Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Media Ridealong: Her Campus

Her Campus is a new website run by student journalists and is described as “a colegiette’s guide to life.” It is an online-model magazine geared toward college women, and it has individual staffs at more than 120 campuses across the country. The website was founded by Stephanie Kaplan, Windsor Hanger and Annie Wang while they were still undergraduate students at Harvard in March of 2009.
Since its launch, it has formed content partnerships with several large magazines such as Seventeen and Self, as well as marketing partnerships with several companies like Juicy Couture, Pinkberry and Rent the Runway. Kaplan, Hanger and Wang have been named to Inc. magazine's 30 Under 30 Coolest Young Entrepreneurs, Glamour magazine's 20 Amazing Young Women, and The Boston Globe's 25 Most Stylish Bostonians.
In an interview, Her Campus’s chief executive officer and editor-in-chief, Stephanie Kaplan, said the three founders met while they were running Freeze, Harvard’s lifestyle and fashion online magazine. Once that website started taking off, they wanted to start something similar on a national scale, so they came up with Her Campus. She said all three women felt that there was a demographic not yet being met by the current media.
“There is a lot of media for teen girls and a lot of media for young women, but very little media targeting college women directly,” Kaplan said.
She said the founders did not have to raise money for the site. The site has been profitable from the beginning, she said, because they have kept costs low and have brought in enough revenue. What also helps is that they don’t have much competition, she said.
One of the company’s missions is to “define and provide a model for the future of online magazines by individualizing content.”
“Her Campus supplements news sites rather than competing with them,” she said. “We do not see any real competitors since no one else has a comparable model to ours of national content supplemented by local content, all produced by student journalists.”
The site is marketed mainly by word-of-mouth. Facebook and Twitter are the main traffic sources for the site. Even on the University of Florida campus, marketing for Her Campus can be seen everywhere, from flyers on Turlington Plaza to hand-drawn chalk advertisements on the sidewalk in front of Weimer Hall.
Kaplan, Hanger and Wang are the only three full-time, paid staffers. They currently don’t pay their writers, but Kaplan said they plan to make their first full-time hires at the end of the summer.
“Our writers benefit by getting clips and experience,” she said.
The website makes money by doing what Kaplan describes as “strategic marketing programs” for companies that are looking to reach the college market. Advertising is just a small piece of that plan. The programs often include sponsored content, product sampling, on-campus events and integrated branding on the site.
For example, Sara Kaner is a sponsored blogger for Her Campus at UF. She started writing in December, specializing in weight loss, exercise and diet. She is one of multiple people writing for the “Lose the Freshman 15” blog, writing about her efforts to lose weight.
The Freshman 15 blog is written by Her Campus staffers all across the country. It is a contest partnered with Self Magazine, and the best blogger wins a summer internship with the magazine in New York City.
As a sponsored blogger, she receives free products from her sponsors, including Sargento Cheese, Honest Tea, New Balance, Pop Chips and Truvia. Kaner blogs every day. She had more than 2,000 people read her first post, and on a good day, 600 to 700 people read.
“It inspires me that people say they can do the same thing I do and also work out and lose weight,” she said.
She tries to engage her readers as much as possible, responding to comments they make – whether good or bad.
“It’s the reality of the blog world – you’re gonna get the good and the bad,” Kaner said.
As editor-in-chief of UF’s Her Campus, Victoria Phillips is the last person to see any content that goes up on the website. She is responsible for the content management system, inputting all of the stories and making sure it uploads correctly.
And “content” includes more than just words. Phillips edits photos and video on top of stories.
One of her duties is making sure that the content follows what the national office deems appropriate for Her Campus. A region director reaches out every week to check in on stories, marketing and publicity.
“The national office does a great job of keeping everything cohesive and the same,” Phillips said. “The types of things I’m going to be publishing, and the way I’m publishing is going to be the exact same as Her Campus UC or Mizzou.”
They are only required to publish one story per section per week, but they update twice a day.
“We want to be the place students come when they want to know what’s going on on campus, when they want to procrastinate instead of studying for exams – we’re the website to go to.”

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Blog No. 7

The future of the journalism industry has been a constant topic of conversation since I enrolled at UF. I always it was a very unclear future, but after these past two weeks' readings have shown me that in order to avoid what some consider an inevitable death, there needs to be dramatic changes.

The person who made the most impact on my opinion was John Nichols. Before watching the video, I would have never thought government-run media would be a good idea. In my mind, media should be totally separate from government to avoid corruption and bias. However, after hearing his argument, I must agree that perhaps government-run media is the only way to keep the industry alive.

The more I thought about it, the more I think the arguments of old-school media idealists have no ground. With the Internet thrown into the equation, it seems nearly impossible to charge people for information. When information spreads faster than wildfire, it's not feasible to expect people to pay for it. As Nichols puts it, "information cannot be caged and it cannot be stopped."


The two websites I submitted into ://URLFAN were The New York Times website, my favorite news site, and The Onion, my favorite “fun” site.
The Times placed eighth out of 3,783,534 websites. It was mentioned in 51,877 unique feeds and 337,604 posts. Bloggers mention nytimes.com on average every two hours. It listed three sites as more popular than nytimes.com: Myspace (No. 7), Google (No. 6) and Facebook (No. 5). It didn’t really surprise me at all that these websites outranked The Times. The website’s ranking was exactly what I expected it to be. I just hope it stays that high after installing its paywall.
The Onion ranked No. 90. It was mentioned in 8,855 unique feeds and 20,567 posts, being mentioned by bloggers an average of every 15 hours. I think this is one website that will grow in the future. They’re quite hilarious and they do a great deal of video and multimedia.

