Word on the Street

Personal essays from a young journalist in the Sunshine State.

Tag: Journalism

Roundup of Recent Poynter Online Stories

I’ve gotten to write a lot of fun and interesting stories at work lately, and I feel as though I’ve really started to develop my beat as a media news reporter. I’ve made contacts and have a much better understanding of the industry and of what constitutes a good story idea than I did when I started out at Poynter in June 2007. It’s comforting to look back and see how far you’ve come and at the same time realize how much more you want to learn.

In the past month or two, I’ve written stories on a range of media-related topics. Some of my favorites have been about how technology is renewing attention to long-form journalism; how news organizations are handling requests to “unpublish” stories; and how we can help strengthen the role of women in the tech-related parts of journalism.

Below, I’ve listed the articles I’ve written since the last time I blogged about my stories in June. If you have a story idea, let me know. Enjoy!

Live Coverage of Philippine Hostage Situation Sparks Criticism, Debate

Chat Replay: Why Do We Need Female Journalists with Technical Expertise?

How Technology Is Renewing Attention to Long-form Journalism

20 SXSW Interactive Panels That Journalists Should Vote For

AP to Improve Obits of the Famous and Newsworthy

Coffeeshop Newsrooms Yield Stories, Sources, Understanding of Journalism

4 Digital Tools to Improve Your Government Coverage

Carvin: Facebook Lets NPR Empower Those Who Love Us, Listen to Those Who Don’t

5 Ways News Organizations Respond to ‘Unpublishing’ Requests

Legal Issues to Consider Before Unpublishing a Story

Why Journalists Make Mistakes & What We Can Do About Them

Journalists Who Are Humble, Empathetic & Curious Less Likely to Be Wrong

‘Media Evangelist’ Explains How Tumblr Fits into News Organizations’ Publishing Options

Why the AP is Assigning Oil Spill Editor, Reporters

5 Reasons the Sentinel, CNN and Philly.com have added mobile jobs

5 Strategies for Successful News Organization-University Partnerships

Stories from the Past Couple of Weeks

Throughout the past few weeks I’ve gotten to cover some fun stories — about the new AP Stylebook, emerging trends at news startups, Helen Thomas’ White House briefing room seat and more. I’m happiest at work when I’m interviewing people and writing stories, so it’s been good for me to find time to carve out opportunities to report. Here are some of my most recent stories from the past couple of weeks:

What Nonprofit News Sites Can Learn from Grist’s ‘Save Our Journalists!’ Campaign

SEJ President: Environment is a ‘Stealth’ Beat

WHCA to Discuss Who Gets Thomas’ Seat at Special Meeting Thursday

AP Lowers Price of Stylebook iPhone App

New AP Stylebook Responds to Users’ Questions about Social Media Terms

Bay Citizen Embraces 4 Emerging Trends Among News Startups

Post Publisher Weymouth Opens ‘Edge of Change’ with Talk of Journalism, Grandmother’s Legacy

Live Blog: ‘Journalism as Women’s Work, Past & Present’

Ben Franklin Project’s ‘Digital First, Print Last’ Approach Produces First Products

Exploring Journalists’ Role in Covering Kagan’s Sexual Orientation

Last week I wrote a piece about how journalists have covered the speculation about Elena Kagan’s sexual orientation. What I found in my reporting was that the Fifth Estate has been talking at length about the rumors that say Kagan is a lesbian, while the mainstream media have hardly joined the conversation.

I interviewed Slate’s Jack Shafer, The Atlantic’s Andrew Sullivan and others to find out what role they think journalists should play in covering the speculation. To go along with the story, I also moderated a live chat with Poynter’s ethics guru, Kelly McBride, and Michael Triplett, a journalist and lawyer who has covered the Supreme Court and who’s on the National Lesbian and Gay Journalists Association‘s board of directors. We had hundreds of people in the chat, many of whom asked questions and shared their thoughts on whether to report on Kagan’s sexual orientation. (You can see a replay of the chat at the bottom of the story I wrote.)

After Kagan's nomination, The Wall Street Journal ran a front-page photo of Kagan playing softball, prompting some readers to question whether the paper was playing off a stereotype. In a Politico story, the Journal denied such claims.

I’m less interested in whether Kagan is a lesbian and more interested in the role that journalists have in acknowledging the discussion that people are having about her sexual orientation. The Fifth Estate has acknowledged the speculation. Should the mainstream media just ignore all the chatter? What’s the harm in addressing it?

Some may argue that addressing it would distract from the news and the facts, but what if we turned that argument around and asked: How might journalists engage new audiences by fostering a dialogue about the chatter? How might they help their audiences understand some of the deeper issues that are making people so upset about the lack of information about Kagan’s sexual orientation? And how might this type of dialogue inform journalists’ understanding of other issues involving the LGBT community?

These are just some questions I’ve been thinking about since reporting this piece. Feel free to share yours, too, in the comments section of this blog post.

