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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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Stumbled upon this quandary recently. Figured I’d open it up for some smart discussion. (NOTE: It involves possible sexual assault of a minor, so be forewarned…and be sensitive).

Here’s the situation:

A woman called me and said her significant other (who is accused of assaulting her teenage daughter…charges I wrote about) is innocent.  She said her daughter (who has mental disabilities, the mother claims) made the story up. The woman wanted to get this story across to exonerate someone she believes is innocent. To do so, I would of course need to ID her as the mother of the alleged victim in the story, so as to give weight to the claims. This also inevitably identifies the alleged victim, since it’s pretty easy to connect mother to teenage daughter. And it is the standard practice at most news organizations to not identify victims/alleged victims of sexual abuse, rape and the like. There is sound reasoning behind this: being identified publicly as a sexual assault victim can be humiliating and stigmatizing.

But is it different if a victim wants to identify him/herself? I would say so. If someone wants to talk about their experience in a public forum, who’s to keep a reporter from printing it? However, is it the same when a mother wants to essentially identify her teenage daughter, either as someone with a disability, a sexual assault victim, or both? Or does the rule of thumb (“don’t identify sexual assault victims/alleged victims”) hold true?

Uneasy subject for many, but I would love to hear your (respectful) thoughts.

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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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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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