Tuesday, July 31, 2007
They quit their jobs and travelled to a foreign country. They will live there for anywhere from 6 months until forever, telling the stories of the people they meet there.
No deadlines. No health insurance. No line counts. Just stories.
John Sutter, a former reporter at the Oklahoman, has set up shop in Madagascar.
Jessie Bonner, a former reporter at The Naples Daily News, calls Guatemala her home.
They are chronicling their travels at Post-A-Card, a Web site they've set up. The premise is based on a seminar we all attended a few years ago at Poynter. The idea that every story in the world is connected and all the space you need to tell a good tale can be found on the back of a post card.
These two are great journalists and it would be an understatement to say that I'm a little bit jealous of them.
Check out their work and submit some post cards of your own. I know I will.
After all, everyone has a story to tell.continue...
Saturday, July 28, 2007th hour of work today.
I had to travel to Middleboro, Mass. this morning to cover the town meeting where residents decided to approve an agreement with the local Native American tribe to build a casino in town.
Great story. But I had to stand outside. In the sun. All day.
Saturday shifts are a witch, I tell ya.
Among the highlights of my day:
*waking at 5:45 a.m., drive an hour, to get to my assignment at 7:30 a.m.
*using a Port-A-Potty for the first time in my life (not an experience I'd like to make a regular occurrence)
*forgetting sunblock and ending up at least 3 shades darker
*Being herded into a "media area" by the local police, where residents took the opportunity to snap our pictures like we were a zoo exhibit.
*Getting eaten by a number of ants who happened to live in the grass where I sat near the speakers podium
*Shagging this quote from a white resident: "I'm a Native American. I was born here. I live here."
*Waiting while officials hand counted the votes of the 3,722 residents who attended the meeting. (they stopped when they reached 725 supports, a 2/3rds majority over the number of opponents)
I am dead dog tired. Some newsroom friends have come up to me, making jokes, asking me why I'm still here because they knew I was working days today. I couldn't help it, but I gave them the stare of death and they slowly backed away. Then I went back to typing.
I'm waiting to be edited so I can get up and out this piece.
So ready for this day to be over so I can take a shower. I smell like all of outdoors. Sigh.
Note: I finally left the office at 9:20 p.m. -- after working for a total of 14 hours straight. continue...
Wednesday, July 25, 2007
When it comes to covering education these days, it's likely you'll come across an alphabet soup of acronyms you'll need to use in daily reporting. But Drew Gitomer, from Educational Testing Service, and Daniel J. Losen, of UCLA and Harvard Law School, told Hechinger attendees that it's more than just NCLB, IEPs and HSPA***.
Here are a few of the tips, tricks and story ideas they offered:
- Get a technical advisor – someone from a local university to help explain things to you
- Weigh significance over meaning. It can be statistically big but mean nothing in the classroom. Numbers can mean different things to different people.
- Total definitions are wrong: there is no silver bullet or magic wand. It’s likely a combination of things that made the scores come out as they are.
- Testing became the solution, when really, all testing should be is a thermometer.
- Seek confirmation of what the tests say. Compare the test scores to tests that cover the same topics, graduation rates, grade retention, other trends over time. Are low achievers leaving the testing pod? What are your dropout rates?
- Look at the raw data. Has the test changed? What is the enrollment vs. the number of students who were tested? Who was left out?
- Dig beyond your state information: National Assessment of Educational Progress – shows no change in reading progress since NCLB began
- Other factors to focus on: graduation rates, attrition (and English language) mobility, grade retention/advancement (kids being held back to pass test?), suspension/attendance/lost instructional time (suspensions new ‘class trips’ for poor performing kids on test days), teacher quality retention
- Look at 9th graders and see how many actually get their diplomas
- What are the costs of dropouts: Cost of incarceration, welfare, etc?
- If a child receives multiple suspensions, the likelihood that they will drop out before they reach the 10th grade triples.
- Do your own math
- Look at data over time
- Disaggregate data by race, gender, special needs, etc
- Look for data loopholes
- Proficiency means different things in different states. What is the proficiency in your state? How does your coverage area hold up against other students? If I’m not proficient, what’ can’t I do? If I’m proficient, what can I do? What can’t I?
