Thursday, November 30, 2006

No Pets Allowed

I stop in my tracks as soon as I hear the sound.

*crumple*

Though I'm at my desk on deadline tonight, I stop typing and turn around, trying to figure out where it is coming from.

It stops as I do, so I go back to typing. I hear it again.

*crickle*

I pause, turn around and survey the area while I wait for the sound to return. It's too intermittent to be anything benign. I know it has to be the office pet.

And he's in my stuff.

*crack*

As journalists, it's almost in our job description to have food at our desks. When news breaks, you don't have time to run to your local salad bar and pick up something nurtritious. So we keep snacks on hand. A roll of crackers on the shelf. Some granola bars in the bottom drawer. A bag of Skittles in your pencil drawer.

These are completely necessary midday snacks that help to sustain many journalists during a hard day of reporting the news, but are just as appealing to our four legged friends of the rodent variety.

Yes, I'm talking about mice.

I have yet to go to a newsroom where there are no mice. In a building with hundreds of people and food floating around all the time, there are bound to be some pets. Companies ban food from cubicles in an effort to curb the rodent population. Managers tell you to call maintenance when you see "evidence" of one.

Besides an errant dropping here or there, I hadn't had to deal with one personally yet. I listened sympathetically while my coworkers told of crackers with teeth marks in them, or candy bars destined for the trash after the office mouse got a hold of them. I had been spared until now.

I sat very still as I tried to pinpoint where the sound was coming from.

*crumple*

A mix of panic and dread set in when I realized it was coming from my bookbag up against the wall.

The bag has been there for some time. I used it when I left my old office to pack my rations in. A can of soup. Some cough drops. An old Pop-Tart I found in my drawer. I kept meaning to unpack it but just never got around to it.

*crickle*

The sound stops. I clear my throat.

*crack*

My mind races as I try to figure out what to do. Obviously, the mouse is in my bookbag, eating the Pop-Tart. Maybe I can zip the bookbag up and throw it away, thereby getting rid of ...

"AAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH," a high pitched sound I didn't know I could make comes bursting from my mouth.

Oh. My. Goodness.

The mouse just climbed out of my bookbag and ran away.

It was at least as long as a stapler. Okay, at least as big as a Rolodex card.

I've climbed off of my chair now, but I still can't seem to stop itching. I just keep imagining it crawling up my leg. Or on my arm. Or in my hair.

*Shudders*

Guess I'll give my desk a deep cleaning tomorrow since I don't want Jerry or any of his cousins feeling too at home in my cubicle.

And the first thing to go is that bookbag.
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Posted by T Dot at 10:10 PM | link | Tell us what you think [3]

Monday, November 27, 2006

Why I was proud to have met Gerald Boyd

It was far from spectacular, but I met Gerald Boyd once. We were introduced by Hampton University's Will Sutton, as he and some his students were en route to dinner during a journalism conference in Boston. He was alone sporting a tan jacket, a white, collared shirt and he carried a single briefcase. He shook my hand firmly.

"Mr. Boyd was the managing editor of the New York Times," Sutton says nodding, eyes wide, as if to say, "Yeah, this guy is the man." Boyd didn't blink. He smirked and chatted with the group of us before boarding a bus back to his hotel. I knew the magnitude of his journalistic giant, but didn't ask any questions. Thinking it better to just observe, I just watched as he engaged us, running into him again the next day. Weeks later he would be diagnosed with lung cancer.

This was not a man who appeared to be consumed by the weight or impact of his legacy. He seemed, to me, a soul bound to humility. His obvious intelligence and quiet nature made it easy to see why he had inspired a generation of storytellers, writers and thinkers. Not to mention he went to Mizzou, was a Nieman fellow, and was a White House correspondent -- all before reaching the pinnacle of his career, managing editor of the Times.

Which is why it broke my heart to see the AP confuse him with Jayson Blair in it's obituary, and for several other news organizations to relate that singular -- and apparently defining -- failure equally with Boyd's successes. So I'm posting George Curry's column on the matter, as I was extremely proud of it; Yes, as a black journalist, but, moreover, as a black man:

Gerald Boyd Deserves a Better Send-Off
By George E. Curry
NNPA Columnist

Former New York Times Managing Editor Gerald M. Boyd, who died on Thanksgiving Day, was a very close friend, dating back to the early 1970s when we were reporters at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. We lived across the street from each other, we played cards together, we were part of the same touch football league team and together, we pioneered a journalism workshop for Black high school students. Because of our friendship, Gerald’s wife, Robin Stone, has asked me to speak at a memorial service for him in New York later this week.

I wrote about my friendship with Gerald in a column after he lost his job amid the controversy over Jayson Blair, the serial liar who masqueraded as a reporter for the New York Times. In 2003, Gerald presented me with the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) “Journalist of the Year” award. In his presentation, Gerald recounted our friendship of more than three decades.

I hope to return the favor this week in New York, but at this point, I am not sure I’ll do it. It’s not because I can’t recall the great times we shared – I can recount dozens of them –but there is something more pressing. I feel compelled to do what my friend can no longer do for himself – I must defend his honor and his integrity.

