Tuesday, October 31, 2006
The papers are littered with errors, there is little to no leadership being exhibited by the executive editors, and one of them continues her bold attempts to usurp my authority as Sports Editor. Long story short, the once-respected (and in some circles, feared) campus newspaper at Delaware State University has become a joke. And I'm not sure how I feel about that.
The situation that bothers me the most is the fact that one of the executive editors, who once called me her "mentor," is now taking every opportunity to try and scoop me on a sports story or assign story ideas from my section to writers that I don't know from Adam and that aren't even on staff. Now this story goes back to mid-February, when the previous editor-in-chief was fired for egregious conduct (and not to mention personality conflicts with the advisor), and that this girl, who was content to write sports and stay in the background, became one of the folks in charge, and apparently that gave her the right to try and jack the sports section from a higher plateau.
Sour grapes coming from me? Not on your life. Although it's been suggested several times by people close to me that I should've applied for editor-in-chief, that's not what I want, nor is it where my heart lies. I'm a sports journalist, through and through, I believe I can have an impact from the sports page more than I can being the HNIC, and my track record the previous four years has shown that.
So why do I feel like I've been betrayed, stabbed in the back, double crossed, etc.? It's as simple as this: All new brooms sweep clean. Meaning that sure she was this meek, demure, timid little sports fanatic in the beginning, but once the broom started leaving dust trails, the ego, the suspicious attitude, the selfishness all began to rise to the surface. If you're trying to take my spot, just say so. You've been unsuccessful thus far, but you're more than welcome to try. Even though you've already tabbed my replacement, and he's a good kid and good writer, but what if he doesn't stand strong? Are you going to fire him and make yourself sports editor? Only time will tell I guess.
The other thing that bothers me about the direction and staffing of the newspaper is that it's become a clique-ish environment. If you're not in their circle, you're S.O.L. Like the photographers who refuse to take pictures for any football game. Oh sure, there are pictures accompanying the football stories, but the cutline always has "courtesy of The News Journal" at the bottom. What part of the game is that? You can't show bias towards any campus clubs/organizations or athletes for any reason. Not because football season is too cold and you're too lazy to snap a picture, or because you don't like the Alphas and the AKAs and you can't be bothered to take a picture, overlooking the fact that they did after all, you know, win a step show or something.
Finally, the newspaper office, granted it was a place of business, still was a place where regular students felt comfortable in coming in to say hello and converse with folks. I remember my first year on the job where people just routinely stopped in to say hey, compliment us on the paper, and then a friendly conversation would start. Now it's like folks are scared to or don't want to come in for fear of being embarrassed by the paper in some way (note: I did put my ex-roommate on blast once, but he deserved it. I swear :) ).
I guess time keeps on slippin' into the future, and I should've gotten used to the changes. However, I still feel like this isn't what I spent four years of my life working for. A decent student paper has turned into the HBCU version of the National Enquirer, and I can't understand why. Then again, maybe it's not meant for me to understand. continue...
Friday, October 27, 2006Oakland Tribune through a class/internship where those enrolled are, more or less, correspondents filing stories that will attract a younger readership. Occasionally we are givien general assignment stories that staff writers have initially refused to do.
Our objective: Get bylines. Bylines equals internships. Right?
So this morning I covered what was essentially a Bay Area cities' environment forum about sustainable and environmentally conscious communities. (Zzzzzzzzz...)
I sat through four hours of discussion, sifting through a ton of jargon. Processing it all nearly induced a seizure. And as the second panel discussion ended, signaling the break before the lunch session, I'm approached by the environmental beat reporter for the Oakland Tribune.
He, paraphrasing his words, missed the fax memo about today's forum, where an author, that he'd been trying to reach for a while, was to speak during the lunch session.
Long story short, he asked if I would write the top of the story and he'd write the bottom for a double byline story.
Had he been there since 8 AM like I had, I would have been more understanding. The only thing I could think to do was call my designated editor at the Tribune. And the double byline was okayed by my editor, which broke my little spirit.
Not only am I constantly told that recruiters do not want to see double bylines as clips, my efforts in trying to get good clips are stifled during "internship application send off" season.
I wrote the story. Supposedly he got the lead. My name will probably be second. I'll just have to see tomorrow how much of a byline the editors thought I deserved after an experienced FTE reporter swooped down for the kill.
Negative or positive experience? I don't know yet. continue...
Tuesday, October 24, 2006
"Hi, my name is Steve," the caller begins. "I got your number from Reporter Q."
At this point, I'm still thinking it may be the desk, though I wondered why they had to get my number from a reporter - I put my contact information at the top of every story I send in.
