Archive for July, 2011
Page One: Inside the New York Times – Blog Party
Page One: Inside The New York Times is filmmaker Andrew Rossi’s intriguing behind-the-scenes documentary following journalists of the New York Times Media Desk, a department focused on covering the transformation of print media by the rapid growth of digital media.
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Have you seen Page One? What did you think of them film? What do you think the future of journalism will look like? Did the film change you perceptions in any way?
For the next few weeks, we will be hosting a Page One blog party! Join in the discussion, and we’ll post a link to your blog on InSites.
How does this work?
Simply write a blog post, and tweet about it, using the #pageoneparty hashtag. As soon as we see your tweet, we’ll post a link to your blog on InSites. Not on Twitter? No problem, just email a link to your post to moc.mmocnavnull@enalc.
We’ll be live tweeting all day on our @VanComm account.
Haven’t seen Page One yet? Check your local showtimes here.
Blog Party Posts:
- Andrew Overton - Can WikiLeaks Save Investigative Reporting?
- Jane Tobler – Nevermind Page One, could they update the masthead on page two?
- Brenda Foster – Journalism: A Degree of Distinction
- Stephanie Dukes – Living Page One
- Helen Mitternight – News is Dead! Long Live News!
- Leah Holmes-Bonilla – What Was Missing from Page One?
- Sarim Ngo – Will Journalism Survive– No, Maybe, Yes??
- Bernardo León – Page One: Manufacturing Consent Part II and Rene Descartes
Will Journalism Survive – No, Maybe, Yes??
After watching The Killing Fields, a film highlighting aspects of New York Times reporter Sydney Schanberg’s coverage of the war in Cambodia, I longed to be an international correspondent. The power and importance of the truth compelled me to the nomadic and sometimes dangerous lifestyle that usually leaves many single and comforted by cheap cigarettes and whiskey. If it weren’t for reporters like Schanberg, who knows if we would have found out about the Nixon Administration’s involvement in bombing parts of Cambodia.
Getting a chance to watch Page One: Inside the New Times, a documentary by Andrew Rossi, with my public relations colleagues this past week reignited my passion for journalism. Rossi and his camera crew gained unprecedented access to The New York Times newsroom and the inner workings of the media desk. The documentary chronicles the transformation of the media industry and highlights the New York Times’ own struggles to stay current and afloat, while their reporters and editors stayed true to their critical civic role of providing the public with informative and accurate news.
I will admit it was quite emotional for me to watch, as the movie touched on issues that drove me away from the industry before I even started my professional career, but it also focused on the fundamental reasons why I was drawn to journalism in the first place. I thought I was one of the luckier kids growing up because I knew since high school that I wanted to be a journalist. Instead of watching music videos and TV sitcoms, I would watch the nightly news. I was enticed by news. There was something erotic to me about uncovering truth and bringing it to light for members of the public to form their own judgment and opinion. Furthermore, journalism seemed gratifying because it would allow me to provide public service, interact with the public on the community level and sit down in front of my computer only when I was ready to write my story.
However, my dream slowly began to shatter as the recession hit and the newspaper industry began to go through a metamorphosis while I was still in college. After interning at a few newspapers, including The Wilmington News Journal and Daily Collegian, my college paper, and talking to many seasoned journalists, I quickly took a detour in career paths. Massive newsroom layoffs, predictions that printed newspapers may die because of lack of print advertisements revenue and assumptions that printed newspapers will soon be replaced by digital delivery methods made me question if journalism was a good fit for me. I was scared out of my mind. But as I watched the film, I was grateful to see reporters like David Carr vouch that the New York Times will continue to thrive despite the changing landscape. News is inevitable and civic journalism is imperative for any democracy to function.
The film made me realized that yes, we have not found a Holy Grail or silver bullet that can finance newspapers transformation, but just as journalists learned to adapt to the onset of the printing press, radio, and television, they will also learn to survive the onset of digital platforms. The concept of a “newspaper” will change overtime, but the desire, want and need from the public to receive credible information will continue to be timely. The film made me appreciate the freedom that we have to speak out against injustice and wrongdoings even if it’s about our own government. As for my dream of becoming an international correspondent, it will continue to be a dream for now. But no one really knows where life might take them. Maybe one day, you might read a blog post from me reporting from the outskirts of Somalia.
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What Was Missing from Page One?
I was fascinated by Page One: Inside The New York Times, a documentary on the business and reporting of The New York Times. But the film reminded me that the outlet is profoundly lacking with its still very one dimensional reporting of the news, or, more accurately, its monolingual reporting of the news. I would hope that the NYT of the future would take some tips from EFE, a multimedia news company with a network of journalists worldwide – more than 3,000 professionals of 60 nationalities working 24 hours a day in over 181 cities in 120 countries.
