Tuesday, November 20, 2007

The email that I never sent

Last month, the Golden Gate [X]press Online won a the Pacemaker Award from the Associated Collegiate Press for it's news website. The newspaper also won an award for an edition it entered from this semester. Four editors on the newspaper editorial board planned a trip to the conference in D.C., where the awards were to be given out. Not one of them asked me if I wanted to go, given that the online site was a finalist for the award that we won. By the time I knew about the trip, I could no longer afford the airfare.

Slap. in. the. face. Right?

Well, when they returned from their four day trip in D.C., I wanted to send an email expressing how disheartened I was about their disregard for me and my arm of the publication. But after discussing the situation with an adviser, I was advised to talk to them in person. I did. But I don't think they felt me. And all I got was an 'I'm sorry, so sorry.'

So I saved the draft of the email in my drafts folder, as a memento...

Tell me. Should I have sent the email anyway?

Dear [X]press Editors:

First off, congrats to everyone who was involved during the semester(s) that both the Online and the Newspaper won awards for. I'm glad our hard work here is getting noticed at a national level.

I would be remiss in not mentioning that I feel completely disrespected (professionally) that I was not told about or invited to the convention in D.C. And though I was aware of the trip before the delegates left,I made no "stink" about it because they were hard at work laying out a 28-pager.I feel now is an appropriate time to voice my thoughts.

Me and my team of editors have worked hard all semester, as hard as the newspaper editorial team has. I've made an considerable effort in trying to involve myself in what's going on with the newspaper (coordinating with teasers for online features, collaborating with story packages, and just coming in to see how newspaper folks are doing).

To make a long explanation short, it's a slap in the face when your publication is up for an award and you aren't invited to "the party." I know(name omitted), (name omitted), (name omitted) and (name omitted) had been planning the trip for a while...never once was I approached by any of them about whether I would be able to go. Am I not a part of the team? Asking if I wanted to go would have shown me that I'm respected as a valuable colleague on Xpress's editorial board.

Make no mistake about what I'm saying: this is not about being "lovey-dovey" friends. It's about respect. Whether or not you had intentions of leaving out me or anyone else out...whether or not you were completely ignorant to the fact that someone else besides you four might have wanted to go...

As one of the top editors, I would at least think you would ask me. Especially because Online was up for an award. I didn't find out that Online was up for an award until two days before you four were leaving. I would have loved to be there and celebrate with you. I would have found a way to be there. And the award is a collective victory.

When a paper wins a Pulitzer, they don't just send some heads and not other. They, I hope, give each editor an opportunity to decide; that means in time enough so that it would cost $500-600 to get a ticket two days before. But like I said at the top of this email: I'd be disrespecting myself and my work this semester if I didn't speak up.

Lastly, I appreciate those of you who called from DC to congratulate the Online publication. That was thoughtful. But let's try to be thoughtful in all other areas.

Aaron Morrison
Managing Editor, Golden Gate [X]press Online Fall '07

Labels: , ,


Posted by Aaron Morrison at 5:56 PM | link | Tell us what you think [5]

Hello, Neighbor!

I wonder how my Ten95 cohorts would feel if a new group of journalists moved into their newsrooms.

Not "new" journalists, as in recent graduates. But journalists who have a different way of doing things. Journalists who yell when major news breaks... who watch TV all day... who laugh raucously as the antics of our favorite celebrity news figures... who occasionally assault inanimate items when the computers crash.

In a nutshell -- broadcast journalists.

Make space guys. We're moving in.

My bureau of the AP -- the Broadcast News Center -- is moving in with the Washington print bureau on the corner of 13th and L. And everyone's sharing one floor.

They've been described as a library. We've called ourselves a circus.

So I guess my question is whether librarians and ringmasters can cohabitate in peace.

Probably not. Print's already moved in while we ship our stuff over in a few weeks. But in the meantime, select groups of us have been visiting for training sessions. And those groups -- of five or six people, at most -- have easily generated enough noise to distract the inkies from their work.

Now, imagine an entire floor moving in.

An entire. Floor.

Plus TVs. And radio equipment. And machines that take in broadcast feeds, along with others that play them.

And no, there aren't any partitioning walls.

Dees ees gonna be funnnnnnnnnnnn.... :-)

Labels: , ,


Posted by Veronica Marché at 4:01 PM | link | Tell us what you think [4]

Thursday, November 15, 2007

"You Make Me Sick."

It started off benign enough.

“West Bay,” I said into the phone. “Talia Buford speaking.”

“Yeah, I was reading your article on Wednesday,” said the caller.

“Which one?”

“The one on Payette,” he said.

I scroll through our archives and pull it up. A West Warwick man was arrested in connection with the stabbing death of another man the weekend in my community. I did the second day story, covered the arraignment and also spoke to Payette's sister, who said the system failed her brother.

I prompt the caller to continue.