In almost every account of Gerald’s death, it was mentioned in the first paragraph that he lost his job because of the Jayson Blair fiasco. The Associated Press said he “was forced to resign three years ago amid the Jayson Blair scandal.” In fact, the AP mentioned Blair before it mentioned that Gerald had died of lung cancer at the age of 56. Blair should be mentioned in any account of Gerald’s life, but his shortcomings should not be put on par with Gerald’s accomplishments.

AP was so sloppy that in one reference that appeared on CNN.com, it confused Gerald with Jayson Blair, saying “Blair is survived by his wife and 10-year-old son, Zachary.”

Ouch! That cuts too deeply.

But the bleeding started long before Gerald died. Previous news accounts have stated or implied that Gerald was Jayson Blair’s mentor.

Louis Boccadi, former head of the Associated Press, was part of the team that investigated the Blair scandal for the New York Times. In an interview on “Dateline,” the NBC newsmagazine, he said: “Gerald just recoils at the notion that he was Jayson’s mentor, that the mentoring stemmed from the fact that they’re both African-Americans.”

Writing in the Washington Post, Marcia Davis, a former student in our St. Louis journalism workshop and now an editor in the Style section of the Post, put it this way in a tribute to her former mentor: “How, after Boyd had proved himself for so many years, could his integrity, and the integrity of all black journalists, be called into question simply because of race? Boyd was a black man, and a black man who cared about race in America, but he was not crippled by it.”

More than anything else, Gerald Boyd aspired to become editor of the New York Times. He mentioned that goal to me when he joined the Post-Dispatch after graduating from the University of Missouri and it would remain his goal for the rest of his newspaper career. He rose to the No. 2 position, managing editor, a spot no other African-American had ever attained. With his talent and ambition, I never doubted that Gerald would one day become editor of the paper. But that was not to be, in large part, because of the Blair scandal. When Gerald resigned along with editor Howell Raines, he lost a dream, not just a job.

That would have been severe enough. What’s even worse is that Gerald’s distinguished career is being defined within the context of Jason Blair. As one of his friends, I consider that an insult. And that’s why I must rise to his defense.
Think about his illustrious career: Washington correspondent for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, White House correspondent for the New York Times, Neiman fellow, editor of a Pulitzer Prize-winning series on race, managing editor of the New York Times, and mentor to dozens of young people.

Unfortunately, there have been other Jayson Blairs in journalism: Janet Cooke, Stephen Glass, Patricia Smith, Michael Barnicle, Bob Green and Jack Kelley, to name a few. While the names of these miscreants are still burned in our memory, perhaps except for Janet Cooke, we don’t remember the name of their editors. And when those editors die, they will probably be hailed for their journalistic accomplishments and justifiably so. Gerald Boyd deserves to be remembered in that same light, not by the failings of someone lower than a snake’s belly.
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Posted by Darren Sands at 5:57 PM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Taking advantage of the passion

Yelling formalities over loud house music in a bar in San Francisco's Castro district is not my idea of a good time. I've got a glass of pineapple juice, vodka and ice in one hand, a backstabber to my right and a two-faced person to my left.

Dishonesty and disloyalty surrounds me and the island bar. The red dim accent lighting in the joint only adds to the feeling that many of the people here have somewhat dark hearts and lack a true sense of integrity.

But has journalism done this to them? Have intense newsroom relationships done this to us all: darkened our hearts and made us cynics?

Perhaps it has. I look around the bar, squinting to make out the shape of folks who made the semester somewhat of a trial for me.

And what do I really have to say to them? I can't say things like: Thanks for making me question your competence as an editor. Thanks for making assumptions about my ability to do your jobs next semester. Thanks for taking advantage of the passion I bring to each and every thing I do for you and this publication.

I sip on my cocktail, scanning the room for allies. I see a few. Uh oh! Wait! Two-faced person, ten o'clock!

Her: So how do you feel about not getting the editor position?

Me: (*shrugs*) I don't know. It is what it is.

Her: [paraphrasing] Well, I think you are a great producer. And I really like you. You just have to learn humility. You have to learn how to take criticism. When people tell you to change something, you just have to change it. Don't ask questions. Just do it. Even if you don't like it or think it adds to your story. Just do it. And then you can be the f*cking master of multimedia.

Me: (*strains to smile*) Okay.

--

So what I'm learning here tonight, folks, is that in order to be the "master", you've got to be the slave.

Since when has "the master" ever wanted to see a slave succeed? Since when does "the master" base any of his or her decision on altruistic principles? When is any black man who defends his work not "being aggressive" and/or "defensive?"

I'm sipping drinks at a party, thrown by the clique that I was probably never supposed to be a member of. I'm the impassioned outcast. I'm made to feel like no matter hard I worked, no matter how many days I spend working on a story, no matter how many hours I spend in the newsroom, I'm the angry black man who can't "get with the program."

(*extends hand*) Hi, my name is Aaron Morrison and I WON'T "get with the program."
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Posted by Aaron Morrison at 12:55 AM | link | Tell us what you think [4]

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

I Heart Office Supplies

I saw the box as soon as I walked into the office after lunch.

