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SPJ - Quill Headlines

SPJ Delivers Today's Media News

Copyright: Copyright 2006 Society of Professional Journalists

It's time for SPJ to go public

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

"Seek truth and report it." What a challenge those five words have proved to be.

Figures in government at all levels are making it harder to find, let alone report, the truth. And elected officials have found it easy to scream “Fake news!” at coverage that clashes with their social and political beliefs.

Not all the news for journalists is bad. More Americans say they have a “great deal” or “quite a lot” of confidence in newspapers than they did last year, according to a Gallup poll releas...

Member Profile: Hilde Lysiak

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Hilde Lysiak made national news a few years ago when she broke a hometown homicide story in her newspaper, the Orange Street News. Named after the street she lives on, the Orange Street News is a family production, led by Lysiak. Now, she’s writing books in addition to reporting and publishing the only monthly newspaper in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania — and she’s only 10 years old.

SPJ s...

Bruce Sanford honored with Wells Memorial Key

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Recognizing this year’s Wells Memorial Key winner, Bruce W. Sanford, was an honor far overdue – as illustrated by the unprecedented 34 current and past leaders who signed his nomination letter.

While most members might not know Sanford, the BakerHostetler partner has been a central figure in the Society of Professional Journalists’ advocacy efforts since November 1980, when he began as the...

Ten: with David Fahrenthold

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post reporter David Fahrenthold has covered a wide variety of topics in his 17 years at the newspaper. Like many journalists, he started as an intern before becoming a night cops reporter. He has since reported on the Washington, D.C., police, the environment New England region.

His first stab at a political beat began on Election Day 2010, when a new wa...

Reimagining access rights under the First Amendment

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

We are living through an anti-openness renaissance.

In June, on the eve of the special election in the Georgia Six, as it came to be known, Democratic candidate Jon Ossoff excluded a reporter for the conservative Washington Free Beacon from a campaign event, while Republican candidate Karen Handel gave the same treatment to a reporter for the liberal site ThinkProgress.

In May, President Donald Trump did not hold a single press conference during a nine-day trip to Europe and the Middle Ea...

Fixing FOI: Big ideas for a new era of transparency

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Bring in the cats and dogs, and batten down the hatches: The forecast for government transparency calls for increasing clouds with a chance of heavy storms.

This year the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation commissioned me to study the state of freedom of information in the United States, where it’s going and what can be done to improve it. The first phase of the report, issued in March during National Sunshine Week, relied on a survey of 228 journalists and FOI experts, along with interv...

Leveraging the predictive power of FOIA data

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

In 2010, when we started MuckRock, a non-profit website that helps newsrooms and journalists around the country file and track public records requests, one of our big bets was that if you filed a lot of FOIA requests, you’d get better at it. And if you carefully organized and archived all the data around what worked and what didn’t, computers could help you get even better, uncovering insights into the process that humans might miss.

In the abstract, the idea — practice makes perfect — is not...

New Ohio records law a good start, but holes remain

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

“Wait, what?” That was my initial reaction when I thumbed through the supposed fulfillment of my public records request from the city of Green, Ohio.

I quickly double checked the dates. It was May 3, 2016 -- 10 business days after my initial request. The public records fighter in me hoped that there must be some mistake.

There wasn’t.

Newsroom ethics discussions don’t have to be uncomfortable

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

No person likes to confront co-workers or managers about issues in the workplace. The conversations can be uncomfortable and lead to hurt feelings. However, those discussions are often necessary to create a good work environment.

In addition to topics such as salary issues and disputes with co-workers, journalists may sometimes need to confront managers and co-workers about another touchy subject: ethics. Like those other matters, discussions about ethics are necessary.

The Society of Prof...

Freelancers: Learn to overcome record request hurdles

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

“And who are you reporting for?”

This the most dreaded question I hear as a freelancer, especially when I’m calling a public office to request records. I don’t fault anyone for asking it — it’s a natural question, and I’m sure I would ask it too, if the tables were turned.

But as freelancers, we usually need to conduct a certain amount a research before pitching a story. In these early stages, there isn’t always a good answer to that question beyond, “Oh, I’m not reporting for anyone yet...

Students and live news: Tips to avoiding kryptonite

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Social media has changed not only the face of journalism. It has changed the entire standard for what is news and, in particular, what is considered “breaking news.”