From its world network of bureaus and correspondents’ offices, EFE instantaneously offers the Spanish and Latin American view of the world in Spanish, Portuguese, English, Arabic, Catalan and Galician. After Chinese, Spanish, English and Arabic are the most popular languages in the world. I wonder, if the NYT were to take a page from EFE’s approach, would they fare better as journalists and business people by reaching the broadest possible audience? Aside from improving their cultural competence (and relevance), it might actually enhance their long-term bottom line.
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News is Dead! Long Live News!
If you ever get into an accident, you’d better hope that the emergency room has a great triage system so they can prioritize your wounds and treat the most serious, not just the first one that catches their eye.
I thought of that after watching a fabulous documentary, Page One: Inside The New York Times, where some argue passionately that traditional journalism has gone the way of the dinosaurs. Why wade through process, they argue, when Twitter will inform you more quickly. And, if citizens are functioning as de facto reporters, why pay for journalists? We all want information quicker. So when newspaper after newspaper tumbles, it’s just evolution, right?
That was when I thought of the emergency room. Because I don’t just want to be treated quickly, I want to be treated efficiently. And I don’t want all of my information quick, I want some of it weighed and prioritized.
I love Twitter, and Facebook is one of my favorite ways to keep up with old friends. But it made me steam a bit when some in the documentary seemed to cheer at toppling the venerable New York Times and all other “gray ladies” of the newspaper industry, and I don’t think it’s just because I started my career as a reporter.
The “out with the old” crowd proponents say that the news should be a free market, with the crowd determining what gets top billing, and what gets covered as news. That sounds like a fabulous argument, except many in the crowd would rather watch Casey Anthony get tried for murder or Justin Timberlake bring his sexy back than focus on things that will affect their daily life, like taxes, the environment or health care. And, speaking of health care, if we crowd-sourced that, we would focus on the quick fix of a pill or a shot to patch up symptoms because that is what people want when they go to their doctor, not the hard truth that what they need to do is make preventive lifestyle changes.
In health care the prevailing wisdom is becoming to focus on prevention to inoculate society against expensive health costs later on; I wish there was some way to offer a vaccine to prevent short-sightedness on important matters like current events. If so all the “gray ladies” could flourish.
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Living Page One
I knew very little about Andrew Rossi’s documentary Page One: Inside the New York Times when I sat down in an E Street Cinema theater to see it with a group of my colleagues. But I quickly discovered that Page One gives an unprecedented look at the inner workings of the Times’ legendary newsroom at a time in which the newspaper industry is experiencing incredible upheaval. Reports of once proud publications falling like dominoes were a monthly occurrence.
Within minutes of watching the film, my mind raced back three years to the summer that I left the news business. I was a broadcast journalist, not a print reporter. But those of us in TV battled the same demons that plagued the newspaper reporters with whom we rubbed shoulders every day. Thousands of us nationwide were being let go too. Your status as a respected, experienced or even award-winning journalist could not save you. Shrinking advertising dollars, increasing profit demands and an outdated business model eventually caught up to everyone. Unlike too many of my friends, I wasn’t laid off. But, in a sense, I was pushed out. The demons were generating news content that I didn’t feel good about anymore. We were required to report more stories with fewer resources every day. It seemed to me that the stories themselves were increasingly shallow, sensational and insufficient at addressing the community’s most critical issues. Even worse, advertisers were gaining a uncomfortable influence over the way we covered the news.
Page One reminds me that even the midst of the industry’s most disturbing realities and my own disappointments about its direction, many news organizations are still trying to be what I believe they’re supposed to be. Talented journalists are still trying to report the important stories. They’re still trying to get the story right. They’re still trying to be thorough. They’re still trying to hold our leaders accountable. Now that my job is to convince journalists to cover the stories that truly matter to our society’s well being, these reminders are reassuring.
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Journalism: A Degree of Distinction
Late last week, a headline from our local “Patch” news service caught my attention – Police: Group of Teens Cause $1,500 in Damage at General’s Ridge Golf Course. I opened the story expecting to find names and ages attached to the accusation, but there were none. In fact, other than a description that the individuals were shirtless and had a dog with them, there were no other details that had been confirmed. The perpetrators haven’t yet been identified or caught. So how do we know they are teenagers? They could be 20 years old – or 40. For that matter, how do we even know the dog was a German Shepherd? Yet these details were reported as fact. Is there any danger in assigning an age label to crime suspects when they haven’t yet been caught, let alone accused? Would it have been just as acceptable to report their race or religion?
