Monthly Archives: October 2011

Patch Panel

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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.

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“Do reporters need a guideline to write?”

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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”

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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.”