- Contact NAEP – are the tests dumbed down? Are they increase graduation to decrease the number of dropouts? Teachers staying on the job longer? Equating study.
- Get off message: When tests are good, administrators chalk it up to good teaching or new programs (FYI: always wait for a few years to pass before extolling the effectiveness of a program. Anything before then is just conjecture). When results are bad, they blame the budget, special needs students or other factors beyond their control. Ask them this: What did you do differently? That gets to the heart of the results. Evaluate from there.
***NCLB = No Child Left Behind
IEP = Individualized Educational Plan
HSPA = High School Proficiency Assessment
But this post isn't really about writing as much it is about perspective in reporting.
I used to see dogfights happening all the time atop a steep hill at a park near Fields Corner in my hometown, Dorchester, MA. I never got up close to one. But in Dorchester in the late 90s, up until 2001 when I graduated high school, to see a pit bull that wasn’t maimed, wounded or didn’t have its eye gouged out was rare. I knew people who seriously thought that you owned dogs to fight them.
Those dogs demeanor matched the way the money came: fast and furious. The dogs had more heart than their owners did. Somewhere beyond the facade of being hard, the owners knew this.
My barber was a frequent dogfighter. He ran with some Jamaican fellows that, from what I remember, were among dozens of folk making small fortunes fighting dogs in New Bedford with the Cape Verdeans. He taunted them as puppies, fed them blood-soaked meat showed them tapes of dogfights in their kennels.
It is said that it’s not the actual fighting of the dogs that is criminal, but the lengths to which people go to make it happen. I've heard the stories.
And so with occasional terror, I read the indictment that is being brought in federal court against Michael Vick. Gory stuff. Violence. And, if true, it's inexcusable.
But let's just be honest here. Those images gnaw at the iconic ideal of Fido, the family dog and the BBQ-romanticism that accompanies his incessant tongue waggling, frisbee fetching and endless appetite for table scraps. My mother still gets teary-eyed when she thinks of her childhood dog, Sheekie. (My grandmother made her and my aunts abandon it somewhere on the side of the road in Montana. Ouch.) It's America.
Face it: In some neighborhoods, dogfighting is sport. And that's America, too. Poverty put a whole lot of people at odds with the law. Some people, even the ones with money, never get out of that mindset.
Ethnocentrism is what is ultimately going to define coverage of this story. Truthfully, if Michael Vick was Mikhail Vick and the allegations were true he'd be a national treasure in Russia. (If you have Times Select, read that story about how dogfighting is growing [again] in Russia. The author wrote a great story.)
Everyone wanted to cut Clinton Portis' head off when he said that he thought it was ridiculous that people wanted to crucify Michael Vick "just because" he was allegedly fighting dogs. Portis swiftly backed off that statement, for obvious reasons. (And we're wondering why athletes turn into cliche machines after games and don't care to share their opinions on social issues. Teams have day-long seminars against players "saying the wrong thing.")
But Portis' comments raise a dilemma about the disconnect between the two Americas. And that's precisely what we're dealing with here. Two Americas. In one, that kind of behavior is sport and in the other it is unfathomable. In one America, there are dog lovers. In the other there are dogfighters. It doesn't make dogfighting OK. But to deny that the act isn't a symptom of poverty is to deny that we don't exist in a fractured country with separate ideals. Some of us didn't need a news story to bring that to light. continue...
I just ordered a new stack of business cards because I plan to attend the NABJ Convention in Las Vegas. And I wasn't just ordering to order them: I actually use them in my day to day reporting and literally had about 20 cards left in the box.
I needed to re-up.
Anyway, so I place my order in and today, the cards came to me at my desk.
Our previous cards, on the other hand, had our old red circly hurricane looking logo at the top, with our paper name written in nice font beneath it. Clean. Professional. Classic.
The new cards are kinda funky. Or rather fugly. They use our new logo from the Web site, which has the name of the paper in a large blue oval, with the Web site URL written in orange at the bottom of the oval.