It’s been quite a few years since I matriculated from Penn State with a journalism degree, but I still remember the endless days of sitting in class picking apart real headlines and leads for any sign of bias. Not only did we look at our own work, we examined the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times. Sometimes it seemed impossible to find ethics issues in products from such venerated media outlets, but we dug until we did. Now I don’t have to look far at all for instances of ethical breaches and bias, and I often feel very alone in my need to pay attention to such details. Does the rest of the world just accept this new era of “anything goes” reporting?
A recent after-work viewing of Page One: Inside The New York Times cemented the nagging feeling that it’s not just newspapers that are disappearing, it’s the care and commitment to accurate, factual reporting that they represent. From All the President’s Men to The Paper, our culture has tried to emphasize the importance of getting it right, even at the expense of getting it second. Now those films, and that sentiment, seem naive and nostalgic. I mean, we’re all reporters, right? I can post whatever I want on Facebook or Twitter, and it can be seen around the world in a matter of minutes. Of course, if we could count on each other for accurate, first-person accounts, it would mean that Natalie Portman, George Clooney and even William Hung are all dead – because Twitter said so.
This month, the practice of journalism was further rocked by allegations that NewsCorps-owned outlets invaded the voicemail accounts of several British citizens, including a young murder victim and relatives of fallen soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan. There is plenty of outrage around the situation, but will it finally wake up the public enough to demand a return to the ethics and standards that were once a hallmark of reporting?
The irony is not lost on me that I am writing this piece as a public relations professional rather than a currently working journalist. Like so many of my wide-eyed fellow journalism graduates, my picture of traveling the world to uncover scandal and save lives was far from the reality of fast-food wages and hours spent rewriting stories on a local fight over back lit awnings. However, I’ve never set aside those basic journalism ethics in my PR work. As a communicator for social change, I often have an opportunity to pass along critical information that can help reporters investigate their own stories. I know it’s in my and my clients’ best interests for those journalists to be fair, accurate and unbiased – even if the results are not as flattering as I would like. I know that once the line is breached – whether or not it’s on behalf of my cause – it’s hard to cross back to the other side.
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Nevermind Page One, could they update the masthead on page two?
Unlike the mythical “shot heard ‘round the world,” which began the American Revolution, the news revolution began quietly with a little thing called the Internet. The Internet has completely changed the way we consume news—and I do mean consume. We read, comment, Digg, tweet, retweet, retreat, or re-think based on what our friends have emailed to us or posted on their Facebook pages.
Page One: Inside the New York Times is a close look at how that media giant has dealt with these changes. It is a fascinating movie — and not only because I learned that reporters who I pitched stories to in days long passed now hold positions of power there. In fact, several lived in my rolodex for years. (Yeah, I wrote rolodex. Check your history books for it.)
What apparently hasn’t changed during this media revolution are women’s roles and prominence in the newsroom. At the twice-daily editorial meetings, where the editors select what front page stories to run, I kept waiting for the camera to pan out to show the rest of the women, besides Jill Abramson, seated at the table. Didn’t happen.
They did show several women packing their things in boxes after accepting early buy-outs during a large cutback. Bye-bye, women at the New York Times. There was also some in-depth coverage of former Times writer Judith Miller and her reporting that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. The stories turned out to be false, but many believe she fueled the fire for the Iraq War.
Overall, I felt the movie was great. It even made me think that paying for news content on the Internet might not be so bad after all. As it turns out, the Times is promoting Abramson to the Executive Editor position, the first female to ever hold that title. Is this the start of another chapter in the revolution?
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Can WikiLeaks Save Investigative Reporting?
There’s a very compelling scene in the film “Page One,” where Brian Stelter is chasing a story on WikiLeaks and its impact on journalism. Stelter calls WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange for comment on their latest leak, a video of a U.S. air attack in Baghdad. The conversation that ensues reveals a great deal about the evolving nature of journalism:
STELTER: There’s a traditional definition of journalism that is objective, never breaking the law to obtain content. Do you view yourself as trying to achieve that definition?
ASSANGE: Journalism is just a tool. We use a tool to get to the goal.
STELTER (interrupting): And tell me what the goal is.
ASSANGE: Broadly, our goal is justice.
This is a very important distinction. A free press is the cornerstone of a free and functioning democracy. However, WikiLeaks dances on that shrinking divide between journalism and activism. Fifty years ago, print newspapers had the budget to hire full staffs with many well-trained investigative reporters, but with print journalism tanking, muckrakers have new standard bearers — WikiLeaks, ProPublica and blogs like Talking Points Memo. None of these websites fall in the traditional mold of investigative reporting.
WikiLeaks simply provides classified information to the public for their consumption, but offers no analysis; ProPublica is an independent, non-profit that produces investigative journalism for the public interest; and Talking Points Memo, despite its ambitious investigative reporting efforts, has a clear liberal agenda.