One Week Later, AP Stylebook Users Still Talking about Change from ‘Web site’ to ‘website’

Last week I got a tip that the AP Stylebook would be changing its style for “Web site” to “website.” I knew the news would be big but didn’t expect people to be so vocal on Twitter and in the blogosphere about their thoughts on the change. Some disagreed with the change. Others thought it couldn’t come soon enough. I always thought that “Web site” was an antiquated way of writing it, so I’m glad I can now write it as “website.”

One week later, people are still talking about the change.

Wanting to find out what other journalists thought about the Stylebook’s decision, I followed the buzz on Twitter and talked to New York Times columnist David Pogue and others to hear their thoughts:

“When the AP Stylebook announced via Twitter that it was changing the style for “Web site” to “website,” some users let out shouts of praise: ‘Finally!‘ ‘Yes!!!‘ ‘Yeeha!

“The reactions aren’t surprising, given how many people have asked the AP to change the style from two words to one word, arguing that “Web site” is an antiquated way of writing it.

“The change, which was formally announced at the American Copy Editors Society conference Friday afternoon, is effective Saturday and will appear in the 2010 Stylebook, which is slated to come out next month.

” ‘We decided to make the change because ‘website’ is increasingly common,’ said Sally Jacobsen, deputy managing editor for projects at the AP and one of three Stylebook editors. ‘We also had invited readers and users of the Stylebook to offer us some suggestions for a new social media guide that we’re including in the 2010 Stylebook, and we got a very good response and a large number of people who favored ‘website’ as one word.’ ”


Here are some other Poynter Online stories I’ve written throughout the past month or so:

Chat Replay: How Can I Maintain Relationships With Hiring Managers (Moderated the chat)

Public Has New Way to Report, Track Bay Area News Errors

Percentage of Minorities is Higher Than Last Time Newsrooms Were This Size

NPR Ombudsman: Journalists Should Look Harder for Female Sources

Wolff: Newspapers Will Never Understand the Web

USA Today iPad App Maximizes Familiarity, Leisurely Discovery

VoiceofSanDiego.org Editor Edits Nearly All Stories by Hand

How to Use Interactive Time Lines in Breaking News & Ongoing Stories

NPR Reporters Buy Toxic Asset, Become Stakeholders to Explain Financial Crisis

NYU to Choose Decade’s Top 10 Works of Journalism

New York University plans to select the Top 10 journalism pieces of the decade. The list of nominees includes newspaper series, such as The Boston Globe’s Pulitzer Prize-winning series on abuse in the Catholic church; blog posts, such as FiveThirtyEight’s coverage of the 2008 elections; and books, including Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s “Random Family: Love, Drugs and Coming of Age in the Bronx,” which I’ve been itching to read. Even Jon Stewart made it on the list for his “Indecision 2004″ and “Indecision 2008” satirical reports.

There’s a decent amount of variety among the nominees, but maybe not enough. In response to a Gangrey.com post about the list, The Washington Post’s Hank Stuever said:

“A very Manhattany-media list, very correct, very new-school-o’-journalism. Looked twice for any Weingarten … and decided that they mean only DEADLY SERIOUS JOURNALISM EXCEPT FOR JON STEWART.

“I think Finkel’s ‘The Good Soldiers’ shoulda been on here too. And Lane DeGregory. And …

“Oh well. Quibblin’ with Internet lists — America’s favorite new pastime.”

Other commentors agreed, suggesting that works by David Maraniss, Barry Bearak and Jim Sheeler should be added.

It’d be nice to see some quality pieces that haven’t already won numerous awards make it to the Top 10. Which stories/journalists would you add to the list?

Carving Out Time to Write about Journalism, Life

I’ve been writing some personal essays that I plan to publish on my blog throughout the next few weeks. Finding time to write essays is an ongoing challenge, but I’ve been trying to do it more — for the sake of my writing and for the sake of self-discovery.

In writing about my life and tying my experiences to universal themes, I always learn a lot about myself and how my past has shaped me. I hope you’ll look for the essays, offer your feedback and find a way to relate to them.

For now, I’ll share some of my recent Poynter Online stories. I have two new pieces that I’m working on and that are set to run this coming week, so you can look for those. Here are some recently published ones:

If you have any stories ideas, or if there’s something journalism-related that you want to find out more about, drop me a note.

News Sites Find Ways to Engage Users, Lower Bounce Rates

Today Poynter Online published a story I’ve been working on about bounce rates. In the course of my reporting, I came across a variety of news sites that have found creative ways to increase user engagement and lower their bounce rates. You can find out more about what they’re doing here:

“There are lots of ways to draw users to news sites. The trick is figuring out how to keep them engaged enough to stay on your site once they land there.

“Some news sites, including Forbes.com, The Huffington Post and DailyMe, have developed strategies to increase engagement and decrease bounce rates — a metric used to describe the percentage of single-page site visits, often traffic referred by search engines.

“Here are a few examples of their strategies, along with some additional tips that could help keep people on your site. I hope you’ll share your ideas, too.”


