Friday, August 31, 2007
"There she is," one of my coworkers said. "Talia, did you write this story?"
The story, was a throwaway brief I wrote after being in court for more than 2 hours the morning prior. The case I'd been there for had been rescheduled, but that info didn't come out until after I'd already waited around.
"Yeah, why," I mutter.
"Bob is on the phone," said the office assistant.
I walked to my desk as my coworker grabbed a copy of today's edition for me to read. I didn't bother to look at it before I picked up the phone.
Bob didn't mince words.
"Are you going to print a retraction," he asked. "Because that story is false. I was never supposed to be in court yesterday. That date had been rescheduled weeks ago."
I sighed and turned to the story.
"Well, sir, I was there yesterday," I began. "Your name was on the trial calendar and they called your name twice. Additionally, a lawyer who said he was speaking on your behalf told the court that you were supposed to meet him in the courtroom. That you would be there. After we waited a while, I saw the lawyer preparing to leave and asked him what was going on. That's when he told me the date was rescheduled for October."
He told me that was untrue. That there was no one there representing him.
"This article reads like I'm a criminal," he said. "Like I intentionally disobeyed the court. It's damning."
Maybe, I said. But it's also true.
"Bob, I was there," I said. "I wrote what I saw. I didn't write it to be mean or to be unfair. But the court apparently expected you to be there because they continued to ask for you a number of times. I apologize I didn't get the lawyer's name, but there was someone there who said he was waiting for you."
I denied another request for a retraction before he hung up. I picked up the paper and read the article. The copy desk had taken out my explainer about the unnamed lawyer speaking on Bob's behalf. But the story still read true.
But in the back of my mind, I couldn't help but think that I should have done more reporting. I should have gotten that lawyers name. I should have asked him when and why they decided to continue the proceedings. I should have called Bob for a comment as to why he didn't show up (though he changed his phone number). I should have done more.
Next time, I will.continue...
Tuesday, August 28, 2007
While this post is brief, I just felt it was my duty to notify the Ten95 readership and my cohorts that the revolution will not be televised, nor will I be sitting on my behind. As I've seen what the freelance route can bring if you work it properly (DSands, Duck), I felt this was the best course of action to keep my name out there, get some fresh clips, and NOT work at McDonalds, so you can look for Tales of a part-time sports writer coming to a Ten95 post near you.
I shouldn't be this excited about stringing, but I am. All for the love of journalism. continue...
Saturday, August 25, 2007
Besides my fear of the red light, I wouldn't want to look back 20 years down the road and find my face popping up on YouTube videos.
There wasn't even a thing called the Internet when newly elected NABJ President Barbara Ciara recorded this promo in the '80s.
Little did she know that 20 years later, it would appear on the Internet for the world to see.
Looking good, as always, Barbara.
Thursday, August 23, 2007
It is my opinion that most recruiters do not know how valuable (in $$$) the multimedia skill set is worth in other industries. (Or they don't want to admit it.)
Journalism is my passion...and producing multimedia packages (similar to this at the WaPo) is something that I truly love doing. But what incentive do I have to take my skill set to a newspaper? I live very close to Silicon Valley, the tech hub in California. Working for Yahoo or Google is sounding pretty good right about now.
Papers will pay you this, entry level, if you are lucky:
And this is what I can get at companies like Yahoo or Google, entry level:
These salaries are based on salaries reported in my zip code. So why am I in journalism again?
I know, I know. Because it's what I love to do. But...damn. Seems as though whether or not you have these skills won't get you paid more at a newspaper. Am I wrong?
Please, someone tell me I'm wrong!continue...
Tuesday, August 21, 2007
The guy calls me out of nowhere and I was almost caught with my pants down.
Literally. I just got out of the bathroom.
I left a message with him two weeks ago about an "online published report" that I read about his team's interest in a particular player whose name you'll figure out when the story runs. I couldn't remember if it was a newspaper report, MLB.com, or ESPN -- all I knew was that it was published. And that it was a report. Online.
It was friggin' Wikipedia.
So right in the middle of the interview, I remembered that it I'd read this information on Wikipedia, and hit myself in the head for basing my entire set of questions based on what was likely bad information I read on that website.
So he's going into something about how he gets information on players outside of his region and drops the big one on me.