I prefer my old cards, but I guess I can't complain since I'm not paying for them.
Alright, back to our regularly scheduled blogging. (The Education Seminar notes are on their way, promise!)continue...
Tuesday, July 24, 2007McGraw Seminar for Reporters New to the Education Beat at the Hechinger Institute in New York City.
The information was really good. The sessions were really dense. Really.
In less than 72 hours, I - along with about 40 other journalists from across the country - got a crash course in No Child Left Behind, Teacher Pay vs. Student Achievement, Literacy and the all elusive Rigor, among other things. I believe I learned more about education in these past few days than I learned in 16 years worth of real education.
I have to say that attending the seminar was enlightening. Really, I suppose humbling would be a better word. By any account, I was a crasher to the conference. Sure, I applied and was accepted, but this seminar was for EDUCATION reporters.
In case you've been living under a rock, I cover the town of West Warwick. All of it. Cops. Courts. Sewers. Municipal Government. Everything. The reason I got in is because a good portion of my coverage is devoted to my local school district. I'm glad they made the exception.
Honestly, I thought I'd been doing a good job covering my school district. I wrote about the budget crisis. I've been following their soon to materialize legal woes. I've spent days observing special needs programs so that I can highlight them. I attend school committee meetings. What else could I do?
Apparently a lot.
Listening to the questions the other attendees asked with such authority, I felt downright ashamed. While they talked about achievement gaps, merit based pay and a whole bunch of acronymns I dare not repeat, I realized that there was so much more to education that I didn't know.
So much more of a story that I was missing.
I stayed relatively quiet during the weekend. Honestly, I felt that my questions would only serve to halt the conversation - not advance it. As a friend of mine once told me, I didn't feel like I knew enough to ask a question. So I listened. And took a lot of notes.
Over the next few days, I'll begin combing through my notes (half a stenopad's worth, front and back) to bring the information I learned to the wonderful readers of Ten95. (Sorry for not blogging sooner -- I didn't have my computer with me at the conference.)
If you get nothing else, I hope you'll be able to pull some story ideas that you can use in your district. Stay tuned.continue...
Wednesday, July 18, 2007
With the 2007 NABJ elections in full swing, Ten95 would like to give a number of candidates the chance to address the readers of the blog. Below you'll find statements from the Student Representative candidates, Christopher Nelson and Charles Taplin.
Loyola College in Maryland
We go through life at such a fast pace. It’s rare that we remember things exactly as they happen. It’s nearly impossible to recount every moment, or every memory. There are, however, those rare moments which continue to resonate with us, so much so that the moment, the memory becomes impossible to forget. For me one such memory is when I decided I wanted to pursue a career in broadcast news.
Four years ago, while a junior in high school I sat at home watching television on a Saturday afternoon. While flipping channels I came across a newscast which was produced and anchored by local teens. It was at that moment that I said to myself, “I can do that.” Almost one year later I had reported several stories for the newscast and earned the privilege of co-anchoring the final newscast of the school year. Since then I have devoted myself to fulfilling my dream of working in broadcast news. Be it not for my membership in the National Association of Black Journalists, my dream might have already come to an end.
Since beginning my college career I have sought out other opportunities which I feel would prepare me formy future career. The last three years have not been without its challenges for me personally and professionally, but I have enjoyed steadfast support from the NABJ and its members. Membership in NABJ has provided me with the ability to connect with veteran journalists who have mentored me as I seek to lay the foundation for a career in journalism. Membership in NABJ has allowed me to connect with my fellow student members who are ambitious, intellectually curious, and hardworking. Membership in NABJ has already allowed me to serve a segment of our student members.
For the last two years I have had the privilege of serving as a regional student representative. This allowed me the opportunity to begin to exercise leadership within NABJ. Working with our Student Representative and other regional representatives has been a learning experience. Through candid discussion and my efforts to help student chapters and student members, I have seen some of the challenges facing the next generation of black journalists. This is why I am committed to as Student Representative serving as an unapologetic advocate for student members.