"Look," I screamed. "Office supplies!"

Okay, so I might be a little bit of a nerd, but I swear, I love office supply day.

To me, next to free food in the newsroom, office supply delivery day is the absolute best.

Think about it: as journalists, we don't get paid much. Instead, the company will choose to eat the costs of pizza on Election Night and they'll spring to get you a new calendar for your desk each year - not to mention any other supplies you might need.

I admit. I may have gone a little overboard this time when selecting a few *ahem* necessities to charge to the company account.

First, was my American Physical Therapy Association endorsed adjustable keyboard platform with gel wrist rest. It was the last component to my ergonomically correct work station. I had the maintenence guys lower my desk, raise my chair, and provide me with a footrest. Now, with my wrist rest, I am ready to work.

Then, I got the requisite weekly/monthly planner that everyone gets to charge to the company account. But mine is particularly festive. It's leather bound, with gold-rimmed pages, a ribbon marker and not only weekly and monthly formats, but also an expense area and spot for important phone numbers. It even has metric equivalents and time zones in the back! Never again will I wonder how many yards are in a furlong (that'd be 220).

Finally, and this one I was really proud of, I allowed the company to invest in a new Rolodex for me. What is this you say? Rolodexes are old fashioned? Pish posh. I love Rolodexes. I still have an electronic file, but using the card file makes me feel like I know people. I'd currently been using my personal Rolodex I bought in college. Problem is, it was full of my personal contacts so there was little room for Rhode Island numbers, and the pages kept slipping out. So I got a new one. My new Rolodex is one of the rotary ones, that turns with the spin of dial, and is housed in a smokey gray container. Did I mention it also rotates 360 degrees? It does. I know you're jealous.

And the sad part is, I'm expecting a wall calendar in the next shipment - you know, for that long-term planning.

I was so excited unpacking my goodies that - no lie- I actually did a little jig.

Oh, if only every day could be office supply delivery day.

Oh, if only.
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Posted by T Dot at 7:20 PM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

Monday, November 20, 2006

Dear Anonymous Source (of Irritation)

Okay, so here's the thing.

I'm all for free speech. That's a tenet of true journalism, no? First Amendment rights, freedom of the press, all that good stuff. And that's what makes this blogging thing pretty cool. You can bat around ideas on just about any subject with folks worldwide. Whether they agree or disagree, pledge complete support or come with a healthy dose of skepticism, a good conversation is almost always ready to be had.

Almost.

What I won't tolerate (and what many other news blogs prohibit) are comments that are vulgar, obscene or derogatory in nature. Check the Washington Post and the St. Petersburg Times. They have similar policies.

To our anonymous friend in Louisville, Kentucky, your comments were a bit amusing at first, but now I'm just plain annoyed. Repeatedly posting profane and demeaning comments are, in fact, a form of harassment, and trust me, I've learned a little bit about online harassment.

What bothers me more is that you're more than likely a fellow (or aspiring) journalist. Our blog caters to a very specific niche audience, and few outside that demographic read it. Conversely, many inside that demographic do, on all levels of the industry food chain. While professionals have used this space to have professional discussions about professional issues, your comments are rather, well... unprofessional. Which makes our other readers uncomfortable, and reflects poorly on your judgment as a journalist.

As a caution, don't assume that posting anonymously on the Internet protects identities. With technology that's more than capable of tracking a user's every move online, that veil of mystery you may think you're hiding behind is really just a figment of your e-magination. Just ask Michael Hiltzik, who resigned after this incident reported in the Washington Post:

The Los Angeles Times suspended the blog of one of its top columnists last night, saying he violated the paper's policy by posting derogatory comments under an assumed name.

The paper said in an online editor's note that Michael Hiltzik, a Pulitzer Prize winner who writes the Golden State column, had admitted posting remarks on both his Times blog and on other Web sites under names other than his own....

When commenters on Frey's Web site criticized Hiltzik, an examination by Frey of the Internet addresses involved showed it was the Times writer who responded in remarks posted under the name "Mikekoshi."
All I'm saying, anonymous friend in Louisville, is that you should refrain from posting any more disruptive comments on this blog. Because, if nothing else, it's not that hard to figure out who you are.

Ya smell me?
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 8:30 PM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

To Bleep or Not to Bleep

I was watching TV this morning when the news came across the screen: "Actor Michael Richards stuns comedy club by using racial epithets."

The story had been broken on TMZ.com, an entertainment Web site that had posted the video of Richard's tirade. CNN played a portion of the video, unedited, after a short disclaimer warning viewers of the potentially offensive language that it contained.

During the 2:47 minute clip, Richards cursed and screamed "the n-word" at least seven times to a group of African American hecklers. Richards also used a series of profanities and made reference to lynchings, during his tirade, noting something to the effect that 50 years ago, the hecklers would have been hanging upside down from a tree.

The news is making its way around the Internet and other journalistic outlets:
TMZ is continuing to play the video unedited.
Apparently AP has transcripts of the performance.
Only a handful of media outlets are sanitizing the comments - instead noting that Richards used the "n-word."

Question is, who is right?

