October 2009 Archives

"I Wish to Remain Anonymous"

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From Haiman’s Best Practices for Newspaper Journalists:


“The public is particularly upset when it thinks the press is providing cover so someone can make an anonymous personal attack on another individual” (21).


I was wondering why one of the Associated Press’s rules is “The material [quoted in a story] must be information and not opinion, and not speculation, and it must be essential to the story” (21). I was thinking what if a person wanted to say something against someone who could make his life heck if that person wanted to?  Obviously, that person would not want to put his neck on the line for your story and it would be wrong for you to publish it.  But also, what if that person is lying?  He could use your newspaper to try to defame a person secretly.  If you suspect that person’s opinion to be true and newsworthy, then follow it up.  Try to get someone to go on record with that opinion or go straight to the source like Haiman’s example about Maureen Reagan being her father’s campaign manager.   An anonymous source tipped the reporter off that this might be true and the reporter ended up being able to confirm the information when (s)he was lucky enough to run into Maureen Reagan herself (20).


So the basic lesson that I learned from this is if I ever get a source that wishes to remain anonymous yet the information that person gives me is newsworthy, I can either try to persuade that person to let me attach their name to that quote or use the tip as a stepping stone to a better source.  How hard could that be?  Ha ha.


See what others learned.

You Don't Have to Be Perfect...

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...You Just Have to Admit Fault.


"Many members of the public expressed considerable empathy for the workload and pressures that reporters face and the mental and emotional tolls that kind of life can exact. But they do not believe this should exempt the newspaper from cleaning up its messes promptly and fully…Seeing as many errors as they do, the public would like to see many more corrections and clarifications" (Haiman 13).


The public wants to see that the newspaper is holding themselves accountable for their own mistakes.  Think of a newspaper as one body, one very informed person.  This is what it technically is.  The people can visit this “person” in order to find out most of the things he/she would want to know about public life.  The newspaper tells people the weather, what time movies are playing, what is going on in their communities, what is going on in their nation, the latest trends, etc.  It’s one-stop shopping. 

But what happens if this one person sometimes lies to you?  Most human beings do not being lied to because it diminishes our ability to trust the person who lied.  If you think of every mistake in the paper as a little (or big) lie, it puts the public’s demand for recognition of this lie in perspective.  If you are knowingly lied to, it helps if the person tells the truth as soon as possible.  This inability to keep the lie a secret humbles that person and shows us that he/she can admit fault.

This is all the public wants.  They know that most people lie or at least unintentionally don’t get the facts straight.  They just want to see the round-about apology for this error.  The fact that some papers make a habit out of calling attention to their shortcomings shows this and makes those papers more trustworthy.  In fact, people probably like to see that the paper makes mistakes because all people do.  It is human nature to err so to get everything right 100% of the time would be creepy not to mention unnatural. 

See what others have to say

Cockroaches in the Bathroom

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“So, instead of just whining about the high price of a salad, I might instead contact the dining services, and actually ask why the price went up. I might hear the manager tell me that customers had frequently requested more chicken salad and other expensive meat dishes.  My editorial becomes an opportunity to inform, as I explain the reason for the price increase, and make a sensible suggestion -- $2.00 greens-only option” (Jerz).

I found this quote particularly striking.  I never really thought of the editorial as a way of expressing an informed disagreement but that’s just what it is.  You don’t simply say, “This is stupid” and then continue to list all of the ways that it is dumb.  Instead you question why there is a certain problem i.e. the increase in the prices of salads.  Another example would be if Iwrote an entire editorial on the dead cockroach in the bathroom located on third floor Maura.  Then instead of listing all of the reasons why this is repulsive (including that this means that they are likely in the dorms in Lowe and Canevin) isn’t simply enough or overkill.  Instead you would strive to find out why our school has this semi-secret cockroach infestation.  What is being done to cure the problem?  Do they know the problem exists?  I could interview maintenance about this issue to get some real answers.

Then I can even go on to say that I have heard (list a specific name) that other schools have cockroach issues as well.  I’ve heard that our school’s foil has cockroaches.  Possibly, as gross as it sounds, it is an inevitable fact.  You have these big, beautiful buildings.  People are not the only ones that find them attractive.  There are tons of tiny places that we do not inhabit that they can make use of.  Possibly, I could even write about cockroaches in general.  What makes them tick?  This could possibly shed even more light on the situation.  Every crack and crevice of colleges and universities cannot be cleaned like a house can be cleaned because there are large storage facilities that make excellent homes for creepy-crawlies. 

Because I kind of got away from the topic I want to make clear what I’m trying to say.  Editorials are for making a claim about something but then saying why you feel this way.  It’s meant to persuade not belittle.  Possibly by the time I would get done writing my hypothetical article I would discover that cockroaches are just a part of life that we all have to learn to deal with.


Portfolio 2, already?

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It's so weird not having a lot of blogs to fill out a portfolio, but this section was not particularly blog heavy.  I'm still learning about news writing.  I really starting to see the inner workings of the news.  Without further adeu, here is my portfolio:


  • On-the-spot On? covers the material well.  I comment on two separate articles.
  • Great Tips for Writing an Article is in my opinion, the best blog I've written for this class.  I go over several points of a particular chapter in Cappon's book.  I created this little outline of quotes and tips to try to help the class and myself succeed in this class.


  • Can you say tacky? looks at a few articles that have a lot of errors.  It shows that even the professionals make mistakes (and makes me feel a little better about my mistakes).  I had to look up each thing that was wrong in the article to make sure I was making proper criticism.
  • Great Tips for Writing an Article is in my opinion, the best blog I've written for this class.  This entry also appears above but I thought that it definately shows my ability to look at things with a critical eye.
  • I Like Me Some Color! looks at multiple front pages of newspapers, covering what works and what does not.  This blog exhibits my ability to pay attention to subtle details.
  • Following the News is my latest blog.  Unlike all of the other blogs, this is actually a series of entries all attached to this first entry.  Although I did not get the results I was hoping for, I still learned a lot because the process made me stop and think.


