the most deserving of coverage and which not. This is a highly subjective matter, because it depends on the journalist itself as well as on the editors. This difficult decision is known as the “GateKeeping” Process. The Process depends on the news values: prominence, timeliness, impact, conflict, proximity and unusual/human interest.


Gatekeeping is synonymous to limiting the amount of information, which means the selection of topics considered as communication worthy. The “gatekeepers” decide which events are public events and which not. This reveals that gatekeeper contribute to the shaping of society and the worldview of the recipients.


David Manning White transferred the gatekeeper concept to the journalism research (“Mr. Gates” and his criteria for selection of agency reports). White made an input-output analysis with “wire editor” that selects messages from the news agency. And he found out that “Mr. Gates” selects news according to subjective criteria.

I presume that search engines are as well as gatekeepers as journalists. One reason is that the WWW is not fully captured and the users rely only on a few search engines (you just “google”, not investigate). Another reason is the hierarchical order of the hit list and only a few hit list pages are viewed. According to a survey from 2003, 81% look only at the first page. The alarming thing is that users are often not aware of the distortion by sponsored search results.

With reference to the search engines I have a closer look to Google, because it is the most powerful of the Internet gatekeepers. Google also has huge influence over who can find an audience on the Web, because it controls 63% of the world´s Internet searches and it also owns YouTube. The deputy counsel of Google is Nicole Wong, who has a central role in the company´s decision-making process about what content stays up or goes down on YouTube and other Google owned applications. Which means their task is to decide what disputed material does or does not appear on local Google search engines all over the world. Therefore I am wondering if we can call Wong the most powerful woman on the net.

A good example for Google as a gatekeeper is that on the German (Google.de) and on the French (Google.fr) Google search engines you cannot find Holocaust-denial sites, because this is illegal in Germany and France. But you can find Holocaust-denial sites on Google.com.

In Germany we have a “Code of Conduct” for search engine providers of the “Freiwillige Selbstkontrolle Multimedia-Dienstanbieter” (Association of Voluntary Self-Regulating Multimedia Service Providers). Their aim is to improve consumer protection with their use of search engines.

Google also has agreed to report all the links it takes down to chillingeffects.com, which is a Website that keeps a record of censored online materials.

“Right now, we’re trusting Google because it’s good, but of course, we run the risk that the day will come when Google goes bad,” Tim Wu, a former scholar in residence at Google.

On the whole I would like to agree with Wu, because under pressure to fight against terrorist, Google could track everything we have searched for and what we are writing, to find out who we are and what we do.