As Student Representative my tenure would be about voice, vision, and values. I envision myself as being a voice for student members, making sure our perspective is heard. I envision myself as being someone who is proactive in regards to making sure that part of NABJ’s vision remains implementation of quality programming which prepares student journalists for future careers. I envision myself making sure that journalistic integrity is maintained, that journalistic values are maintained by supporting those in college newsrooms.
I very much believe in the idea of the servant leader. As Student Representative, I would serve NABJ’s student members. I would welcome the opportunity to work to address issues important to all of us.
Click here for Christopher Nelson's candidate bio on NABJ.org.
Southern University and A&M College
WHY ARE WE HERE?
What does being a member of the National Association of Black Journalists mean to me?Before I started this campaign I had to ask myself this simple question and it took longer than I thought it would to answer it. To me being a student member means I have a moral contract to help carry the torch that was lit over 30 years ago by the founders of NABJ. It also means that I believe that full equality and total diversity in the newsroom will be achieved someday. What does being a student member mean to you?
“TAP” INTO YOUR RESOURCES
The services NABJ offers along with our respective curricula will helpus develop into the journalists we want to be. Whether its through short courses, internships or scholarships, NABJ has made it possible for its student members to develop into quality and credible journalists. As student members we must diligently seek and take advantage of what NABJ offers. By using the skills we acquire to advance in our chosen professions, we will in turn be in positions where we can promote others.
CONTRIBUTE TO THE VISION
It is an unprecedented time for student members of NABJ. As our numbers continue to grow, we must realize that we are an indispensable part of this organization and we have no choice but to influence the future of it. While we’re using NABJ as a foundation for our future, let’s not forget the main purposes of the organization; strengthening ties among black journalists and increasing diversity in newsrooms.
As Student Representative, I want to:
- INCREASE ANNUAL SCHOLARSHIPS FROM $30,000 TO $50,000
- INCREASE THE NUMBER OF INTERNSHIPS AVAILABLE
- INCREASE STUDENT INVOLVMENT WITHIN ORGANIZATION
- BROADEN REACH OF NABJ TO INCLUDE OTHER MEDIA
Sunday, July 15, 2007
Labels: tech cornercontinue...
Thursday, July 12, 2007I'm the decider.
Just when I was feeling that my youth and my affinity for all things hip-hop made me somewhat of a misfit in my shop (not to mention the technicolor hoodies and hoop earrings worn during the overnight shift), someone noticed that those very traits would make me a suitable fill-in urban entertainment reporter.
That and the fact I'm the only one who seems to know who Lupe Fiasco is.
So while the veteran is out, I'm in his seat (literally, sitting in his chair), deciding what my shop will cover in terms of hip-hop music, urban television and the antics of professional football players.
The latter of which has given the chance to explain the concept of "making it rain" to otherwise-uninformed co-workers.
And I'm enjoying it, thoroughly. I mean, how cool is it to be able to watch the BET Awards and write about it? The only thing cooler would be actually getting sent to L.A. for the show.
Oh, Marcus. How I envy you.
But as fun as it is to write about some of the stars I follow the most (including -- you guessed it -- Beyonce!), there's an added heft of responsibility on my end.
While I'm sitting in this comfy chair, putting this script together and having all this fun,, I have to be careful. Extra careful. I am the exprert, and that means people trust my expertise. For someone still in the infancy (okay toddler) stages of her career, this is new. What I put out represents how my shop approaches black entertainment. I must avoid corrections at all costs, lest radio stations across the country start questioning my street cred.
I gotta make sure to show that my shop is in touch. That we're down. That know what's up.
Basically, I have to represent.
That shouldn't be too hard, right? continue...
Tuesday, July 10, 2007
*Knocks on wood*
I've never had a correction, and that's probably because I haven't had to report a great deal of stories that require me to fetch multi-layered, complex information. I'll get back to that.
Because in high school, I didn't see what the big deal was about a correction. So, you got something wrong in a story. Big deal.
Michael Holley, then of the Boston Globe, pretty much told me that because I'm African-American and a male that I had to be extra careful. Check everything. Three times.