"Darren, where'd you read this report?" he says.
"You know, I was just thinking about that.."
I was stalling. I wasn't going to give up my sources. No matter how flimsy they may be.
"Because we don't usually comment on these type of speculation stories, but I was just curious. No problem. Hey Darren, take it easy."
"Zip it up, and zip it out."
OK, it would have been pretty cool if I added the the zippy part (Dave Chappelle for the clueless), but I didn't. I just hung up, and added wikipedia.org to the sites I'm not allowed to visit in Mozilla.continue...
Monday, August 20, 2007
A reporter/cartoonist from the Florida Sun-Times is somewhere "dodging tomatoes" right now because of the above cartoon. Readers are reportedly upset about the use of the word "ho" and references to the "stop snitching" culture that has been permeating urban (and suburban, depending on how you look at it) communities for many years.
Good for him! I'm always glad to see someone who doesn't mind getting under the skin of the reader, even if it's done to appeal to the lowbrow individuals out there.
It's time someone take up where Aaron McGruder (Boondocks) left off!
It's just too bad that the cartoonist's editor didn't stand firm in his decision to publish the piece:
Mike Clark, the editorial page editor, reviewed and approved the cartoon by longtime Times-Union cartoonist Ed Gamble.
"'Using the word "ho" was bad judgment, and I regret that I did not edit it out,' Clark said.
...wait...isn't that the point?
"Wow, that's a big one," I say.
Yeah, that's a big one, he repeated.
"Look at the bridge," says Patrick.
"Wow, there are a lot of cars on that bridge," I say.
Yeah, there's a lot of cars on that bridge, he repeated.
Patrick could not tell me when his birthday was, but I guess if I told him, he could repeat it. Mom said he turned three at the beginning of July. This toddler was going on 33. He disappeared and came back with a present, and his signature opening.
"Look," he exclaimed proudly. "I got the newspaper." It was the weekend edition of USA Today.
He opened it -- albeit upside down -- and feigned wonder and excitement and curiosity at the day's news.
"Patrick, how do you know what the newspaper is?" He looked at me blankly.
"Who taught you that this is a newspaper?" I couldn't wait to share this story with the managing editor at my paper.
"It's a newspaper!!!" he said with a huge smile and giggle.
"So who taught you that?"
Of course. continue...
Sunday, August 19, 2007
"Even though I’m a now a recovering sportswriter, bear with me.
As a reporter at the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the past few days have been just a smidge busier than normal with the bridge collapse.
Anyway, I wanted to share one story. On Saturday, a large box of food, sweets, goodies arrived at our newsroom from the folks at The Roanoke Times. As anyone who has covered a big story knows, it’s pretty much go, go, go for as long as possible and the gesture was great. Very cool.
Following is the note we got from the folks in Roanoke. So if there’s anybody on here from there, thanks a lot."
To Star Tribune journalists:
A few days after the Virginia Tech shootings, a large box arrived in our newsroom. Inside was a note and lots of stress-relieving junk food like you’ll find in this box. The note was from Joe Haight, managing editor of The Oklahoman of Oklahoma City. Joe wrote that similar boxes arrived in his newsroom after the McVeigh bombings. He recalled what that gesture meant to his staff, which had been worn down to a nub covering the catastrophic community event.
We were so moved that we vowed to pass it on when we next sensed a newsroom could use a little pick-me-up. So please consider this a journalistic chain letter of sorts, one that you’ll pass on when the next bulletin breaks in a newsroom somewhere in America.
Enjoy the snacks. Sorry we couldn’t send beer (company policy, ya know). And most of all, take care of yourselves.
The Roanoke Times newsroomcontinue...
Friday, August 17, 2007knew that the two students to her left and right were trying to steal her answers to the quiz on U.S. Capitals. So she did some twist of the shoulder that allowed her forearm to cover the paper, cupping her hand just well-enough so that the paper was completely covered and, thus, confirming that she could be the only one who would get it correct: Salem is in fact the capital of Oregon.
To the extent that reporting and interviewing requires some semblance of well-thought out questioning, creative positioning of details and information, and well, secrecy -- my friends and I are doing a really crappy job.
It might rain pigs tomorrow. I could wake up with a full head of hair. Mark Zuckerberg could sell facebook.com. Nothing in this life is for certain.