The FCC recently reversed a ruling that subjected media outlets to fines for using profanity. It recently ruled that some profanity during a news show is acceptable. Meanwhile, longstanding rules of decency say that profanity, epithets and slurs are wrong and should not be re-aired so as not to continue to offend readers and/or viewers.

My thoughts? I think CNN did the right thing by playing the tapes unedited. By allowing viewers to see the actual context in which the words were said, it allows us to draw our own conclusion. From watching the tape, I don't believe Richards' was drunk, like Mel Gibson, and that his comments were meant to shock and appall. In that case, he succeeded.

I wasn't offended. I felt sorry that Richards felt he needed to resort to hurling slurs to save his act. (By the way, he was allowed to perform at the same club the following night.)

But I'm not everyone, and therein lies the dilemma.

Is it our job as journalists to not offend viewers or readers? Or is it our job to broadcast or write about incidents as they occured, without sanitizing them?
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Posted by T Dot at 5:29 PM | link | Tell us what you think [3]

Sunday, November 19, 2006

O'Neal Parker on writing from the heart

My first interaction with the Washington Post’s Lonnae O’Neal Parker was when I read her fine piece with Joshua Partlow on Emily Perez, the first West Point graduate to be killed while on duty in Iraq.

Organizers did well recruiting her. She led a forum earlier this afternoon entitled “Method Reporting: Empathy as a Reporting Tool.”

What does method acting consist of? At its core, says O’Neal Parker, method acting creates complete reality on stage. Empathy as a reporting tool allows you to “record from the same emotional core” as your sources. Do your readers feel what you are feeling?

She was careful to note that using empathy as a reporting tool only helps if your “emotionally wired to empathy.” It works for her, she said, because she has effective emotional disorder.

“I can absolutely get emotional about a mustard commercial,” she quipped.

O’Neal Parker described how deeply sorrowful she felt that she, a mother of three, was sitting at the grave of an eight-year-old who had been shot to death. For this story, bringing her emotional subjectivity was important to the tone of the story.

On those assignments, she said: “If they send me to an achy place, I will bring back an achy story.”

O’Neal Parker warned against a common mistake; that reporting with empathy can turn out stories that can be vain and showy -- all without the writer knowing or feeling it.

On being less interested in covering the Miss USA Beauty Pageant in Baltimore, O’Neal Parker, then 37, decided to do some hanging around -- more intested in her own feelings being in a room full of gorgeous twenty-somethings than the pageant itself. Her feelings went right into her notebook when some people turned and look in her direction. It went into her story, too.

“Oh is that your mom?,” someone asked looking in her direction.

False call. Whew. One of the women’s actual mothers stood right behind her. Lucky for whoever said that.

O’Neal Parker encourages reporters to use sensory memory – what things feel, look and smell like. She offered a couple more tips:

We chatted on the way to her book signing. Good peoples.

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Posted by Darren Sands at 6:38 PM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Catching up with Roy Peter Clark

After graciously agreeing to sign my book, Poynter's ubiquitous writing guru Roy Peter Clark and I couldn’t help but wonder: Who’s winning the Michigan-Ohio State game?

Clark told me last he heard the score was 14-7, Michigan. He was giving a talk in a session entitled Grassroots Journalism: Where is the narrative in future visions of the news?

Clark’s Friday session on narrative tools was SOR – sitting room only -- and afterwards he sat down to sign “Writing Tools: 50 Essential Strategies for Every Writer."

Ever heard this guy in front a piano? He’s quite the entertainer. Anyone have any favorite RPC stories?
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Posted by Darren Sands at 7:06 PM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

On making narrative short -- and sweet

Diane Tennant believes bringing a story together with lots of notes requires the same mental capacities as completing a jigsaw puzzle. No, that doesn’t mean that she’ll break out the typical 500-piece wolves-in-the-forest joint, right?

Well, not so fast.

Trying to do a puzzle is just one alternative approach that Tennant takes to her narrative writing. She’s a writer on The Virginian-Pilot’s Sunday Spotlight narrative team.

Offers Tennant:

Don’t be afraid to write something new and strange.

Using “she said” or “he explained” too much? Try alternative attribution.

When covering a popular event, look for what the other media is going to miss.

Use your strongest material.

Always amuse yourself.


Folks here comfortably sit on the floor at the well-attended programs, giving the conference a warm lounge-like feel. I’ve got notes coming my way, so if readers want more tips from Tennant, I’ll be happy to pass them along.

However, there’s a two hour break now and I have a cheeseburger somewhere with my name it. I’ll be at a session called Making Your Story Sing with Phoebe Claggett and Dick Weiss beginning at 8 p.m.
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Posted by Darren Sands at 7:02 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Secrets, secrets are no fun

You see an athlete, whom you know to be married, walking arm-in-arm with another woman into the team hotel after a road game.

Is it a story?

These conferences often have several interesting things going on simultaneously and sometimes you never know if you attended the right session. Jackie MacMullan’s presentation on choosing to reveal or not to reveal the secrets of professional athletes presented no such dilemma.