  • In April's blog, I posted my thoughts.  I thought she wrote a great entry!
  • The Big Picture and the Little Picture: Spot News is a well-done blog by Jeanine.  I'd like to take this time to give Jeanine a virtual pat on the back.  She's really been doing some great work!  I commented first on her blog and other's agreed with my position.


  • Abducted by Aliens sparked a discussion.  Several of my peers suggested websites for me that were very helpful.
  • I Like Me Some Color! looks at multiple front pages of newspapers.  I used this entry above in depth, but it also belongs here because several students commented on my observations.


  • On-the-spot On? was turned in early, as were many of my blogs with only a few exceptions.


  • Can you say tacky? suggests that my peers and anyone reading my blog look at April's blog.  She found some different mistakes in the article.  I think her blog was well done.
  • Derek Brings Up a Good Point is, besides a wildcard entry, basically a billboard for Derek's blog.  I really like promoting other's blogs in my own blog because I know how great it feels to have your hard work recognized.


  • Derek Brings Up a Good Point is one of my reflections.  I really liked what Derek had to say in his blog about the impact that font has on the reader.  I look at font in depth, using some of the vocabulary we learned early on in the class.


If you haven't had enough of me yet, check out my last portfolio



Wrapping up Breaking News

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Day 3


     From Day 1 and Day 2 of our news activity, I’ve learned that the news surprisingly doesn’t always follow up.  As I remarked in day 2, I don’t really understand why the story about the crash in Penn Hills does not have any new developments being that the news this week hasn’t been incredibly exciting.  Of course, I have a little bias because I may or may not know the people involved.  But seriously, why does this story not have new developments?  Is it a confidentiality issue?  I doubt it.  It seems to me that the people involved (I know at least one of the names even though the article does not provide this information) are old enough that sharing information would be fine.  Maybe the newspaper just forgot about the story, but I doubt this.  I’m sure they are incredibly organized at the Post-gazette.  Overall, I have no idea why this crash did not make the news again because as far as I know, the injuries sustained were pretty serious.  It wasn’t like the people involved just got concussions or something.

      The second story was a little less serious but had a greater range of interest.  This is why, I think, that it has a follow up.  I’m sure that in days to come there will be more updates.  They just haven’t come out yet because the vaccine hasn’t been out long enough.  With this story, the newsworthiness is much higher than the other one because it affects many people. 

     Although I did not really get to see much of a story unfold in my examples, I have seen it happen in the past.  I remember when the Seton Hill student was shot in the standoff.  I kept on checking the internet for the latest updates.  At first only the fact that a standoff was in the process was reported.  Then it came out that the person involved was shot by the police.  Last, the stories about the student came out.  People who knew him speculated what could have caused this to happen and so forth.  The stories get progressively longer and phrases like “no other details are available at this time” disappear. 

Check out other’s examples of unfolding news stories


Following the News II (Or trying to at Least)

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Day 2

     "Allegheny River Boulevard reopens"

     Surprisingly, nothing else was disclosed about the Penn Hills story.  I scoured Post-gazette.com to no avail.  I was really surprised by this because the initial story really leaves you wanting more.  It indicates that the details are unknown and it seems logical that the next step is to acquire the names of the victims and the cause of the accident amongst other things.  And it’s not like it’s a fast news week. 

     We’ve learned that stories often get bumped because they aren’t important enough as compared to some of the other breaking stories.  However, there seems like there hasn’t been too many compelling news stories this week (which is good in general but bad for this assignment).  Now I’m starting to understand the sick fixation that journalists have with bad things happening.  It’s better for them, as bad as it sounds, for bad things to happen because it gives them interesting things to write about.  I’ve noticed that one of my classmates, Kaitlin Monier, had the same problem with this story.


     "Patience urged in getting flu shots"

     As for my second story, there has been an update.  As I had anticipated, people are getting worried that they will not get the shot.  In this article, the news is doing what it does best, inciting panic.  We talked about this in class, mainly having to do with broadcast news, but here the newspaper makes use of the same techniques.  As far as I can tell from this article, Allegheny County still had not received any vaccinations, yet.

*Check out Day 1 here.

*Check out my conclusion of the activity on Day 3. 




Following the News

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Day 1

I chose to follow two stories that I thought would definately have a follow up story.


     "Allegheny River Boulevard reopens"

     On Sunday, I got a text from my friend from high school asking if I knew some kid.  She continued to say how he was in a terrible car accident.  As I scoured my memory to see if I could recall him in any way, I thought about this assignment.  I looked on Post-gazette.com and sure enough, there was a breaking news article.  It’s short and states that there was an accident and injuries were involved.  The headline, however, was that the road was reopening.  I thought this headline was a little cold, almost as if to say, “These people crashed their car on a busy road which was an inconvenience to us all.  Thank God it’s open again.”  But, I do think the reason for this headline is just to report the facts.  The newspaper is trying not to speculate too much at this early stage, so instead they are just reporting the straight fact that the road is now open.  I look forward to the new developments on this story that are sure to come.


     "State gets first doses of swine flu vaccine"

     My second story is about the state receiving the H1N1 virus vaccination.  I figure that as the vaccination spreads out all over the state, especially in our area, there will be follow-ups telling us about the people who get it, possibly the rush to get it (the lines).  In this article, Allegheny County (the county in which I live and the news paper is based) had not received any doses of the vaccine.

*Check out the new developments of Day 2 on my next blog 

*Skip the middle and go straight to the conclusion.



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