In “Page One” when Stelter is breaking the WikiLeaks story, his boss, the media desk editor Bruce Headlam, comments on this monumental moment, “Clearly it’s great for journalism in some ways because then it’s out there. It’s kind of this collision of two worlds — this closed, old world of expertise and classification, information and privacy, and this new world just wants to crack it all open.”
This new world is very scary for those of us, like myself, who clutch to our “gray lady” newspapers. For years, doomsayers have been predicting the death of print journalism as the end of investigative reporting. Tweets and opinion pieces are great, but lack substance, they say. While I fear the day that the Times publishes its last print issue (and I will see it in my lifetime), the success of WikiLeaks, ProPublica, and investigative blogs offer me hope that in-depth reporting can survive in this evolving media climate — investigative journalism just has to evolve, too.
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In Memoriam: Betty Ford, First Lady of Social Change Persuasive Storytelling
Living in the era of “Intervention” and “Celebrity Rehab” reality TV shows and pink ribbons for breast cancer awareness, it’s hard to remember there was a time when society viewed seeking treatment for addiction as shameful and battles with breast cancer were kept secret.
Former First Lady Betty Ford, who passed away on Friday at the age of 93, changed that. During this time of mourning, we remember her as a masterful communicator who used persuasive storytelling to educate the public about critical social issues, such as addiction and breast cancer awareness.
By publicly sharing her own struggles with alcoholism, Ford began to lift the curtain of stigma for people and their families dealing with substance use and addiction disorders. Her courage to openly talk about her own challenges and hope for recovery empowered others to face, and treat, their own addiction issues as well.
While in the White House, she would answer reporters’ questions candidly about drugs, sex and other social topics perceived as taboo. Following the Ford presidency, she founded and served as the first chairwoman of the board of directors of the Betty Ford Center for substance abuse and addiction, which started the movement for similar facilities to open around the country, offering patients and their families the hope of recovery. She reinforced the belief that if the First Lady of the United States could successfully receive treatment at a rehabilitation clinic, then the average person could seek recovery too.
After undergoing a mastectomy for breast cancer shortly after becoming First Lady, Ford’s openness about her surgery and illness raised the visibility of breast cancer, a disease that few Americans were comfortable talking about at the time. She understood the power of using her own story to get news headlines and create a more inclusive, open dialogue about these pressing social issues.
Upon learning of her death, former President George H.W. Bush in a statement said of Ford:
No one confronted life’s struggles with more fortitude or honesty, and as a result, we all learned from the challenges she faced. The Betty Ford Center, which already has helped change the lives of thousands of people, will be her lasting legacy of care and concern.
President Bush is right; Betty Ford used her life as a classroom and demonstrated that sometimes the most persuasive argument for change is one drawn from personal experiences. When communicators share life lessons this personal, passionate and honest as Ford did, we give social issues a human face and voice.
If we’re lucky and follow her model, we too can hopefully change a few lives for the better. Hers is a powerful legacy laid by an extraordinary communicator.
Bebe Moore Campbell: Mental Health Motivator
“As I grow older, part of my emotional survival plan must be to actively seek inspiration instead of passively waiting for it to find me.”
― Bebe Moore Campbell
Bebe Moore Campbell was a New York Times best-selling author and mental health advocate.
Born on February 18, 1950 in Philadelphia, Campbell earned a bachelor’s degree in elementary education from the University of Pittsburgh then taught school in Atlanta for several years before embarking on a career as a freelance journalist.
Critics began to take note of her skills as an author with the publication of her 1992 novel, Your Blues Ain’t Like Mine. The novel was named Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times and won the NAACP Image Award for Literature. Campbell went on to write three New York Times bestsellers: Brothers and Sisters, Singing in the Comeback Choir and What You Owe Me, which was also the Los Angeles Times best book of 2001. Through her work, Campbell sought to counter stereotypes of African-Americans as people who are socially and economically marginal. Her novels were known for their broad appeal to African-American and Caucasian audiences.
Campbell also wrote two picture books for children, Stompin’ at the Savoy and Sometimes My Mommy Gets Angry. The latter was inspired by her interest in mental health and received the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI) Outstanding Literature Award. Campbell was a member of NAMI and a founding member of NAMI – Inglewood. Campbell became a visible spokeswoman on mental health issues with the publication of her 2005 novel, 72 Hour Hold, about a mother struggling to help her 18-year-old daughter who suffers from a bipolar disorder.
Campbell died from brain cancer on November 27, 2006 when she was just 56, but her legacy will forever be cemented as an author who challenged cultural stereotypes and brought important stories about mental illness to the forefront of national conversations.