Nothing, except for the fact that when I open my GMail tomorrow morning, some fellow reporter is going to instant message me saying something like this:
me: what up?
not much. what you doing?
me: wiping the crust out of my eye. you?
oh man, you're gross. Hey, got any questions for (insert name of washed up athlete, TV reality show personality, local politician -- or just all-around clown, here)? I'm interviewing them in 20 minutes...
I usually oblige the best I can, but you can only come up with so many creative questions for Rachel Ray that haven't been asked already.
Yet, it is possibly one of the great joys of my life to have been asked by our own Vandy if I had any questions for actor Chad Coleman, who plays "Cutty" on HBO's The Wire. You can't keep things like that to yourself. And thank the kind Father I have friends who don't.
"Both freedom of the press . . . and freedom of religion are great
liberties. . . . Those who use them must use them with care."
Wednesday, August 15, 2007AURN the same summer, both working with my dad and learning the ropes of the radio biz. Since then, I've jumped around in a number of broadcasting jobs, and Brian has moved up in the station and become good friends with my dad (even stopping by the house to play NFL 2KWhatever on Xbox). So now we're pretty much family.
Hence my excitement when Brian told me he'd be taking a little souvenir from Vegas back home to Pittsburgh -- he'd won NABJ's Award for Best Radio Feature this past week at the annual convention for his piece on the late Buck O'Neil. I jumped. I yelped. I gave him a high-five. And then I thought, "Dang. I wanna be like B."
There's a different kind of inspiration when a friend is recognized for the work they do. Sure, it was great when Robin Givhan pulled the Pulitzer, but seeing an award presented to a colleague (not to mention a guy who plays video games with your pops) makes attaining such a goal seem all the more real.
Last year's convention inspired me to strive to find my place as a journalist of color in the newsroom. This year -- between congratulating B for an award, seeing my NPR favorites and chatting with a colleague about the differences between public and commercial radio -- I've been re-inspired to strive for excellence in my medium. And while I love my inky friends (*wink*), I realize I need to stay connected with my fellow audiophiles. They're few and far between, but when I see them, I'm encouraged, and more appreciative that I'm finally in a position to what I've been striving for since I was 16.
So now, all I can think about (aside from the fun of the parties in Vegas) is how to get to that level. What makes a good feature? How you make an impact in 40 seconds with nothing but sound? And what makes award-winning radio?
I plan on spending the next year finding out. I've even started a listserv in the process. And eventually, I'll get to the point where B is giving me a high-five, and saying congratulations.continue...
Tuesday, August 14, 2007
As I've said many a time when people ask me to do something that others seem to be doing with regularity (pledging and alcohol consumption, just to name a couple), "I value my individuality." And as I ponder a missed opportunity for professional development and social networking, I realize that not going along with something for the sake of going along does have its drawbacks.
The student chapter at Delaware State University has been weighed down by less than stellar leadership in the past two years (just my observation). When it wasn't known who exactly was going to represent the chapter at last year's convention in Indianapolis until 36 hours before the opening ceremonies, I was pretty much done at that point, and I concentrated on graduating and honing my craft as a writer from that point forward. That decision cost me Las Vegas this year, and while I stand strong behind my decision, my heart is filled with regret from not representing this blog and re-connecting with my new friends in the industry, my mind and hunger for journalism unfulfilled due to missing conventions and opportunities to network with sports writers, sports editors and sportscasters whose work I admire and respect.
When I spoke to our chapter advisor in mid-June, voicing my concerns and irritation with the direction of the chapter (or lackthereof), he simply told me that sometimes you have to "play the game" in order to keep the peace within the organization and that this was a great lesson for future reference in our profession. My first real experience with the game, and I don't like it. At all.
Such is the nature of the beast in journalism and the professional world; There will more than likely be instances where you're forced to be in contact with people who may rub you the wrong way or simply have a different mindset than you. They maybe smarter than you, they may not be. They might be the most intelligent person in the room or slower than two midgets pushing an 18-wheeler that's out of gas. More often than not, however, those folks will have a greater position than you because they know how to play the game. There is rarely a moment where you're forced to play along, so it is truly at your discretion whether you choose to or not.
It all depends how bad you want to advance in your field if you're willing to compromise your ideals, your standards and your ethics in order to fit in.