She spoke on Deion Branch, and how in doing background research for a feature story, MacMullan found out that one of Branch’s twin sons was severely brain damaged and in a facility in Kentucky. MacMullan knew that he was uncomfortable talking about it, and Branch asked her not to write the story, saying that he and the children's mother agreed to keep it a private matter. She eventually wrote the story in her emotional and compelling style.

We spent a lot of time talking about Reggie Lewis. MacMullan covered Reggie at Northeastern and as a beat writer with the Celtics. When she found out that the rumors that Reggie apparently was abusing cocaine, and pursued the story.

For MacMullan, choosing to write about these stories is a personal decision, each with its own unique moral and ethical dilemmas. Confronted with issues, -- like Patriots linebacker Tedy Bruschi’s reluctance to publish anything about his alcohol problems – MacMullan says that giving sources a day to think about it usually works out any apprehensiveness.

I posed a question to MacMullan about college athletes and whether or not they should be less scrutinized than professional athletes. Yes, folks, I passed on a story about athletes at my former school that used Pell grants to go on lavish shopping sprees. It still gnaws at me to this day.

MacMullan posed a question my way.

“Would you pass on that story now?”

Nope. I’d be all over it.
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Posted by Darren Sands at 5:07 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Olojede on his Narrative

Award-wining journalist Dele Olojede gave today’s keynote address, an explanatory journey on his story about Alphoncina Mutuze, a Tutsi woman whose child Gervais was one of several thousands born of the widespread sexual violence of war-torn Rwanda in the early 1990s. He is making some interesting points on the narrative, on interviewing, etc. But Olojede masters an elusive narrative attribute – cadence and stability. Here’s Mutuze’s first quote in the story:

“I really don’t hate him but I feel this child is not mine. This child is not mine. I could not imagine how I would nurse this child. I wanted to kill this child. I looked at him and wanted to kill him. I beat him even when I was nursing him. I beat him even now.”

Olojede weaves compelling narrative and a clear understanding of the Rwandan conflict. Great narrative has you glancing at the page one minute, and surfs you through the rest. You exert very little energy reading, in other words.

Olojede says that he interviewed Mutuze over several days. Asked in the Q&A how he established a rapport with the woman, he said that they talked about other things -- like soccer – and that he was genuine and tried to show that he cared.

Attendees of the keynote had copies of the stories and very few of them seem to left on the seat. I’ve got five copies myself.

I’m actually off to Globe columnist Jackie MacMullan’s session entitled "The Beat Dilemma: On Not Keeping Athletes’ Secrets." Also featured in this time block: "Parachuting Well: Doing Narrative in Places You’ve Never Been"; "In Search of an American Identity"; a seminar on arts journalism; "Writing about science: Is It Sociology or Politics or Advocacy or Journalism?"; "Can TV News Tell It Like It Is?"; and "Finding an Agent: When, How, Who, Why."
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Posted by Darren Sands at 3:50 PM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

Nieman Conference

Today will be day two of the Nieman Conference on Narrative Journalism in Boston, Ma. The conference's attendees include Pulitzer Prize winning journalist Dele Olojede, Roy Peter Clark, Mark Kramer, the St. Petersburg Times' Stephen Buckley and so many more.

Sessions discuss topics like getting published, navigating complex reporter-editor relationships, covering uncovered angles in overcovered stories and writing about children -- just to name a few. Wish you were here? If so, I'll do my best to recap some of the highlights of this gathering.

Before I report back, however, I should make mention of how genuinely pleasant everyone at the conference is. At first it caught me off guard. Now it's wonderful. Who said journalists were egotistical and isolated?
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Posted by Darren Sands at 6:02 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Friday, November 17, 2006

Dreaming our dreams

The Manhattan fashion scene in the 1970s. The 1992-93 Chicago Bulls. Hip-hop in 1995. Bob Marley and the Wailers. The 1985 Bears. Nolan Ryan in the 1980s. The LAPD in 1992. USC Football in 2004. The Busing Crisis in Boston. King, Malcolm, Lewis and The Civil Rights movement of the 1950s and 60s. The Reagan administration. The Reconstruction South. Apartheid South Africa.

We all have dream beats. We've got the one event or subject matter that we sometimes dream about covering. It's the event that got us wanting to do journalism. It's the one subject we or our parents were passionate about. It's the story that raies your profile, gets your blood moving and out of bed in the morning. It's the type of passion that wins awards.

The AP's Errin Haines wishes she was around for the building of the pyramids. (So she could tell if its builders were really black.) She'd like to have told the stories on a slave ship, or Ellis Island.

Keith Reed of the Boston Globe says he's close to his dream beat: sports business and consumer technology. Personal finance in minority communities interests him too, but he wanted to cover Katrina and was the first to "raise my hand" to go to New Orleans. Lots of us wish we were there for Katrina.

The reason we do journalism is partly because we are historians. Especially in the Internet age -- now more than ever, journalists are the providers of institutional working knowledge of historical events. Text books can't do on Katrina what the Times-Pic did on Katrina.

This all came out of a discussion with Julian about hip-hop, and how it is widely thought that the culture is dead. How, it would basically suck to cover hip-hop today, as opposed to 1995 when the art form and its commentators were at its peak. Then we started thinking about dream beats.

