Friday, September 28, 2007

Courier adviser, teacher makes Nevada HoF

Western Courier adviser Rich Moreno this month was one of four people honored by the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame.

The former publisher of Nevada magazine, author of seven books about Nevada, and a travel/history columnist for Nevada newspapers, Moreno is completing his next book, Nevada Curiosities and maintaining his blog, The Backyard Traveler [].

Here's the entire story from the University of Nevada Reno --

Cal State journo chair ousted

A followup to a Bulldog Edition posting from Western Courier adviser Rich Moreno about the idea that colleges dump student newspapers in favor of online editions comes from the Long Beach Press Telegram, which reported that Cal State Long Beach journalism chair William Babcock was removed from his position after criticizing his college dean's suggestion to eliminate print editions of the Daily Forty-Niner there.

Read the whole news story here --

Embedded and bedded: newsman as slut

Stephen Fournier in his blog Current Invective posted an essay that makes timely decades-old press criticisms similar to those expressed by George Seldes (Lords of the Press) and especially Upton Sinclair (The Brass Check). It's a screed worth digesting --

The permanently embedded commercial media are embedded in the agencies of government as a stone is embedded in soil. They are also bedded by the agents of government as a whore is bedded to accommodate a paying client.

Modern reporters are paid to gain access to government officials (among other important people). Aware that the reporter’s attention could present an opportunity to influence the public, the official, in return for the grant of access, lets the reporter know what can and can’t be reported. Transgress, and the door slams shut.

Making a deal to censor at the direction of a source is an act of prostitution. The transaction is contrary to principle and both parties are compromised by it, just as the sex act is debased for both participants when money changes hands.

If you’ve ever wondered why the embedded media typically excuse government officials from public accountability, reporters’ habitual acts of prostitution afford a ready explanation. Utter a truthful word, and you’re exiled, left to nose around for stray bits of news like a pig for a truffle. As reporters used to do.

Journalistic prostitution would be fine if the reporter’s job were to shape public opinion in line with the needs of government officials, as it is in totalitarian states. But in a republic like ours the reporter’s job is to inform, and sacrificing factual reporting in exchange for access is just plain un-American.

That’s why news-consumers should be alert to acts of prostitution by reporters. When reading a report about Al Anbar province, for example, the news consumer would be foolish to assume that any of the information was gathered first-hand. More likely, the reporter is delivering a self-serving press release from the government, retyped with an occasional personal flourish from the safety of a bureau in Amman or Doha.

From the White House to City Hall, the reporter who refuses to deliver the press release loses access to the source. The rest are duly bedded and embedded, and, often enough, they won’t even advise you of imminent dangers. How safe is that bridge, that mine, that building, that drug, that car? Don’t rely on the embedded media to tell you. The reporter and the regulator are browsing at the same buffet. Whores.

With this in mind, it becomes possible to sift through what’s presented as fact, isolating rumors, prognostications and opinions, rejecting self-serving declarations, and pinpointing factual deficiencies and inconsistencies. It’s a discouraging way to read the news, but in a failed state like ours, in which newsrooms are staffed by embedded libertines, that’s the way it is.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

How to be a journalism student

Briton Paul Bradshaw of Online Journalism Blog has posted a wise and witty Top 10 list or journalism majors. It's right on the mark.

1. Read the news. Amazingly, some journalism students don’t read newspapers. I don’t know why they want to write news, but chances are they won’t if they don’t read it. And, yes, that means newspapers, in print or online. For the most part, newspapers dictate the news agenda that broadcast news and magazines then follow. But, yes, watch television news and listen to radio news as well, and read magazines. And do all of this often, and do it critically.

2. Forget you have an opinion. Do you think anyone cares what you think about the condition of trains? Or Genetically Modified food? Or bullying? Unless you are writing an opinion column (which is unlikely) or a review, remain objective.* Think of yourself as a marriage counselor: Ask the questions and let your sources do the talking.

3. Know the difference between news and features. News is new information. It is succinct and to the point -- remember the inverted pyramid. Features typically come later, and tend to explore background/history, different angles, case studies/interviews, analysis, trends, and so on of a topical issue. If you’re asked to write a news story, do just that. Don’t write an essay.