And as badly as I want to achieve success in this field of my dreams, I'm not sure I'm ready for this game just yet. continue...
Monday, August 13, 2007The Associated Press just changed its style for phone numbers. Here's the new entry.
Use figures. The form: 212-621-1500. For international numbers use 011 (from the United States), the country code, the city code and the telephone number: 011-44-20-7535-1515. Use hyphens, not periods. The form for toll-free numbers: 800-111-1000. If extension numbers are needed, use a comma to separate the main number from the extension: 212-621-1500, ext. 2.continue...
We had a good ol' time in Vegas.
We met new friends, reconnected with old ones, and danced to a lot of music in the process.
Oh, and we got our networking on too.
While the annual convention is a place to focus on your craft, ponder about your career path and compile advice from veterans, it's also a vacation of sorts for some of us. (Namely me.) With a network of journo friends across the country, it's loads of fun finally seeing them all in one place -- even if it is in the neon tackiness that is Las Vegas. (Sorry, Marcus.)
This time, it felt like it went by almost too fast. Maybe because we East Coasters tapped out at about 10 p.m. nightly, our bodies never really adjusting to the three-hour time change. Or because the heat kept us from trolling about the city as we did in Indianapolis. Or because as our careers grow, so do our personal networks, so we had to make sure to schedule in brunches, lunches and dinners with colleagues, mentors and friends.
Whatever it was, at least we had the opportunity to reconnect and recharge. Just when many of us are becoming tired of being the token in the newsroom, NABJ comes around and reminds us that we most certainly have support in the struggle.
And that, ultimately, is what convention is all about.continue...
Sorry we've been MIA for much of the weekend, folks. Trying to find an Internet connection and time to post in Vegas is harder than a little bit.
But don't fret, we're coming with some fire - including a point, counterpoint between myself and Veronica about our fellow journalists reaction to Barack Obama's speech.
In the meantime, if you missed the convention, swing by the NABJ Online Student Project and catch up on what you missed. Our very own Aaron was wrecking shop left and right. Check him out.continue...
Saturday, August 11, 2007
Tom had other things in mind.
"When I say spell, you say check," he yelled into the mic.
Sigh. Do better, Tom.continue...
Thursday, August 09, 2007
This year, I'm serving on NABJ's Elections Committee. Today, we hosted a candidate forum where members could talk to the candidates and ask them questions. It was held immediately after the Senator Clinton speech today, which a majority of the membership attended.
The committee prepared for everything. We had index cards ready to go. The committee was ready.
Tell me why no more than 40 people showed up? Or rather, stuck around. The ballroom was almost full for Clinton. For us, the entire membership could fit into three rows.
Are you serious?
I know the candidates are accessible and have been campaigning all week long, but this was the chance for members to get real answers to their questions and compare candidates side by side. For those who attended, I believe the forum was valuable. For those who missed it, you missed some insightful questions and answers. Your bad.
As an committee member, it honestly disappointed and seriously angered me that people just didn't care.
Don't complain when our budget deficit doesn't increase. If you aren't engaged, you have no right to complain.
As my fellow Ten95'er said: "I hope this isn't an indication of the national election (voter turnout)."
Me too, honey. Me too.continue...
Monday, August 06, 2007
The next time I fly anywhere, I'm going to show up to the airport in boxers, a wife-beater and dirty socks. That way I'll save the TSA some time. I'll just get dressed at the gate. Enough said...
So I made it to the 2007 Nationaly Association of Black Jourrnalists Convention and Job Fair. I'm here. (*exhales) It's hot. But I like it. However, I hope my first three hours here was not an indication of what the rest of my week here will be like. Let me explain...
I arrived to the airport yesterday at about 1:45 P.m. From the airport I boarded a shuttle with another Student Projects participant, which slowly pulled to about five hotels before it finally stopped at Bally's Hotel and Casino. I got off the shuttle and walked to the rear where our bags were stowed. And I would have been all ready to check in and get settled, except my suitcase with all my clothing was not in the storage area.
To make a long story short...the driver had not been paying attention to what bags were being unloaded as he dropped passengers off. Luckily, he remembered that an unusually large number of bags being unloaded at the Paris Hotel and Casino. He nervously sped back to Paris, where my bag was sitting just outside of a door at the back of the hotel.