Our very own T-Dot wishes she could have covered AIDS when it began to spread in Africa. She's also interested in the practice of Female Genital Mutilation, and wonders if its going on in her own backyard. "I know there are women here in the US in these ethnic communities who are undergoing the same procedure and nothing is being done about it," she says.

Could you imagine covering Idi Amin or Adolf Hitler? Imagine the stories you'd tell? Although it should be noted that indulging in imaginary beats are contingent on the existence of a free press. No sense in protecting democracy where it doesn't exist.

It's not all that complex for some folks. Just give Sherlon Christie, president-elect for the Garden State Association of Black Journalists, an NBA team in a warm city: he'd be all set. Same for our own Chris "DSUorBust" Stevens: Philadelphia 76ers from 1976-1982, the first six years of Julius Erving's career. Stevens, an NBA historian, doesn't think he could stand the oversexed NBA of the 1970s and 80s. But at least it'd be worth it.

"Those teams had the most talent of anybody in the NBA," he said. "And they came up short for one reason or another every postseason until they traded for Moses Malone."

Sports writer North Carolina native Soraya McDonald knows she shouldn't be covering Carolina Basketball -- "because I love it too much." But when the NFL brings back the Los Angeles football franchise, her hand will be raised. Still, she couldn't resist wanting going back to cover the teams with Antawn Jamison, Ed Cota and Vince Carter right before Dean Smith retired.

So. What's your dream beat?
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Posted by Darren Sands at 11:32 AM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Ding, dong! Ergonomics calling!

I'm so not playing with my ergonomic health.

After posting yesterday, I thought about what could be making me feel so bad. Of course, stress probably has something to do with it, but maybe - just maybe - my desk was contributing to my health problems.

Enter ergonomics.

I got to work this morning and grabbed our office supply book, looking for a wrist pad and some other things to help with the pains in my hands. I thought I'd made a decision on which pieces to order after consulting with the office assistant and various friends in cyberspace. Then, I made a call to the assistant to the executive editor, on the off chance that maybe my company had someone who specializes in this sort of thing.

Hallelujah, they do.

I called the guy who is the middleman between the staff and the ergonomic specialists and told him my problems.

"So," I said, "How does this work? What do I need to do?"
"Nothing," he replied. "You've already done it by calling me. We'll get someone to hook up with you tomorrow and figure out what equipment we need to install."

Well, Shazam.

In the meantime, I did a couple things to try to help until they get here. I moved my computer (a laptop with docking station) toward the back of my desk, so that I'm not on top of it any longer. I raised my chair as high as it can go, even though it's still too short. The office assistant joked that I needed a booster seat. I didn't laugh.

Anyway, I'm floating on cloud 9 right now. I can't wait until the ergonomic people get here. Healthy workspace, here I come! Whoo hoo!
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Posted by T Dot at 3:37 PM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

Monday, November 13, 2006

Is there a doctor in the house?

I'm beginning to think journalism is bad for my health.

Seriously, in the last few weeks, I've been having what I'm deeming to be major health problems that I believe all stem from my job:

Headaches - I don't know if it's from staring at the computer screen all day or from reading copy so much, but I've been having these mind numbing headaches about 4 times a week, sometimes twice in a day. It may also have something to do with the crazy people in my coverage area.

Fatigue - Election night was it. It started off slow, but it was the culmination of weeks of overtime and stress. Now, here, a week later, I'm still feeling the effects of the lack of sleep. I find myself wanting to take naps in the middle of the day while I'm at work.

Sleeplessness - By the same token, some nights, I've been unable to go to sleep. Maybe I'm too tired. Maybe I'm too hyped from deadline. Whatever it is, I know it's messing with my equilibrium - I'm all out of wack.

Phantom Pains - I had a horrible pain in the meaty part of my thumb the other day from typing at an odd angle. It made me think I was getting carpal tunnel syndrome from these horribly designed desks.

And to top it all off, my glasses broke on Friday.

It has not been a good week.

I feel like the adult thing to do would be to go to the doctor and get checked out. I know I don't have the flu, but something is going awry with me and whatever it is, my job is just exacerbating it.

I hate going to the doctor's office. Guess I'll have to suck it up and go before work tomorrow.

*Sigh*

Good news, though.

My job may be physically breaking me down bit by bit, it does provide some moments of comedy. Just a second ago, one of my co-workers, a particularly hyper young man, came over to me to find out what I'd eaten for lunch. Earlier, we'd had a heated debate about why I shouldn't go to Panera Bread and instead, he argued, should patronize local deli shops. Now, he insisted on guessing what my sandwich was.

He proceeded to close his eyes, sniff my sandwich (it was double wrapped in parchment paper, so no chance of bacteria from him) and call out ingredients.

*sniff*
"Onions."
*sniff*
"Cheese."
*sniff*
"Pickles?"
"Yeah, you couldn't have gotten this sandwich at Mark's Deli," he said, reaching out his fist to give me 'pound,' his preferred method of salutation.

If the job alone doesn't kill me, my co-workers will ensure I die laughing.
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Posted by T Dot at 6:39 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Reluctantly Sitting

Today I'm not satisfied with sitting at a desk.