The caller continues: "I wanted to know when the follow-up of the Robert Boyer story was going to run - will it be in tomorrow's paper?"
I open my mouth but nothing comes out. Is this a reader calling my cell phone?
"I was looking for the story in today's paper, but I didn't see it. It'll be in Saturday, though, right?"
All of the air escapes my body as I realize this is, indeed, a reader calling my personal cell phone. I sit up straight and explain to the reader that the story ran in the West Bay section, not on the front page like the initial story. I tell him how to access the story online and he thanks me for my help.
I hang up and I look at the phone in disbelief. Did he really say a reporter gave my number to him?
In my mind, there are just some things you don't do in the newsroom. One is eat another person's lunch. Another is give out personal information to people outside of the company. I give my cell phone number sparingly to sources - I'd much rather take theirs - partly because I pay the bill and partly because once I leave the office, I want to leave my job there. I'm on call if the paper needs me, but every Tom, Dick, or Harry does not need 24 hour access to me.
On Monday, I shoot an e-mail to the reporter the caller told me gave him the number.
I got a phone call on my cell Friday night from a reader asking about a follow-up story to the Robert Boyer arrest. He told me you'd given him my phone number. I know you were bogged down with Station fire sentencing Friday and probably just gave him the first number you had for me. I try not to give out my cell phone to many people because it's a long distance call for them and because it's not a company phone. In the future, unless it's an emergency, please only provide my office number to anyone outside of the company.
Reporter Q responds:
I thought this was a pretty important phone call and that he should be able to reach you immediately. If you want your non-work numbers to be kept private from everyone, I think you need to make that known to (the Deputy Managing Editor) and she can make a note of that in our internal system. Most of us have listed phone numers so people can get a hold of us in case of emergency. The person who called you had no problem making a long-distance call.
Maybe I was overreacting, but it felt like the reporter trying to cyber punk me. I've made a concious effort to not be the stereotypical "angry black woman" in the newsroom. And this really wasn't that big of a deal to cause a big fuss. So I wrote back, saying that maybe the caller miscommunicated his purpose to her because what he wanted from me wasn't what I'd call "pretty important." I told her I'd speak to the proper people to make that notation about my phone number on the internal list.
I have no problem being accessible. I know that it's my job to be on call 24 hours a day. I've walked out of clubs, dipped out of dinner or otherwise stopped what I'm doing to take a call from the desk or from my editor. I don't mind that. I've even gotten a few evening calls from the police chief to tell me about something coming down the pipeline - giving me a heads up. Great, I appreciate it.
But this situation didn't fit in either of those categories; it was a reader wanting to know when a story ran.
The call couldn't have gone to my desk? Ya'll couldn't handle that in the office instead of sending him to call me at 8 p.m.? Am I wrong in thinking that it's not only journalistically uncouth, but just plain inconsiderate to give out unlisted reporter's numbers to readers?
What do you think? continue...
Monday, October 23, 2006accent marks in print.
At issue are questions of accuracy and technical capability. Sands, however, asks why the article's author chose to refer to accents as "squiggly lines."
"Ethnocentrism," he speculates. But I contend that readers wouldn't recognize the names of the little lines anyway.
...which is why I created the following reference list as a starting point:
tilde: the little "squiggly line" found over the letter n in some Spanish words ("See you mañana.")
grave: the itty-bitty slash that goes <-- this way (et c'est très adorable)
acute: the itty-bitty slash that goes --> that way (as in Marché, of course!)
circumflex: the tiny tent on top of vowels (it looks like this: ô ...since I don't know any words that use it)
cedilla: the hook under the letter c in some French words ("Excusez-moi, garçon!")
umlaut or diaeresis: the double dots above vowels (my favorite use appears in the word über)*
(*The double dots actually serve a double function -- as an umlaut, they adjust the sound of the vowel; as a diaeresis, they seperate one vowel sound from another, as in naïve.)
I know, Marcus. I'm a geek. But you forgot your umlaut. continue...
Sunday, October 22, 2006
We get laptop computers, digital recorders and other gadgets shoved in our face moments before we head out to comb our beats for soundbites or file our stories remotely. We are forced to become Jacks and Jills of all trade: navigating our way through court cases, budget spreadsheets and other new territories.
Now there's help.
Enter News University.
I found out about this program in the Summer of 2005, when I spent a summer at the world leader in journalism training. Not to be on Poynter's jock, but the NewsU site is a great training resource for journos - new and experienced alike. When I was moved from the municipal beat to the public safety beat a few months ago, I took a course online here about covering cops and courts. Months prior, when I first got to Rhode Island, I took the course on covering a community.