It was intact. But I nearly had a fit. And I would not have enjoyed purchasing all new clothes for my week-long stay in Vegas.
Bottom line, for those of you who arriving in the next couple of days...take a taxi from the airport. I hear it's about $15.
The students projects gets in full swing today...see ya when you get here on Wednesday. You are coming, right?continue...
Saturday, August 04, 2007
Download convention program, HERE.
It wasn't until I got to work that I actually realized how bazaar the news was. The name was familiar because I had seen it several times on an Oakland Tribune byline. The Tribune is a paper I have a connection to, both personally and professionally. And on top of all that, I'd only ever heard that Bailey was a good guy...the editor of the Oakland Post, an African American paper that was delivered to my church every Sunday. My mentor, Bob Butler, sent out a message to the Young Black Journalist email listserv announcing and reflecting on the news of Bailey's death on Thursday morning. It was then that I began to reflect on what it all meant.
Bailey was gunned down by an employee of Your Black Muslim Bakery in Oakland on Thursday. The employee confessed that he killed him because he was angry over stories Bailey had written about the bakery, its employees and leaders in the past. According to Oakland Tribune reports, Bailey had been working on a story about the group and its finances.
When this news broke Friday, I realized just how serious of a job being a journalist is. Your work has consequence, both good and bad. And I knew that. But I never thought that seeking the truth about your community and reporting it could get you killed.
Just last month, a mother approached me about her concerns that ice cream trucks were selling realisitic toy guns to children in Hayward, Calif. So I wrote a story about it. The woman attended a City Council meeting to voice her complaints, and I wrote a story about that too. Eventually, Hayward's chief of police called a meeting with ice cream truck vendors in Hayward and demanded they stop selling toy guns from their trucks or face reprimand. And I wrote a story.
Never before had I experienced writing something that affected visible change or action on the part of leadership. So I drove home Thursday night to share that with my parents. As my mom fried chicken, she, my step dad and I talked about what had happened to Bailey that morning. Both of them were concerned...because most headlines and anchors read and reported a "Journalist gunned down in Oakland." They thought of me. Jokingly, they asked if any ice cream truck vendors might seek revenge because I had called attention to the fact that some of them had been selling, to six-year-olds, imitation firearms meant for people 18-years-old and up.
Did Bailey ever wonder if writing the stories about the Black Muslim bakery would put him in danger physically? I shiver at the possibility that he knew the stories could possibly get him killed.
It makes me wonder: how careful (or un-careful) are we as journalists when we sit down to write stories that will have some consequence (positive or negative) for the stakeholders?
More on Chauncey Bailey.
Thursday, August 02, 2007Another installment from my time at the Hechinger Institute seminar for New Education Reporters in July. Figured I'd wrap this up since we'll likely be blogging about the seminars we attend at NABJ next week.
The notes below -- some are story ideas, others are sites to check out, still more are concepts. Enjoy and ask questions if you have them. I'll be happy to clear up any confusion.
- Get comfortable with the good folks at the National Center for Early Development and Learning (http://www.ncedl.org/)
- Same with the National Institute for Child Health and Human Development (http://www.nichd.nih.gov/)
- When you observe a class, describe the emotional, organizational and instructional support to kids – that’s how you accurately assess a class. Check the tone of voice, physical distance that is maintained and eye contact.
- Tips for judging preschool classrooms (http://www.classobservation.com/): check the degree of engagement between kids and teachers – increased interaction shows comfort, security; look at other kids, not just hose close to the teacher – how are they engaged? Everything should be intentional – kids should be interacting, engaged and learning
- Tips for assessing high schools: what hits your eye when you walk through the door: that’s the image the school wants to project ( pictures of top 5 percent of graduates or athletic trophies)
- Test scores are akin to box scores in sports: you can’t describe a team accurately by scores (tests) alone; you have to look at the entire game (classrooms)
- Good principals can’t be found in the office; if they’re in their office, they don’t know what’s in their schools. Principal job is to get everything out of the say so the teachers can teach and students can learn
- How to Increase Access in Public School
- distrust is earned. By nature, news is things that are out of the ordinary.
- Don’t say schools have a “drug problem.” Society has a drug problem. That’s just reflected in the schools.