“It’s reporters like you who give the ACI (the state corrections system) a bad name. He’s scumb. He woulda killed you if you looked at him funny. I knew the guy. And you talk to his low-life sister? Give him a job. The best thing that could happen to this guy is to give him the gas chamber. You make me sick. Why don’t you report the truth for once?”

Then he hangs up.

I sat there silent for a few seconds before hanging up the phone. The sigh that escaped from my lips had to be covered in frustration and hurt.

The voice from over the cubicle says quietly: “Talia, are you okay?”

I tell my coworker I’m fine. And I go back to work.

Labels: , , ,


Posted by T Dot at 2:16 PM | link | Tell us what you think [4]

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Nobody Said It Would Be Easy....

This morning (it's November 17th, even though this has published on the 13th...the perks of being lazy with your drafts) marks one month since I packed up much of my life as I could in a 1992 Pontiac Bonnveille and started my life as a full-time sports writer here in Southern Maryland. As I reflect back on going from freelance to full-time in such a short time, I feel like I should be nothing but blessed and grateful for the opportunity that was given to me. However, I'm not completely satisfied. Working for a paper that doesn't necessarily have a corporate office or a real chain of command can be taxing; you're pretty much responsible for making decisions about what to write, pictures to go with it, things of that nature. For me, it really shouldn't be a new hat, seeing as that's what my four years as sports editor at my college paper basically were; deciding and delegating. However, the pressure is a bit more intense, even at a small weekly such as this.

The pressure is magnified when someone attempts to form a chain of command and micromanages an already stretched writing staff to death and doesn't know how to talk to people at all. Yet, the silver linings far outweigh the dark clouds. I've gotten a couple of e-mails since I started from gratified moms who loved seeing their sons' and daughters' names and pictures in the paper and encouraged me to keep up the good work.

Those moments are what make this job worth it. When the readership can take time out of their busy day to drop you a line and let you know that they appreciate and at least notice what you're trying to do is a rewarding feeling.

That's pretty much the way this field goes. "You win some, you lose some, but you live....you live to fight another day." And quite frankly, that's all that matters to me at this point.

Posted by Chris at 8:20 PM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Monday, November 12, 2007

Speaking of which...

While we're on the subject of injecting your personality into your reporting (go, T-Dot!), I thought I'd share this hilarious and downright satisfying piece by David Segal of the Washington Post.

The piece could be called an explainer of the circus-like divorce of Pittsburgh-area billionaire, Richard Mellon Scaife. (And yes, that's Mellon, as in Mellon Bank.)

But Segal didn't simply do a cut-and-dry timeline. Oh no. He, of the Style section, approached the story this way: Visit Pittsburgh and see all the sites of the tawdry Scaife divorce.

Aside from suggesting that Pittsburgh tourists drive by the Scaife's houses and the office of the Tribune-Review (which Scaife owns), Segal points out all the absurdity and and irony that the reader would no doubt find in such a tale of the rich and ostentatious, like this:
One of the most astounding stacks of papers in the pile that is the Scaife divorce is the inventory of Ritchie's stuff, compiled by her lawyers. The list runs for more than 80 pages, like an episode of "Antiques Roadshow" that will not end. Meat platters, sardine forks, melon forks, a circa-1804 Dutch teapot, a painting by Magritte, Victorian cream pitchers, bread trays, candlesticks, a sterling silver nutmeg grater, flatware service . . . you get the picture.
Segal continues:
"Defendant has and continues to unlawfully hold in his possession six pairs of asparagus tongs manufactured by Mappin & Webb, Birmingham, 1926 weighing 10 ounces total," reads one of dozens of paragraphs. "The last-known location for these items was at 'Vallamont,' 132 Pheasant Circle, Ligonier, Pa. 15658. The estimated cost for these items is $1,800."
Really, the story almost writes itself. Segal doesn't have to do much more than be a reporter to let you know, "Yes. This is as ridiculous as you think it is."

But let me not spoil it for you. Read the whole thing here.

Posted by Veronica Marché at 4:22 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

What does your personality have to do with it? Answer below

I'm learning that you don't have to have a column to inject your personality into journalistic writing. And by "learning," I mean that I haven't quite figured it out yet. T-Dot (Talia) wrote this gem and really got me thinking. More on her piece later.

I'm going to refer to a story I wrote about poor field conditions. I want you to read the first two grafs. But I hope you're not drowsy, there, sitting at your desk. It'll put you to sleep early:
The grass fields that Manhasset field hockey coach Steve Sproul remembers playing on at the high school, college and club level in his native Jamaica were rolled before the players took the field. Grounds crews, and sometimes the players themselves, wanted to ensure a flat playing surface for both teams, who dreaded the prospect of a bumpy surface.
Oh, it gets worse.
"The game is meant to be played on rolled turf, a smooth surface," said Sproul, who plays every home game on the school's new FieldTurf artificial surface. The only other option for the team would be to play on a poorly conditioned grass field on the school's grounds.
My goal was to evoke some imagery of these guys -- these athletes about to play a game -- rolling the turf before the game. Who does that? I thought it was great. But I failed miserably. Not to mention there was a huge editing mistake, and a correction ran in the paper the next day.