The site offers online courses in design/graphics, diversity, editing, leadership, newspapers, multimedia, photojournalism, reporting, and writing. Use the site to hone up on skills you can use for your current job, or take some courses outside of your specialty to give yourself a broader journalistic foundation.
Each lesson is presented in multimedia chapters and is self-paced, so you can work through the classes in between stories or while you're waiting on hold.
The best part: ALL OF THE LESSONS ARE FREE.
All you have to do is register. continue...
Friday, October 20, 2006
So my favorite thing about the new job is that I get to peruse all sorts of wire stories at my leisure. And I think it's making me smarter.
In fact, I know it is.
Some of the more interesting things I've learned in my first couple of days:
- Japan wants to increase its birthrate, so it's encouraging couples to have babies by building more day care centers and encouraging men to take paternity leave.
- It costs $2,500 to take a picture with President Bush at campaign fundraiser.
- Not only are Sunnis and Shiites clashing in Iraq, but now rival Shiite militias are fighting each other.
- The arch diocese on the Maltese island of Gozo requested an investigation of the priest who said he got naked with Mark Foley when the former congressman was a boy. I wondered why Gozo was so interested -- turns out the priest lives there.
- Speaking of which, there's a support group -- back in the U.S. -- called the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
Thursday, October 19, 2006
Am I gonna fit in? Will I understand the computer systems? What will I have for lunch? What am I wearing? What will they have me do? Am I ready? Oh dear lord, please let me be ready.
Performing has nothing on first-day-on-the-job jitters.
In less than nine hours, I'll be walking through the door of my new yob. (Yes, "yob." If you haven't seen Fun With Dick & Jane, you're not down with the lingo.) I'm excited as I am nervous as I am anxious about how well I'll perform, how well I'll fit in.
I've wondered, pondered, imagined every possible scenario, felt butterflies in my stomach, prayed that I wake up on time, and bounced my right leg just as I do whenever I'm nervous.
And now, as I get ready to turn in for the night, the only thing I can think is...
I'll be just fine. continue...
Wednesday, October 18, 2006
The website is chock full of excellent programming, has wonderfully executed multimedia and enough interesting reading to keep your mind off of the cricketycrack of the police scanner. Simply, Poynter is to journalists what Mecca is to Islam. (And I'll have offended someone in 5, 4, 3...)
Anyway, I've been paying a bit of attention to Joe Grimm's "Ask the Recruiter" column, in which the DFP recruiter gives solicited career advice with equal parts candor and sensibility. Ten95 is thinking about submitting a question in a couple days and our very own T-Dot will be moving our question to the front of the line.
Cause you know. She got it like that. continue...
Tuesday, October 17, 2006
Bookstores are my vice. The titles intrigue me. The cover designs, the pages, the authors, the subjects. I try to avoid online megastores like Amazon.com; I long for the coziness of a leafy, autumn visit to the bookstore. My bookcase doesn't have much room for my books nowadays. Most of my books are piled up similarly to those disorganized shelves at your local library.
So guess where I went yesterday?
Books on writing were on the agenda. First I hit up Borders looking for Arthur Plotik's Spunk & Bite: A writer's guide to punchier, more engaging language & style. I figured that last thing my writing needed was spunk, but I like Plotnik's play on Strunk & White. Touché. (By the way, Brattle had a first edition of S&W. It was red. I'm a mess)
Borders in Boston's Downtown Crossing didn't have the title, so I skipped over to Brattle Book Shop a few blocks over. It's there that I lost my mind. I like to think of Borders like a sexy new girlfriend, and Brattle more like your sixth grade school crush. She wasn't the most prettiest girl in the doubledutch line, but she did something to you.
So there, I picked up John Brady's The Craft of Interviewing, and Natalie Goldberg's Writing Down the Bones, a campfire collection of short essays on writing, style and diction.
Now if I can find a place to put them I'll be OK. continue...
Saturday, October 07, 2006
But in Russia, the question may be "Would you risk your life to publish the truth?"
According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, Russia is the third deadliest country for journalists (right behind Iraq and Algeria). CPJ's Nina Ognianova told NPR that twelve newspeople have been murdered in contract-style killings in the country since 2000, and that murder #13 may have just happened. continue...
Thursday, October 05, 2006
You know, if I didn't love journalism with the passion of a couple who's been together 40 years and still doing their regular three times a week love-in, I'd really wonder if this whole college deal was worth it. Clearly you can't be a journalist without a journalism degree, college newspaper experience, freelance articles and internships be damned. The degree part of your resume at least keeps it from becoming immediate recycling paper, so I shall press on. But a little bit of background as to why I'm under so much pressure. I'm a career student. Totally and truthfully.