- Educators are legitimately protective of students (pedophiles, privacy issues, etc)
- Educational writers should write with context (ex: “It’s not easy to educate when parents are unemployed…instead of focusing only on ailing test scores, what factors outside of school building impact learning?)
- You won’t get in where there’s no personal access (get to know people)
- Let them know that the better look we get at the school, the better it is for kids – we can’t see how the school looks unless we get in.
- Interviewing questions an educator always asks: How do you view teaching? Is it a calling or a job? Have you played competitive sports? If so, you’ve learned teamwork.
- who gets left out in this age of boutique schools -- are boutique schools tracking for the new millennium?
- The American High School system is obsolete – it needs reinvention and redesign, not reform (that is one take on it)
- Theory of Change: schools have no idea what the problem is or how to fix it because they don’t know what good teaching is supposed to look like.
- Who actually gets fired because of the evaluation system? A pro forma system doesn’t foster improvement.
- Relevance and Relationships = how you motivate students. What is the value added? Extent you expect more from a student in the 10th grade than a student in the 4th grade?
Ask teachers what you want students to know and be able to do as a result of their lesson assessment? There are higher standards, yes, but are they performance or content based? Are those standards clear? What does excellence look like for a student?
- Have political leaders take the NECAP (your local assessment) and then have them evaluate it.
- What do you mean by rigor and how will you assess it. IS content all you want to teach or do you want to teach competencies? Being able to memorize facts vs. being able to logically defend an argument.
- What does it mean to be a competent high school grad? What do they know? What don’t they know? What is the standard for excellence?
- Talk to people 2-5 years out of high school. What ways has high school prepared or not helped you for the career you’re doing now? What could they have done differently or better? What could they have done to help you? What could they have done to help you stay in school?
- There is no such thing as a grade level. What a 3rd grader in Atlanta learns is different than what a 3rd grader in Detroit learns: states set the grade levels of what students should know – it’s not regulated.
- Check out the Trial Urban NAEP -- http://nces.ed.gov/nationsreportcard/reading/results2003/districtresults.asp -- did a major city assessment and found that environment was one of the things that impacts a student’s learning.
- Walk to school with a kid. What do they see? Libraries, businesses and clean parks? Or abandoned houses, graffiti and blight? What they see makes a difference?
- Look at old proficiency tests and see if the after school programs are effective and if it matters if they are cut or not. Compare NECAP (or other state tests) to former assessments.
- What safety nets are there for kids who can’t read in high school? How many kids can’t read? Define their plan of action for fixing things. What teacher training is there to help older learners? What are students reading? What is the class size? How do these learning classes impact their graduation credits?
Wednesday, August 01, 2007
Each day, around 3 p.m., I slip out of my pumps, loafers or sling backs, prop my feet on a stand beneath my desk and will the butter to begin flowing through my fingertips and onto the computer screen in front of me.
Being barefoot helps keep me grounded. It gets my creative juices flowing.
I realized all that today. All because, today, I chose fashion over function.
I'm wearing t-strap sandals. Very festive. Yet a little hard to slip out of and back into in a flash. I'm trying to write and I'm realizing that the words aren't coming because my toes can't feel the cool plastic of my footstool.
It's funny the things that advance the writing process. One of my friends slips on huge headphones and blasts music to match the mood of her story while she writes. The result is prose that reads almost lyrically (trust me, I've read it).
Another friend of mine swears he doesn't have any writing rituals, but admits he finds a quiet corner away from everyone or writes from home because he hates to compose around people. That, and he never sits in a chair.
The rituals do the same thing for the writer that wearing lucky socks or refusing to wash a jock strap after a winning streak has for an athlete: it puts you in a positive state of mind. Whether or not these things have anything to do with your performance are irrelevant. You believe they do, so they help.
And they change over time. My ritual used to be to fold my leg up onto my chair and munch on pretzels while I wrote. That doesn't work so much anymore, since I wear skirts most of the time.
To take a page from my pastor, it's a way of speaking things into existence. We think these things help. We believe they do. We say they do (or at least, say it to ourselves). And so they do. Sure, I know I could write without these things, but if they help, why not?
So, I guess I'll have to throw protocol to the wind. If you happen to come to my desk and see my naked feet, don't be alarmed.
I'm just doing my job.