"Here's the deal about corrections," he told me, chomping a ketchup-drenched french-fry at T. Anthony's in Boston. "With each one, you lose your credibility as a journalist. And all you have as a journalist is your credibility."
I'm 23 and I have never, to my knowledge, so much as spelled a person's name wrong in a story. Does this mean I'm overdue? I was pondering that thought this afternoon while reporting a story about an East Quogue, NY resident who makes birdhouses and signs out of salvaged materials from demolished houses. He mentioned rackling some materials from a mansion that I can't say for sure has ever existed on Long Island, save for a few random allusions that come up when you do a Google search. I wasn't satisfied.
My paper's (you can guess what paper that is by now, no?) library told me to take a look at a book called The Mansions of Long Island's Gold Coast. I looked on the book's accompanying website and still didn't find it.
I had the perfect, or perhaps, imperfect formula: relying upon local histories and a bad Google search. I wasn't willing to chance it, especially when I know that there are niche experts hanging around who recite the names of these things at wine tastings in the Hamptons for fun. Show me a correction and I'll show you a shaky foundation, source or story idea.
In the past I would have taken the entire graf in question out before my editor ever saw it. That habit probably has something to do with why I have never had a correction run that I was responsible for. But I'm going to report this one out. Why?
I've come to think a correction can serve as a rite of passage, and whether you've had one or not, going around trying to avoid them isn't going to make you a better reporter. (Let the church say -- ) But, then I read this quote from Don Wycliff, formerly Public Editor of the Chicago Tribune. And I have second thoughts.
"We had some disagreement about how to treat corrections, about how to handle reporters that make [a] number of errors," he said in comment published on Poynter.org, in which he then did what is known as keeping it real: "If you make more than your share of corrections, no matter who you are, you're in deep shit."continue...
Saturday, July 07, 2007It's quiet in the newsroom today, with the exception of the police scanner squawking out random jibber-jabber. No phones, no printing fax machines, just:
When I was 15, I pretty much knew I wouldn't grow out of being boy-crazy, but I never thought I'd have to take it into consideration as a working adult. But as you'll see in this first installment of "The Dating Journalist," you've got to take it in to serious consideration when you work in the media. That, or risk your job.
What is it about those newswomen?
L.A. Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa's recently-admitted relationship with Telemundo anchorwoman Mirthala Salinas is nothing short of scandalous. But it's nothing new either.
Journal-isms' Richard Prince points out a number of instances where a member of the working press apparently worked their way to the altar.
And I noticed that in every example Prince gave, the reporter in question was female who had drawn the affections of a very prominent public figure. Which made me instinctively think...
Are we newschicks hot or what?
Pushing professional self-adulation aside, a more serious question surfaces. What's more important -- love or the job? The answer is certainly subjective, but I'd imagine it's not at all easy. Especially in Salinas' case; she hid the relationship from her superiors until Villaraigosa came clean. Not the smartest decision, and now she's on unpaid leave because of it.
But imagine the choice she had to make. I'm sure she loved being an anchorwoman, and previous examples of journalist-public figure relationships didn't look too promising. Prince notes that women like Maria Schriver and Andrea Mitchell have had to either change or give up their jobs. (And at the same time, the psuedo feminist in me scowls at the fact that the men haven't had to budge. Grrr.) Not to mention Villaraigosa is recently divorced, so the situation doesn't look too good from any angle.
But what do you do? You cover your beat, you talk to your sources... and then you fall in love with one of them. What happens next? We know SPJ has the ethics thing mapped out to a T, but feelings... well, they certainly don't have a handbook.
I do know one thing, though.
Newswomen are hot.continue...
Friday, July 06, 2007
Thursday, July 05, 2007Everybody Hates Marcus, and I read such comments like:
To tell you the truth Marcus, your blog is a joke. I find it weird that I find black news covered better and in more of a timely manner on other blogs than a blog that is focused on African Americans. TMZ, Perez Hilton, etc should not be posting African American content faster than you (or if you post it at all!). I mean damn...you are lucky to get 20 posts per entry. I get more posts on my own blog that just started a few weeks ago! Step your game up, the African American market is huge and you are clearly not using it effectively.