After a hard summer of getting a geometry credit so I could graduate high school in 1999, I enrolled at Delaware Technical & Community College as an Office Management major. Yeah, the crack I was smoking had to be some strong stuff. After two fruitless years going to school five minutes from home, I decided to take the plunge and head on down Route 13 to Delaware State University.
Five years later, I'm finally a senior and finally close enough to the point where I can say I'm a graduating senior. However, I'm already off to a bad start this semester, and I'm not sure what it's going to take for me to right the ship. Bottom line, almost eight years in some sort of collegiate setting is entirely too much. I've got to go. So I'm going to redo my senior edit next week to try and prevent my heart from being broken in December.
There's pressure to graduate, pressure to get a job, pressure to be happy, just pressure all over the place.
"Doctor, oh Doctor, I'm begging you please, can you help me cure this disease? I can't get this pressure point out of my head...I feel it at work, you know I feel it in bed...." continue...
Wednesday, October 04, 2006
I don't know what it is, but we expect journalists to work long hours writing wonderful stories and to get satisfaction from knowing they're doing their civic duty.
True, the job is it's own reward, but sometimes it's nice to get a little recognition.
A coworker of mine won a category in our paper's in-house writing competition and the next day, I heard nothing in the office of it.
No streamers. No cake. No balloons. Not even a pat on the back and a 'job well done' for the winner.
That just isn't right.
So I figured it was up to me to correct it.
"Hey, guys," I said as I walked to my coworkers on the other side of the room. "You know Barb won the writing contest?"
Nods all around.
"So, I was thinking, wouldn't it be nice to celebrate that win? I'll go get some pastries or something. We can make it a regular thing - whenever one of us wins the contest. I think it'd be a good idea."
Nods all around and the $5 and $10 bills start piling up in my hand.
Leave it to me to start a tradition.
I head out to buy some sweets for our 3 p.m. meeting. I went to the Arcade (the first indoor mall in America) in downtown Providence and scoured the shelves of the bakeries there. I settled on some pastries from the Johnston & Wales bakery and a ribbon-wrapped pack of cookies from another shop, and headed back to the office.
There, I cleaned off the conference table, set up the goodies and printed out the winning story. To the left, I wrote a simple note of congrats and signed it "the West Bay bureau." All I had to wait for now, was for the meeting to start.
The winning reporter was out on assignment and was coming in just in time for the meeting. She walked into the office and peered through the glass doors that enclose our conference room.
"Oh, what's this? Goodies?!" she exclaimed.
Then, a moment later - "THEY'RE FOR ME?!"
A smile crept across my face as I entered the conference room for the meeting. I'm a big fan boosting morale. And for journalists, besides money, there's no bigger morale booster than food.
We started the meeting and munched on the goodies as we talked about our election coverage for the upcoming month. Midway through the conversation, I saw Barb slip the ribbons from the box, and onto her wrist to wear as a corsage.
After deadline, she came over to my desk, and we talked about the celebration. As a newsroom vet, she said she could count the number of times she'd been recognized for a job well done on one hand. The smile on her face told me how much she appreciated what I'd done (she knew it was me because I'm new to the bureau and this sort of thing never happened before).
"Thanks so much for that - it was really sweet," she said before turning away, her ribbon corsage still dangling from her wrist.
You're welcome. continue...
Monday, October 02, 2006
So how is it possible that I could be addicted to my yet-to-be purchased Blackberry?
Now more than ever, I'll be out covering meetings or events and see other reporters banging away at their Blackberries and Palm Treos. I'll shoot the sharp stare of covetousness and declare, "You shall be mine one day" and retreat back to my notebook and pen.
The clearest indicator that I had a problem came when I entered the Sprint store on Boylston street in Boston for the third day in a row. I walked in and made a beeline for the Crackberry.
"You're back," a salesman said.
I didn't even look up. "Yeah, I love this thing," I said. I'm too busy clicking the roller, seeing how easily I can type my name, trying to figure out how to work the address list. I'm swooning. Part of me wants to start nervously scrathing my neck all over.
I'm sick of trugging my laptop along just to freeload off some cafe's free wireless to check e-mail. It's either that, or get flooded with 80 e-mail messages when I finally get back home in time for Monday Night Football. Ever tried tackling 80 e-mail messages? Not fun.
Reporters are filing stories on them. They are getting quotes e-mailed, shooting e-mails to their boss -- and this is while they work out, walk the dog, etc. I can't even remember the last time I shot hoops with my little cousin and little brother. If I had the Blackberry I feel like things would get a little better.
Am I right? continue...