I'm watching C-SPAN 2, listening to the powerful voice of the woman who was once the small girl seen clinging to her mother, Coretta Scott King, in a photo taken at Martin Luther King's funeral 38 years ago.

Black dignitaries, leaders, communities organizations are gathered on the mall to break ground on a memorial 20 years in the making.

And all I can think is that I wish I didn't have to watch it, write about it from a TV in the office.

...oh, and I'm thinking of how fly these men look in their black trench coats and fedoras. Y'all betta get it.
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 11:06 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Saturday, November 11, 2006

The Story's Right Here

Sometimes the most interesting stories come from what should be the most obvious angles.

Angles so obvious, in fact, that most people wouldn't think of them.

Take this Veterans Day piece from the Scripps Howard News Service. While most other outlets reported on how government officials, armed forces personnel and military families commemorated the holiday, Lisa Hoffman simply looked back and profiled the very men the holiday was named for -- the veterans of World War I. Of whom only 12 are left.

Sometimes you don't have to think so far outside the box.
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 11:46 PM | link | Tell us what you think [1]

Friday, November 10, 2006

Paying Homage

Talia reports while Veronica and Chris provide commentary...
Click for Ten 95's tribute to Ed Bradley


Thoughts from...
Aaron


Darren



More links...
CBS News: Best of Ed Bradley
A Rememberance on 'Everybody Hates Marcus'
NPR Rememberances
Maynard Institute Black Journalists Movement History Project
2005 NABJ Lifetime Achievement Award Acceptance Speech
Archive of American Television Interview

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Posted by Veronica Marché at 12:40 AM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

Thursday, November 09, 2006

On Ed Bradley

This one hurts.

I'm on nearly five journalism-related e-mail listservs. My inbox was flooded with the news; his name appearing over and over and over and over, like the night in HS when my high school basketball team heard Billy Joel's Piano Man five times in the same ride from a game in northern New Hampshire. Repeated mention is almost certainly immediate tribute.

Confused, I'm asking myself the most obvious, if not ignorant, question.

Ed Bradley was sick with leukemia?

He was.

You are going to hear a lot of journalists say that Ed Bradley was part of the reason they got into journalism. That Ed Bradley's professionalism was a model for young journalists everywhere. That when Ed Bradley, one of the most respected and most visible journalists of our generation, covered a story, he worked harder than anyone.

For me, it was his voice.

The deep, sandy sound that came down from tip of his toes, laughed passed his legs, barreled up his stomach through his throat, meeting the air with a royal defiance. Yes, a voice fit for a king.

He got to ask people questions with that thing.

I recall the Duke Lax story he did last month. He seemed all together, as he always did. He asked the tough questions. He conversed. It was a journalistic clinic, watching Ed Bradley cover a story.

Go by and check out Richard Prince's stuff. It's got lots of quotes from the pioneer, including this great lesson for all the young journalists who want to stay in the business:

"My formula for success has three elements: the talent you're given, the hard work you do to get better at whatever it is that you do, and a certain amount of luck. And I always found that the harder I worked, the better my luck was, because I was prepared for that."
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Posted by Darren Sands at 1:58 PM | link | Tell us what you think [3]

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Live from the Couch

Ten 95's own Marcus Vanderberg is covering the coverage on tonight's election for AOL Black Voices.

And he's doing it as only he can.

Who needs exit poll numbers when you've got Vandy himself throwing cheap shots?
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 1:17 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Blue? Red? What's Gonna Happen?!

My opponent, Talia Buford, is a great journalist, but I just don't agree with her views.

Oh god. Politi-speak has gotten to me.

I wanted to stay at work today. I'm a dork, I know. But this is my first election day on the clock, and the buzz of the newsroom excited me. Phones ringing. Reporters voicing spots from the field. Dot matrix printers running amok.

Yes. Dot matrix printers.

The thing with working with a national newsroom is that there's information pouring in from all over the place. People in Vermont are concerned about the war. Texans are taking border control into consideration. And South Dakota is poised to take center stage on the abortion debate.

I've loved these past few days, probably because I haven't had to talk to mind-numbing politicos. (I'm sorry, T-Dot.) For me, it's a numbers and analysis game. What the polls are saying, what's at stake. And with the potential for a political coup (not mention more scandal than a little bit), these last few days have been nothing less than captivating for me.

But I'd have to wait for election returns at home. (But not before thoroughly discussing the demise of B-Fed... yeah, me too, T.) My shift was over at 7. And to my slight disappointment, the newsroom wasn't in such a disarray that my help was desparately needed.

Nah, I work with professionals. They got this. So now I'm sitting on my couch listening to NPR, half-watching CNN. What happens tonight determines what I write about tomorrow. Which, my boss has assured me, will be much more interesting than sticking around tonight.

So I don't know. We'll see.

All I know is that this is the first time I really wish I was at work.
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Posted by Veronica Marché at 10:04 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Ballots, B-copy and Britney

I have to say that at this very moment, I feel like a slacker.

Today is Election Day, and, of course, I'm working.