4. Make contacts. Contacts are vital to your work as a journalist -- not only should they be able to tip you off to what’s happening, they will also be a quick and reliable port of call when you need a quote or verification. Contacts are what get you the stories, and flesh them out. From a local vicar to the spokesperson for the Vintage Motorcycle Club, start adding them to a little black book (and spreadsheet), and start making phonecalls now: “Anything happening?”

5. Get a life! Journalists generally report about a particular area -- politics, sport, the environment, science, health, education, communities, religion, technology, motoring, finance, etc. If you haven’t picked an area, pick one, and start getting involved -- join organizations, attend meetings, go to events, do things and talk to people. Stories don’t come with a convenient label: you need to be able to spot them -- while experiences can make for great material.

6. Don’t sit around waiting for an e-mail reply. People can ignore e-mails, and they generally do. A phone call is much harder to ignore, and you’ll get more than a one-line reply. Learn to use the phone.

7. Learn how to spell. Andrew Dubber of New Music Strategies makes this point about students generally, but for a journalist correct spelling and grammar says everything about your professionalism. Whether you intend to write for a textual medium or not, a badly spelled resume or poorly constructed script will not get you that job.

8. Be open to new experiences. So you’re interested in music. That’s nice, but if you think you’re going to land your first job on New Musical Express, you’re deluded. A journalist should be prepared to write about anything, and a good journalist should be able to do it with creativity and curiosity. One former colleague had jobs writing about technology, education and cars before she landed her dream job on a women’s magazine -- it’s par for the course. But it’s not a bad thing: It’s one of the best things about journalism! Don’t say you want to see the world but then complain when you have to go to Djibouti.

9. Read books!! Books give you two things: an understanding of the possibilities of language and storytelling; and an expansion of your knowledge of the world. Whether you’re reading an autobiography of Che Guevara or Day of The Triffids; a recent history of Africa or Tale of Two Cities; a popular science book or Hamlet, it makes you more interesting to potential employers; it gives you more ideas to play with; and it broadens your horizons.

10. Know what you want to get out of this -- and chase it. A degree alone is not going to get you a job; your ability to write and research, your knowledge, and your ability to market yourself and network will be key. You must be motivated to study hard, and in order to be motivated, you must have a motivation, i.e. you must know what the reward is -- exposing corruption? becoming editor of the Guardian? Sitting next to Paris Hilton? Then, you must be motivated to do more than study. Get work experience; start a fanzine, or a web site, or a blog. Use Facebook to network. Go to events. Send off work. Pitch ideas to editors.

* Note: don’t mistake objectivity for presenting both sides equally - particularly where science is involved. Global warming, the MMR jab, and various other stories have heavy scientific consensus on one side, so don’t fall into the trap of presenting both arguments as if they have equal weight.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

MSM should attribute like blogs do

Jeff Jarvis at BuzzMachine equates supporting journalism "at its source" with crediting "competitors" and also are colleagues in the trade.

"Link unto others as you'd wish they'd link unto you," he quips.

He critizes not just Google and online packages of news that don't fully cite sources, but problems with and by the Associated Press.

Read his short but snappy essay here --

Poynter's NewsU surveys 'censorship' on Constitution Day

The First Amendment can't be considered safe or strong at the high school level, according to Vicki at NewsU, a service of the Poynter Institute for Media Studies.

Prior review and even what she calls censorship is increasingly commonn, and almost 75% of high schoolers aren't sure how they feel about the First Amendment.

Read her whole post here --

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Interesting idea

Rachele Kanigel, assistant professor of journalism at San Francisco State University, and advisor to the Golden Gate Xpress campus paper, reports on her weblog, Student Newspaper Survival Blog, that a Los Angeles Times web editor is urging student newspapers to convert from printed versions to online-only publishing. According to her September 16, 2007 entry:

A Los Angeles Times editor challenged student newspaper editors from around California to "stop killing trees" and try online-only publishing.

"Kill your paper," Sean Gallagher, the's managing editor for section development, told about 60 college newspapers editors who gathered at UCLA Saturday for an editors training session sponsored by the California College Media Association. "Stop publishing your print paper."