Or if the readers are feeling extra feisty, I will get this:
marcus ummmm... keep suckin dick since u came out the closet n all. talk shows aint all that but the one thing nobody can stand are haters keep ya personal issues bout people 2 ya self or stop being a bitch n say wat u gotta say 2 her directly instead of to everyone else.
Who needs coffee when you have some stranger telling you to keep sucking dick?
Welcome to my world.
When I signed up to do the blog, I had no idea the readers would be this cutthroat.
Yes, I can tend to be a ... how would you say it ... asshole at times, but the need for thick skin is an understatement to say the least. A question I get asked a lot by my friends is how do I deal with the comments? I would be lying if I said it didn't get to me just a bit. And it takes a lot for me to actually delete a comment - they really have to say something just over the top and vulgar for me to erase it because I'm all for free speech unlike some folks (Smile).
If I'm going to talk trash about Tyra Banks and how bad her talk show is, the least I can do is read the comments of the Tyra supporters ... right?
It's only fair.
Deep down inside, I think a part of me likes the hate. When you grow up idolizing this man and one of your favorite books is 'I Love Being The Enemy,' you can't help but to laugh at the ability to work folks into a frenzy using just your words.
Like Nas says, "My poetry is deep - I never fail." continue... D loves the kids)
For two weeks in June, I had the opportunity to help mold the interests of 12 high school students in journalism as a practice and profession. The Bay Area Multicultural Media Academy (BAMMA) is in it's 17th year. But this is the first year that student have been required to integrate some aspect of multimedia into their reported stories.
As one of their resident assistants (so glad I never stayed in the dorms at SF State as a freshman), I got to know most of these kids on a personal level. And I also served as a multimedia editor/coach during their training, the reporting of their stories, and the producing of a print newspaper with an online site.
I can only say that doing this helped me to remember why I initially decided journalism was something I wanted to pursue. The feeling I got from watching the them gush over meeting their very first print deadline, or reviewing and editing their own photos, audio, and video captures was more than amazing. Seeing their growth made not ever having "me" time, eating hit-or-miss dorm food, and being sleep deprived for two weeks...well...worth all the discomfort. And I think, in a way, I had to grow up too. I think I also got a taste of what's it's like to have children.
I may be able to show you better than I can tell you. Here's a video I put together with the little time I had in between activities with the students.
Side Note: The video above was shot with Pure Digital cameras. I highly recommend you have one, if not for journalistic purposes, for just pure fun. That camera was featured in Aaron's Tech Corner: Video.continue...
"You're Accepted! Seminar for New Education Reporters"
So, I know what you're thinking. No, I'm not an education reporter and yes, I have been on my job for almost two years now (my how time flies). But I'm one who always jumps at an opportunity.
A few weeks ago, a message to a journalism listserv I subscribe to mentioned the seminar and encouraged us to apply. I figured it might be cool to get some additional training. I mean, even though I don't cover schools exclusively, almost half of my job is covering my town school department, which makes up about 60 percent of the municipal budget. If a beat reporter ever tells you he or she doesn't need to cover education, pray for them. They're going to need all the help they can get to make it through this industry. I wrote how education stories are vital to understanding a community in my application essay:
Education is the stick by which all communities can be measured. Spend one day in a school and a person is guaranteed to have a better idea of what that community values and what is being passed on to the next generation. Battles over funding are evidenced by tattered social studies books and crowded classrooms. Changes in demographics manifest themselves in additional ESL teachers and adjustments to the curriculum. Racial disputes and criminal trends are often seen in truancy court or disciplinary hearings.
So, I applied. And even though the deadline had long since passed, the organizers agreed to take a look at my application. The next day, I got that congratulatory e-mail.
Just goes to show that it never hurts to ask. I kind of assumed the deadline had passed, but I figured I'd ask if I could still apply. Worst they could say is no. But, it also illustrates how important it is to be cognizant of deadlines: and to meet them. If I'd been keeping up with seminars I was interested in, I wouldn't have needed to be dependent upon the kindness of strangers.