What tips do you have for lowering bounce rates? If you have more questions about this topic, please let me know.

Catching up with John Quinn, Young Journalists in the Chips Quinn Program

I’ve been lucky enough to have some great mentors throughout the years, many of whom graduated from my alma mater, Providence College. Last weekend, I drove across the state of Florida to visit one of them.

John Quinn, who graduated from PC in 1945, 62 years before I did, held a Chips Quinn reunion at his Cocoa Beach home, where a group of local Chips Quinn scholars gathered to talk about their work as journalists, the low morale in their newsrooms and the entrepreneurial journalism opportunities they’d like to pursue.

Quinn created the Chips Quinn scholarship program in memory of his late son in hopes of bringing more diversity in today’s newsrooms. It’s worked, as about 1,200 scholars have gone through the program and been given journalism internships. Mr. Quinn likes to call me an “honorary Chipster.” I received a John C. Quinn scholarship in his name at PC, so he often invites me to the Chips Quinn reunions and other related events.

I’m grateful for his help and for how willing he’s been to help me when I’ve needed career advice or someone to share ideas with. Someday I hope to return the favor to other young journalists. Everybody needs a mentor, especially one who motivates you to be better at what you do and reminds you that, yes, the work you do as a journalist matters.

Interviewing Katie Couric about Political Journalism, Future of Network Newscasts

Earlier this week I had the privilege of interviewing Katie Couric, who just won an Alfred I. duPont award for her series of interviews with former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin.

Having grown up watching Couric on “The TODAY Show,” I was excited to talk with her by phone about her career as a journalist and the future of her craft. Talking with her brought back memories of standing outside the NBC Studio in New York City as a little girl, hoping I could see her during a filming of “The TODAY Show.”

My mom, dad and I used to go to New York City every couple of years. We’d often wake up early when we were there so we could get a good spot outside of the studio and catch a glimpse of Couric, Matt Lauer or Al Roker. Mom loved anything that was free, so the idea of watching a nationally televised show without having to pay for tickets naturally excited her.

Talking to “CBS Evening News” anchor and managing editor Couric on Monday made me think about Mom and about how much I’ve grown up since the days when I would admire journalists from afar. Now, as part of my job at The Poynter Institute, I’m interacting with journalists on a daily basis, finding ways to learn from them and interviewing them.

When interviewing Couric, I tried to ask as many questions as I could in the 15-20 minutes allotted. I was happy that she was so willing to share her views on political journalism, the future of network newscasts and more.

You can read my Q&A with Couric here:

“When Katie Couric accepted the Alfred I. duPont award last week for her series of interviews with former vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin during the 2008 presidential campaign, she said, ‘The much derided MSM — main stream media — clearly still has a role in these increasingly partisan times.’

“I spoke with Couric, ‘CBS Evening News’ anchor and managing editor, by phone on Monday to hear more about that role, what she learned from her interviews with Palin and her thoughts on political journalism and the future of network news. An edited transcript of our talk appears below.”


After Earthquake Strikes, Journalists Try to Connect Haitian Readers with Family Abroad

In keeping up with the news about the Haiti earthquake, I’ve been following how news organizations have covered the tragedy. Earlier this week, I interviewed some journalists in South Florida to find out what they were doing to best serve their local audience, which is largely comprised of Haitians.

Journalists at The Miami Herald and the Sun-Sentinel in particular were scrambling Wednesday to send reporters to the scene of the disaster. They were faced with the challenge of reporting on an international tragedy that has affected a place many readers call home. Readers turned to these news outlets for help, asking them to please look for their relatives and give them some sign of hope.

You can read more about how the Herald and the Sun-Sentinel responded to these readers here:

“As news broke Wednesday that the earthquake in Haiti may have killed hundreds of thousands of people, journalists in South Florida scrambled to provide coverage of the devastation. The coverage was especially critical in Miami, which has one of the largest Haitian immigrant populations in the U.S.

“The Miami Herald had sent seven staff members to Haiti as of Wednesday evening. Its Spanish-language sister publication, El Nuevo Herald, had sent one reporter to Haiti and two to the Dominican Republic, where many of the relief efforts are taking place. Jacqueline Charles, who covers the Caribbean for the Herald, and Patrick Farrell, who won the 2009 Pulitzer Prize for his coverage of lethal storms in Haiti, were among the journalists sent abroad.

“The earthquake has presented South Florida news outlets with the challenge of helping the city’s Haitian population make sense of an international tragedy that has hit all too close to home. At this point, many people just want a sense of connection.

” ‘It’s one thing to get the testimonials of what people are hearing, but to try to connect one side to the other is the thing that we’re most determined to do — but it’s also the hardest thing to do,’ said Rick Hirsch, the Herald’s senior editor for multimedia. ‘In South Florida there’s this wrenching effort to acquire real information and connect with people back home.’ ”


I’m deeply saddened by the tragedy and will continue to keep the Haitian community in my prayers …