He suggested student newspapers "take the money from dead trees and put it into training."

Student journalists, Gallagher said, need to develop skills in database building, Flash, multimedia reporting and other new media tools.

Gallagher's presentation, "Getting Serious About Your Web Site," was one of half a dozen sessions at the fourth annual College Editors Boot Camp, sponsored by the California College Media Association, a statewide organization of four-year college media organizations and journalism programs. The organization also sponsored a daylong training for student newspaper ad salespeople on Saturday.

Gallagher urged the student editors to think about the visual side of storytelling and to find ways to interact with readers.

"That old model of us to them, it's dead," he said. "Now it's about blogs, Flash, other multimedia presentations."

Among the ideas he presented for student newspapers to try:
* Set up message boards. "You'll see there are topics (readers) want to talk about and some they don't."

* Run capsule reviews in print. Tease to the full reviews online.

* Post useful information online. He suggested things like bus schedules, gym hours, where to buy tickets for student performances. "It goes back to local, local, local."

* Post stories on the Web first. "A lot of people say, 'Don't put it on the Web yet, I want that in print first.' It's that print mentality you need to throw off. It's gone."

* Set up flat screen monitors around campus. Once they're in cafeterias, student lounges and other student gathering spots you can display the college newspaper Web site on them, giving you a captive audience.

* Sell online sponsorships. Invite advertisers to sponsor podcasts of an on-campus lecture series or other special features.

* Take on a database project. One example: get the office hours of all the professors on campus and monitor whether the profs show up. Publish the results in a searchable database. "That would be a great resource for the campus."

* Send out e-mail alerts.

* Look for student experts. Even if you don't know how to build a database or design a flash presentation, you can learn from other students who do. "There are people on your campus who have the knowledge. They want to be able to put it on their resume, 'I built this Web site.' They want to say to a potential employer, 'I did this graphic.'

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

'Watchdogs, not lapdogs'

Network television newscasts are no more informative than Comedy Central's "Daily Show," according to research announced at a recent event in Indiana, where the editor of The Nation magazine commented about these "perilous times."

"We're getting US Weekly fed to us like bad heroin," said Katrina vanden Heuvel. "We need watchdogs, not lapdogs."

Indiana assistant professor Julie Fox studied coverage of the 2004 election campaign, comparing Jon Stewart's "fake news" and network TV.

"I found them equally substantive," she said, "which is to say, not very substantive at all."

For Jonathan Hiskes full article on the event, go here --

Thursday, September 6, 2007

WIU J-students interned this summer

The Journalism program in the summer of 2006 had more newsroom interns than ever.

Shown above outside the Western Courier's complex in the Heating Plant Annex in the south-central area of campus are, left to right, Sarah Cash (Central Illinois Business Publishers), Rob Arroyo (Macomb Eagle), Kyle Moss (central Illinois' Times newspaper group), Drew Thomason (Mahomet Citizen), Ryan Ferguson (Pekin Daily Times) and Ben Snowden (Canton Daily Ledger).

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Whoopie! Fantastic!

Illinois' governor, Rod Blagojevich, signed the College Campus Press Act sometime last week. It was included in a press release dated Aug. 31 that was made available to the media today.

The law will take effect Jan. 1, 2008, and it automatically makes every student newspaper at every public college and university in the state a "designated public forum." What that means, in general, is that the administrations at those schools cannot block stories or issues ahead of time. Stuent editors are in complete control of the decision-making about content. And it should be pointed out that paid advisers (sometimes faculty, sometimes staff members in student activities offices, etc.) are among the "administrators" who should leave the content decisions to student particpants in campus media.

Of course, student editors will make errors in judgment (personally, I think the "swingset beer bong" photograph and accompanying caption in the Courier recently was a significant error in judgment), but college media experiences ARE learning experiences! We learn from our mistakes.

The College Campus Press Act was created because, in 2000, a dean at Governors State near Chicago stopped the printing of the school's paper until she could review all of its contents first. A federal appeals court ruling in 2005 seemed to give other schools the go-ahead to do the same under certain conditions, and the U.S. Supreme Court in 2006 failed to take the case and "right this wrong." This legislation is Illinois' way of righting this wrong. And I say "whoopee!"