The weeks leading up to Election Day are arguably the days I hate most in journalism. That's because they usually involve me talking to candidates who know nothing about the job they're hoping to win or who think my whole job is to be their personal press corps.

One cool thing that my paper does - as do many others across the nation - is a blackout. From Sunday through Election Day, we do no partisan coverage. The only way you'll hear about the election is via a general story about projected voter turnout or something of that nature.

I write for a bureau, so my first opportunity to write about the election after the blackout comes tonight. For the most part, Election Night usually isn't that bad. You come in, write some background copy and wait for the polls to close. For the first six hours of your shift, things are pretty relaxed.

You stroll out to a polling location and talk to voters.

Call up a couple candidates and get their predictions on the race.

Eat some pizza and gossip with your editor about how Britney is finally breaking up with K-Fed.

Okay, maybe that last one was just my bureau. But really, save for those two hours after the polls close when you're scrambling for results and quotes, Election Night isn't that bad.

But oh, those two hours.

This Election Day should be particularly interesting. My paper refused to spring for runners this year so we are relying on candidates and *gasp* the Board of Elections Web site for accurate numbers. Primary Day wasn't that bad. Except for the Board of Elections being almost an hour and a half late with their numbers. I ended up attributing my wins to numbers from the candidates themselves. Thankfully, this time, I have a much later deadline, which means more time to roam and wait for official results.

In exactly 30 minutes, I'm heading out to the Democratic Headquarters to watch as the numbers roll in.

In the meantime, I think an episode of the Gilmore Girls has my name on it.
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Posted by T Dot at 8:06 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Monday, November 06, 2006

Hate Mail

In journalism, it's often said that you're not doing your job unless someone is mad.

In that case, I must be working overtime.

There are people out there who actually have a vendetta against little ole me. Can you believe it? I know I couldn't.

I knew a certain group of people - a coalition of residents against a proposed casino in my town - hated me. More accurately, the leaders of said organization hate me. They don't mind talking to me when I call. They don't mind filling my voicemail box with messages. But when I tell them I can't write a story because I'm swamped, or I question the newsworthiness of their stunts, they pitch a fit.

Take for example a conversation I had with the group's VP week before last. He wanted me to write a story and I told him I would but that it wouldn't be in the next few days because I had some election related stories I had to put out before the Nov. 7 race.

He. Goes. Off.

Starts telling me how I'm biased and asks if my not covering the story has anything to do with the fact that my paper endorsed the casino his group is fighting against. I tell him no and try to explain the difference between the Editorial Board and the News Department. He didn't want to hear it. Instead, he asks to speak to the owner of the newspaper.

Not the managing editor. Not my boss. The owner.

I directed him to my Deputy Managing Editor and called it a day. Moments later, his cohort, the Prez of the group, calls me trying to strong arm me into setting a date for the story. I tell him I can't because I don't dictate what runs when - the amount of space and the news of the day does. Attacks on my character are hurled. I try to reason with him but eventually, send him to my boss, who talks him down.

Last Wednesday, I see the duo at a town council meeting. I speak to them, make some small talk and go about my business. No need to be impolite, right? It's all business, nothing personal. The group proceeds to attack me during the meeting, suggesting inaccuracies in my reporting. (I went to the town officials quoted after the meeting to see if they were misrepresented - they had no problems with what I wrote.)

Well, Friday, my boss gets an e-mail from the Prez, basically bashing my competence as a reporter and suggesting that it's all a part of a larger conspiracy to bring a casino to town. The e-mail was also sent to the reporter who used to cover my town, as well as every media outlet in Southern New England.

Are you serious?

I'm not going to let these guys give me an ulcer, but honestly, they do make my head hurt. Even though I know, and my boss and the DME have all said on numerous occassions that I'm doing a great job covering the community, jabs like that hurt. Even if they do come from unreasonable policital gadflys like we're dealing with here.

It hurts because on some level, I'm wondering if they're right. I cover a lot of stuff they call me about, but I'm skeptical about a lot of it because without me, the things they are saying are just conspiracy theories. Once I write about it, it becomes news. And I take that responsibility seriously. I double check the figures they give me, get people to confirm or deny their allegations, and write it all up for the next day's paper.

Yet I still get e-mails circulated about me with the subject line "Unfair Journalism."

Well, you just can't make some people happy.

*Sigh*

Good thing that isn't my job.
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Posted by T Dot at 3:34 PM | link | Tell us what you think [3]

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Selective reading

If your not fortunate enough to write off your Times Select subscription on your tax return, and you frown at not being able to read folks like Bill Rhoden, Nicholas Kristof and Bobby Hebert, (no, not this Bobby Hebert) thanks to the folks at Philips, NYTimes.com is offering its Times Select content for free ninety-nine.

Free ninety-nine?!!

I didn't think making people pay for columns and archives was a smart move, but if Philips is willing to foot the bill for a week it must be working.

Turns out you can access select articles from as far back as 1851. I know, I know, you're dying to see the headline from the March on Washington. It reads, "200,000 March For Civil Rights in Orderly Washington Rally; President Sees Gain for Negro."

Okay, maybe they should have kept that one out.
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Posted by Darren Sands at 11:16 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

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