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Posts Tagged ‘reporting’

This Handy Tool Separates Journalism from Press Releases

Everyone has been in contact with lazy journalism — whether its one article looking a bit too full of market-speak or a group of articles using the same descriptive terms — but it’s always been very difficult to suss out whether it’s a coincidence or a purposeful cut-and-paste job. Sunlight Foundation, a non-profit focusing on governmental transparency, has decided to tackle the problem head-on with its new website, Churnalism.

If you think a particular article looks, well, suspicious, simply paste the link’s URL or  the text directly into Churnalism’s free scanner (or add on a free browser extension) and the tool will match phrases to press releases within its database. The tool scans through many popular PR hubs, including PR Newswire and MarketWire, and it has also revealed it can grab text from Wikipedia and the US government’s websites. You can compare the article side-by-side and see what was lifted from source material — and whether it’s taken out of context.

Check out the video on Churnalism below. Read more

Are Email Interviews That Bad? Yes.

Email me your questions and I’ll get back to you.

It’s the journalistic equivalent of “your source is just not that into you.”

It’s no secret that politicians, big shot business execs, or even the PTO presidents running a car wash fundraiser don’t want to sound silly in print. We all know that the current trend of quote approval is a slippery slope to selling out. But is conducting an email interview the same thing?

Poynter reported this week that many universities are  banning email interviews for campus newspapers. The rationale is that email interviews allow for implicit quote approval – the interviewee has full control of their answer, polishing their responses – and that the email format inhibits the search for truth, best found in face-to-face interviews, or at least over the phone.

It’s nice that universities are banning email interviews; it puts the value back into the act of journalism, something that’s nice to instill in journalism students. It also seems like they were finally fed up with their own universities’ public relations staff — something I can relate to. Have you ever tried to get an interview with a university president about their endowment? They’re worse than actual politicians.

I, however, am torn, because I have used email interviews to compose a story and I admit: I sort of liked it. 

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Andy Carvin of NPR Shares Wisdom On Reddit

The rapid rise of the online social community Reddit has born out a phenomenon that has captured a large swath of the Internet: the “Ask Me Anything” or AmA. Everyone from Icelandic indie band Sigur Ros to President Barack Obama has hopped onto Reddit to answer user questions about their lives, their dreams and their goals. It’s a growing medium for communities to connect to a heretofore unreachable public figure, and every once in a while it creates a major teaching moment.

That happened today when NPR’s Andy Carvin —  a senior strategist and reporter whose work on the Arab Spring, primarily through his Twitter account @acarvin, led the Washington Post to call him a “one-man Twitter news Bureau” — dispensed helpful advice about digital journalism and production on stories that occur thousands of miles away. His hour-long AMA gave great insights into his own reporting style, and the toll of covering the Arab Spring.

Here’s a roundup of some of the highlights.

On Authenticating Video

The most import thing to do is look for context. Is there something visible in the background that can be IDed, like a building or other landmark? If people are speaking, what kind of accents do they have? If there are weapons involved, what kinds are they? Does the timestamp of the video match the weather forecast, or the location of the sun and shadows? Etc, etc. Fortunately, I have a lot of Twitter followers who love this type of detective work. Read more

Tweeting a Tragedy: 5 Things to Remember When News Breaks

When news breaks, Twitter goes on overdrive.

When news broke about the tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut last month, those on Twitter were some of the first to hear about death counts and momentum in the investigation. We all know Twitter is one of the best tools for engaging with a story, but as the news unfolded, so did the corrections. It’s a good time to reflect on some best practices for reporting on Twitter. As we come upon the one month anniversary mark for Sandy Hook and deal with new tragedies this week like the hostage situtation at a Los Angeles mall to a ferry accident in the East River, here are five things to keep in mind when big news breaks.

1. Facebook Is Not Your Friend

Most corrections resulted from faulty Facebook searches for the alleged shooter. Even as law enforcement insisted they had yet to confirm the identity of the shooter, news organizations like The Huffington Post, Gawker, Buzzfeed and even cable news organizations began posting pictures of Ryan Lanza. And they were all wrong.

Facebook has never been championed for its search capabilities. Despite the fact that Facebook’s speciality is connecting, it’s often easier to Google someone for their Facebook profile than it is to use the social network’s search bar. Even a simple search for your best friend’s rather particular name can turn up over three pages of results. You’re a reporter, not Sherlock Holmes. Use Facebook for clues, but don’t bet on the fact there is only one name per city when news breaks.

2. Read Your Retweets

We’ve written about the dangers of relying on retweets as a journalism strategy. But the fact that a lot of users are retweeting without clicking through doesn’t mean you should, too. News is breaking but take the time to read the articles before you click. Most times, the wrong information passes quicker than the correction. Retweet responsibly.

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Basic Tech Tips For Journalists: Filter Out Email Overload

There’s a fine line between spam email and PR pitches when it comes to emails that land in reporters inboxes. Both of them can inundate the receiver and slow them from finding or seeing important messages.

As a reporter and blogger, I can’t even begin to count the number of misdirected and unhelpful messages I’ve had to wade through to find the actual messages that are relevant. I know I’m not alone when I get the umpteeth email about an event or release on legislation states and topics far away from anything I have covered or would ever cover. (Dear PR folk, it’s even more annoying when you misspell my name.) But it happens all the time, both on my work and personal email. Sometimes, these are just an influx of emails from an agency or group I want to receive messages from, such as the state Attorney General or New York Times, but that I don’t necessarily need to see immediately. Often, however, the messages totally miss the target and come from groups I’ve never heard of and certainly never signed up for.

I wanted to give some quick advice on how to make these messages more manageable. In a word? Filters. These will help move those less important messages out of your inbox and to the trash or to a folder for later perusal. I personally use Outlook (2012 on a Mac) and Gmail, so that’s what I’m going to explain here. However, most email programs and sites allow some form of filtering or rules, so the mechanics will be different, but the general idea should be similar.
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