With a 24-hour news hole to fill, 365 days a year, even professional reporters have been tripped up while trying to beat the next 24-hour news cycler to the punch. This is especially true in cable news. To make matters worse, the advent of the ability to go live from social media platforms has placed even more strain on publishi...

Energize yourself with a new writing approach

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

I wrote in the last issue about a young reporter who discovered the critical importance of picking the right character upon which to build a story. Now I want to introduce you to Jen Kocher, a reporter for a weekly newspaper in Wyoming.
We crossed paths when I taught at a Wyoming journalism convention. As I always do, I asked if anyone in the audience had a story they were thinking about tackling. Kocher raised her hand. She wasn’t sure what it was about, but she had an idea. I listened. I tol...

Embrace the paraphrase

Thu, 2 Nov 2017 00:00:00 -0500

My July/August column focused on the notion that good journalism thrives on good quotations. We said it was up to the writers to ensure that those quotations were indeed good. And by good, we meant that they displayed the same characteristics as good writing itself: clear, brief, accurate and conversational.

That column also stressed the point that we never have to accept poorly expressed quotations because we always have the paraphrase.

We writers have full power over our stories and shou...

Lynn Walsh: Lessons from the ‘Enemy of the People’

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Joy and excitement, anger and frustration, inspiration and hope. These are all emotions that have flooded through me during my term as SPJ president.

And I wouldn't take back any of those moments for anything.

It has been an honor to represent all of you and speak out on behalf of journalists in support of a free press, government transparency and ethical journalism. Along the way I've had an opportunity to meet some of you and hear from more of you. For those I haven't connected with, I h...

Journalist, mentor, educator, country girl at heart

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0500

At a young age, Nerissa Young filled a few pages with scribbles to proudly show her mother she was a writer. The urge to do journalism, not just writing, came while she worked for WMTD-FM, a mom-and-pop radio station in Hinton, West Virginia, thanks to the excitement of covering her community and the strange but true things that happen.

While pursuing a master’s degree in journalism at Marshall University, Young joined SPJ thanks to the suggestion of her mentors, George Arnold and Ralph Turne...

Storytelling: Good in theory and in practice

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0500

When I studied martial arts, I spent hours practicing technique. In a controlled environment, it was magic. But each student wondered if it would work on the street.

And so it is with narrative storytelling. At writing conferences, we study handouts and discuss stories that have been reported, written and published — what happens back in the newsroom. In my next two columns, I want to deal with the “real-world” by looking at the storytelling process used by two writers who’ve heard me speak.

Ethics: Clarifying terrifying terms

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Ricky John Best, Taliesin Myrddin Namkai-Meche and Micah David-Cole Fletcher were stabbed May 26 when they attempted to stop a man from harassing two teens with racist and anti-Muslim rants on a train in Portland, Oregon. Best and Namkai-Meche died.

A lot of the attention on social media following the attack centered on the news media’s use or avoidance of the word “terrorism” in discussing the events. People rightly pointed out that media organizations are quick to bring up the words “terro...

Freelancing: Putting on the boss hat

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0500

Autonomy is part of the appeal of freelancing. As independent journalists, we work with editors as our clients, not our supervisors. We choose our projects and set our own schedules. We may or may not work in our pajamas, or from a lawn chair in the backyard. We’re our own bosses.

But sometimes, that means bossing yourself around.

The joy of working on what you want, when you want doesn’t always translate into getting done what needs doing; autonomy can also be a pitfall. Successful freel...

Become a more effective accountability reporter

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0500

You might know the American Press Institute for its deep research on a variety of issues in journalism, something we’ve done for years as a think tank based in the Washington, D.C., area.
Recently, though, we decided to study something a little different: people.

Here’s how it happened. While working on our ongoing accountability journalism project, we met journalists around the country whose work seemed particularly influential in their communities. They were engaging audiences, encouraging...

Writing: Handle quotations with care, not obligation

Mon, 28 Aug 2017 00:00:00 -0500

The right quotes can enliven and humanize a story and help make it clear, credible and dramatic. Yet many quotations in media writing are dull, inscrutable and even ungrammatical. (The writer’s defense? Well, that’s what he said.)

Overall, as with writing in general, the good quotation’s worst enemy is wordy, arcane phrasing:
“The term originated in the early 20th century,” he said, “when evolutionary theory had it that most genes had a good variant that was by far the most common...