And there there is Talia, who writes this lead (lede?) in a story about a school district's gravitation toward "green" cleaning products.

WEST WARWICK -- Feel free to take a whiff of Bob Irving’s cleaning bucket.

No, really. Take a whiff.

I don't know that this happened for sure, but I can almost see Talia on bended knee, her nose deep in some citrusy disinfectant, asking all sorts of crazy questions. I also know that she'll try anything once, unaware or perhaps unashamed of how she looks or feels while doing it. That's her personality. Talia crazy, ya'll. And it worked.

Get my drift? The answer to my own question is that your personality can have everything to do with a story. It can turn a boring, but important story about a city council decision to place a streetlight at a dangerous intersection into a masterpiece that gets A1 love.

I imagine this takes a good deal of bravery, and with covering high school sports and all, I have no desire to deal with the repercussions. One little maneuver, misquote or mockery and you've got 40 e-mails in your inbox the next morning. In some ways, I can't let my personality on display on the news pages get me in a load of trouble. But I don't want to bore people either.

And that is what I should be most afraid of.


Posted by Darren Sands at 3:02 AM | link | Tell us what you think [2]

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

That's my guy

Read this piece by Roy Peter Clark, entitled The Difference Between Good and Great, and will you see that Clark has praised one of my colleagues.

I had no idea Wayne Kermode, who calms the queries anxious reporters, lays out and reads copy, and basically does everything an editor should do on most nights, had written this great headline the night Joba Chamberlain and the Yankees lost to Cleveland, 2-1 on the famous "Bug Night 2007."

While the newsroom was in awe of what was happening, Wayne was doing what Clark describes as eschewing "first-level creativity." Clark writes:

I was not impressed by the most obvious play on words, the use of "bug" as a verb or "buggy" as an adjective, as in "Cleveland drives Yanks buggy," or "Cleveland bugs young pitcher." Such examples display what I call "first level creativity," wordplay that any clever 12-year-old could conjure.

Which is why I award this headline the prize for best wordplay: "Let us spray." Three one-syllable words. Ten letters. A single letter added to "Let us pray." And the Newsday headline writer, Wayne Kermode, assistant editor, sports, gets to circle the bases. With an accompanying photo of trainers spraying the players and umpires with bug repellent, "Let us spray" captures the event and the mood.

I e-mailed Wayne with congratulations on the recognition, to which he replied, "Darren, you ever hear the old phrase 'even a blind squirrel finds a nut sometimes'? I haven't heard that phrase in particular, but my dad frequently quotes a variation, something like "The sun has got to shine on a monkey's [butt] sometimes."

I assured Wayne that he, much like the monkey, was being much too modest.

Posted by Darren Sands at 11:46 AM | link | Tell us what you think [0]

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Not always what they seem (Part Deux)

"All quiet here."

That's what the police watch commander told me yesterday evening when, at the request of my editor, I called to see if anything "happened" at the day-long educational hip hop summit. I wrote about the events during the day, but missed an evening concert because they weren't about to pay me overtime to cover it.

When my editor first told me about the assignment over the phone, I sighed (in my head). Sure, send the black intern to cover the hip hop event. (I always get that feeling...never mind.) Being that it was held on the peninsula, I knew there would be more Filipinos than anybody else. Turns out that Filipinos were running it.

I often find it interesting to see who is "represented" at hip hop summits. I counted four or five African Americans out of nearly 60 community college kids. Even more interesting...we've yet to see such a rainbow of ethnicity coonin' and bafoonin' (or "boogalooing," rather) on the boob tube. (*scratches head) I've digressed.

What troubled me most was the assumption, made by my editors (and the police), that this collection of youngsters would cause some major fiasco worth reporting. On the phone, an editor asked me to come in later than usual so that I could stay in the newsroom late enough to check into the "danger" that, to everyone else, seemed "inevitable." (And they wonder why young people don't listen. If you've already written them off, why should they?)

Forget that the story I sat down to write was about women and their contribution and image in hip hop. Forget that the workshops were presented in an academic setting and fashion. Forget that the youngsters there were tamer than even I expected them to be.

Instead, let's attempt to write a story about how the police paid overtime for extra units to be ready to march in with riot gear when (and not if) the hip hop concert goes awry.

What kind of journalism is this?

Labels: , ,


Posted by Aaron Morrison at 10:28 AM | link | Tell us what you think [3]

We'd Like to Know...

Our Favorites

Poynter Institute
Media News
Ask the Recruiter
About the Job
On The Media
Columbia Journalism Review
Howard Kurtz's Media Notes
Eric Deggans
E-Media Tidbits