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Archive for the ‘On the Media’ Category

I recently got back from sunny St. Petersburg, FLA. Yes, it’s a lovely, tropical area, but I wasn’t there on vacation. Instead, I was there to improve my reporting craft: I attended the 2010 Society of Professional Journalists Reporters Institute. The event is designed to give young journalists (like me) a chance to learn from some of the best in the industry while also meeting and networking with peers. It was a blast, and if you’re interested in learning more about the young reporters who went, see below (from a post I contributed to the SPJ’s First Draft blog):

As you may know, SPJ’s Reporters Institute recently wrapped up. The institute gave 3o-some young journalists a chance to learn from some of the industry’s best, as well as from each other. I will be posting an entry soon that will recap each of the sessions and, hopefully, give you some good tips. However, in the meantime, I encourage you to get in touch with any and all of us. Like you, the group is young and passionate about journalism.

On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/home.php?#!/group.php?gid=125571107462698&ref=ts (you won’t be able to join, but you can definitely get in touch with young journos in your area)

On Twitter: http://twitter.com/journalistnate/spj-reporters-institute

And to prove we’re not scary people:

Attendees of the 2010 SPJ Reporters Institute (yours truly is back row, fourth from left, in the blue shirt. Meet me at http://twitter.com/mrosemn)

Plus, here’s a longer recap of what I learned (also from a post to First Draft).

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The tale of Brian Cushing — the young linebacker who tested positive for a performance-enhancing drug this off-season, not long after being named the NFL’s Defensive Rookie of the Year — raises a number of interesting questions. What did he test positive for? Why was he using that substance? And why have other rookies (Julius Peppers and Shawne Merriman come to mind) kept R.O.Y. awards on their shelves after similar incidents?

If Brian Cushing (above) loses his award, should Alex Rodriguez (below) lose his?

But the question I want to focus on here is the potential can of worms opened up in other sports, chief among those being baseball. America’s pastime, of course, has been tainted by performance-enhancing drugs, with the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Roger Clemens holding awards and gaudy stats amid clouds of suspicion. So, does the Cushing incident set a precedent for taking the awards back? The NCAA issues similar punishment (see “1997 Minnesota Golden Gophers basketball”) during academic scandals, wiping out any record that a season ever existed.

Baseball too has dabbled in rewriting the record books — Roger Maris lived with that nasty asterisk for years. The argument, of course, is to make sure future generations know (or, in the NCAA’s case, don’t know) the indiscretions of a given team or player, whether founded or not.

This approach, however, does more harm than good, especially in today’s media age where EVERY record is stored in a million different forms. Want to take back A-Rod’s MVP trophies? Go ahead, but the video of him being honored (plus the blogs, and Web stories, and audio, and T-shirts…) all still exist. Memories fade, but they don’t disappear. Want to strip Cushing of his award? Go for it, but people will still remember what he won…and how the second guy in line got his trophy.

Instead, let these guys keep their awards. But don’t let them (or the sport-fan public) forget the clouds of suspicion. Future generations SHOULD know that A-Rod hit 800 HRs and won multiple MVP awards. But they should also know that he admitted to using PEDs at least once and likely used them more often than that. It’s part of the record, of the story of sports. Yes, this generation of athletes is far from spotless. But Ty Cobb was a racist, Jordan a gambler and Mantle a womanizer. Just goes to show that every generation has its fair share of black spots. Instead of trying to cover them up by rewriting the books, let the record speak for itself — now and forever.

Photo credits: Cushing (TexAlley.com); Rodriguez (Reuters)

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Let me establish from the onset of this post that I understand 18-, 19- and 20-year-olds still have worlds to learn and should be given some leeway as they mature. Heck, that even applies to 22-year-olds like myself (I hope).

But Urban Meyer is way out of line for confronting Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeremy Fowler for his use of a quote that came from wide receiver Deonte Thompson (see here for video of the Meyer/Fowler confrontation at practice). Thompson was discussing how the change at QB could benefit of him, and the young man (unintentionally?) criticized Tim Tebow somewhat (here’s the quote that started this whole mess).

Meyer’s strong reaction included a rant about how Fowler unfairly took advantage of a young man (Thompson) and used his quote out of context. Meyer proceeded to tell the reporter that if it was his own son in the article, the two would be coming to blows.

Here’s where I differ significantly from Meyer: Thompson is a young man, but he is also receiving public money (in the form of an athletic scholarship) to go to a public institution for free (I am assuming this is the case…I have not checked Thompson’s specific scholarship status). Because of this fact, Thompson is not a typical “young man” who should be coddled and protected. He is a public figure, and with that status comes the responsibility of dealing with the press…and the consequences of your quotes. Even if you’re 18, 19, or 20.

Meyer too needs to understand that he’s a public figure, and his team is largely a public entity because it represents a public university. So to lash out at the press–and threaten to cut off their access–is an embarrassment. Mr. Fowler took an accurate quote, used it in a story, and attempted to give it some context (again, see the blog post that started the whole thing, which is linked above). Urban, if you think your team and you personally deserve public money in the form of scholarships, contracts and endorsements, then please respect the First Amendment and treat the press with some respect.

Now I’m going to return to being an irresponsible 22-year-old. Too bad a college football coach won’t coddle me.

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…such a point of sensitivity where shock jocks get suspended for poking fun at an outfit?

Such was the fate for ESPN’s Tony Kornheiser, who was shelved for some comments he made about fellow ESPN employee Hannah Storm’s outfit.

Now I understand that it’s mean to pick on someone’s wardrobe. It’s even meaner, perhaps, to pick on a co-worker. Especially publicly, like Kornheiser did on his radio show. But that’s this man’s JOB…he gets paid to push buttons and incite conversations. And he’s been good at it, good enough to land his own show that’s focused squarely on jawing, Pardon the Interruption.

Here’s how I would have handled it: First, as a company, I’d have approached Hannah Storm. Find out just how offended she was. Now maybe ESPN did this, but I have to go with what’s been reported, and no one has reported that this happened.

If Storm said she really didn’t mind the comments, then you probably let Kornheiser stay on day-to-day. Maybe he apologizes on-air. Or maybe, if Storm is a good sport, she comes on the show and rips Kornheiser’s wardrobe…or baldness. But straight out suspension? Seems extreme to me. This wasn’t Imas making racially inappropriate comments. It was a professional agitator having a bit of fun with someone’s clothes. Get over it, America.

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Tiger Woods is soft and owes the public more.

I will say that on this blog. I would say that at a water cooler. Or at a bar. Or to Tiger’s face, even if he probably would kick my ass with a seven-iron.

And I say this with confidence because tomorrow’s “press conference” is a sham, and the world’s greatest golfer should be ashamed.

Let me say that I understand the desire to keep your private life closed-off (as Tiger has his whole career) when you’re one of the most recognizable people on the planet. I can only imagine the stress that goes along with that. I don’t necessarily like this tactic (personally, I feel if you owe your wealth to a public that watches you golf and buys products you endorse, you should be more open with this public), but I can deal with it. That’s Tiger’s call.

However, once you declare that you’re “opening up” and having a “press conference,” please do it right. Respect the integrity of the press, and the honor of coming clean about something. That means if you’re having a “press conference,” invite the press — not just a few close pals. And allow more than one camera. And for God’s sake, answer questions.

Maybe Tiger will do that someday. Maybe he’ll sit down with Katie Couric, or write a book, or go own Oprah. Again, I’m not saying he has to…that call is his, and his alone. But if Woods thinks his actions tomorrow equate to anything like that, he’s sorely mistaken. Instead, it will be a shallow attempt from an apparently shallow man to apologize without having to answer for his actions — or, essentially, not apologizing at all.

In the end, it comes down to a simple lesson my mom (and probably yours, too) always preached: If you’re going to do something, do it right. So, if you’re going to have a “press conference,” do it right. If you’re going to open up, do it right. Anything else is soft. Tell Tiger…and tell him he can bring his seven-iron if he’s mad.

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E-mail away!

As a newspaper reporter, I often find myself interacting with different segments of the community, whether that be local officials or average Joes. And stories often get members of this community talking, either at the water cooler or on the Austin Daily Herald’s website.

Because of this, I from time to time receive reader e-mails regarding a story, or future stories I could do. Personally, I love getting these letters and think this interaction is a key element of what we do (and should strive to do).

I say all this as a transition to a recent blog post I read from the Washington Post’s ombudsman, Andrew Alexander. The post discusses what happened (or, more specifically, what didn’t happen) when the Post began putting reporters’ e-mail addresses with stories in print as opposed to just online. Many reporters were worried that the change would lead to an influx of new e-mails that would be impossible to manage. That, however, hasn’t happened — an informal staff survey showed that many only noticed a slight change, if they noticed anything at all.

With that being said, I think it’s clear that putting e-mail addresses with stories is a great thing that all papers should do (and many already do). This test case proves that reporters shouldn’t worry about an onslaught of e-mails. However, if the change leads to just a few more insightful comments in a reporter’s inbox, then the idea should be embraced. After all, journalists are here to serve the community, and doing that requires interactivity.

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As noted in this column by MinnPost writer David Brauer, newspapers might not have one foot in the ground. In fact, the post seems to relay some pretty good evidence that there is hope:

-103 million Star Tribune page views in January (a record for the paper)
-3.5 million mobile page views (also a record)
-700,000 video page views (another record)

But, as Mr Brauer so astutely noted in a later Twitter post to me, the Strib’s news release made no mention of revenues. That is where the big issue lies, as the highly publicized byline strike highlighted. Interest may be up, but the cash isn’t flowing in behind.

So how to make more money with a product that people clearly seem interested in? One idea, in light of these encouraging Wed numbers, would be to emphasize more interactive ads (if you see the Regions Hospital spot with the Brauer article, you’ll have an idea of what I’m talking about). I’m not pushing for larger ads or more ads (I am, after all, a journalist, and I believe in the news product). But ads like this are more engaging to the reader/viewer, and I would imagine they could be a bigger revenue source down the road (because if they prove to be so engaging, companies will want to pump out more and more of them). Big bulky banner ads do no one any good. Smarter ads (along with a continued emphasis on smarter journalism) could be the way to go.

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