Thursday, March 31, 2011

Resume Link

My Resume

Case Study 12: Wordled Speeches

When I first visited Wordle, I just thought it was a tool that created cool-looking collages. But then I read further and learned that “the clouds give greater prominence to words that appear more frequently in the source text.” I think this could be an incredibly valuable tool for journalists.
    It can show what people, politicians and leaders deem most important, what issues are most prominent in the world. For example, the Inaugural Speeches link reveals how the tool can be used to compare the inaugural speeches of various presidents. By examining which words are most prominent, the reader can easily see what is most important to the leaders of their country. The New York Times does this to compare a speech by Obama with one by Bush, both on the economy. The Times concludes: “The objectives of the two speeches are of course different. Mr. Bush’s speech was intended to explain and calm anxieties, whereas Mr. Obama’s speech was intended to make the case for significant, permanent policy changes (which perhaps explains Mr. Obama’s relatively greater willingness to use terms like “crisis” and “failure”).”

Blog No. 6

    The future of newspapers has been the topic of conversation since The New York Times announced that it would be charging readers for online access if they view more than 20 articles per month. The question is, will people be willing to pay for their news? Are readers that loyal to The Times? As much as I would love to say yes, I don’t see this benefiting The Times. At first I thought it might work IF they included video in the 20-story limit. The Times has video that other newspapers can’t even begin to compete with. And although their writing is extraordinary, people can find these stories anywhere. The video, however, they can only find at The Times.
    Why would readers pay for something they can easily find elsewhere? To me, it seems counterintuitive to charge for stories but not for video. As Schaffer puts it in her response to our previous reading, “In looking to reconstruct journalism, I’d start not by asking how do we get money for what we’ve always done. I’d ask instead: How do we provide something worth paying for?” To me, outstanding video and multimedia is worth paying for. The LA Times makes an interesting point, too: “Journalists and media outlets will have to plunge into new territory and do it without any assurance that the extra work will make them enough money to keep reporting the news.”

Sunday, March 27, 2011


During my internship this summer, the editorial interns (the mere 12 of us) had lunch with interns from other departments of The Times. We went around and introduced ourselves and stated what department we were working with. At least one-third of them were social media and marketing interns. It became a joke, almost, among us editorial interns. Many of these interns were responsible for maintaining The Times's Facebook page and Twitter accounts. It became very clear to me that social media is becoming a huge part of the news industry, even at the most traditional newspapers. I would define "social media" as any website that promotes interaction among users.

Journalists are now using Facebook to promote their own stories and gain a more loyal readership base. Facebook allows them to see what their readers think of their stories, whether they "like" them or not, what comments they post. There is more interaction between the providers and recipients of news. And it's free, which is a major plus given the state of the media industry.

Many journalists (at least a lot of my fellow student journalists) also use Facebook to find sources. So many times I've seen statuses by my fellow J-Schoolers asking for help finding subjects ("Does anyone know anyone who ______?" "Have you ever ____? If so, message me!") This use of Facebook does raise some ethical questions. Is it acceptable to scope out sources through Facebook? I personally have never used the site in this manner, because I personally think it's a bit unprofessional. But that doesn't necessarily mean it's unethical. I think people at traditional media outlets would frown upon it, but as times change, I believe these methods of newsgathering will become more and more acceptable.

I think Facebook could be used to see what readers want to read before a journalists starts a story. The journalist could pose the question on their page, "what do you want to read?" and see how people respond. This would be a good way of maintaining a good relationship with readers and ensuring that they stay loyal as long as possible.


This is a story I wrote for Orange and Blue magazine.

    “Welcome to my castle,” Dragan Kudjunzic says with a smirk, beckoning me into his cave-like office for what he calls our “intravein.” He removes his black jacket to reveal a charcoal shirt, buttoned to the brim so his neck is hardly visible. There are three jars of chocolates at the edge of his desk, and he signals me to try one of the round ones in the middle jar. 
    “I like to give my students something to sink their teeth into,” he says, the smirk reappearing.
    Dragan is a professor of Slavic and Jewish studies at the University of Florida and the pioneer of the undergraduate course Vampire Stories: Jewish and Christian Studies. He even has an Eastern European accent eerily similar to Count Dracula’s. But he made it clear that he doesn’t actually believe in vampires – except, of course, the ones that live inside every one of us.
    “There is something in vampires that are a part of us,” he said.
    Every human, fully fanged or still teething, has instinctive desires similar to vampires, he says. Even his students – whom he calls his “children of the night” – come to him with a hunger for knowledge. They crave the truth about the bloodthirsty villains haunting recent television shows and movies. 
    But Vampire Stories allows them to indulge in more than just the taste of the pop culture vampire and leaves them satiated with a deep knowledge about the real-life significance of the classic vampire tale.
    Christine Farina, a sophomore nursing student, said vampires had always been her favorite creatures of the night, a fascination that sprang from her adoration of Bram Stoker’s classic 1897 novel, “Dracula.”
    “I saw a course about vampires, and I figured you really can’t go wrong there,” Farina.    
    She expected to study the classic and contemporary vampire novels and films. What she didn’t expect was to learn how vampires shape modern culture, and that they roam our own country.
    “Before, vampires were just mythological creatures with no ties to real life,” she says. “Now I feel like I take them seriously.”
    “I urge my students to sink their teeth into the rich vein of vampire narratives,” Dragan says. “Once they do, they’re hooked.”
    He knows from experience. Because he’s been hooked for over a decade.

vEmpire: The Monstrosity of Our World
    He sunk his teeth into that rich vein back in 2000, when he was teaching at the University of California, Irvine. Born in the former Yugoslavia, now Serbia, Dragan moved to the United States in 1986 and graduated with a Ph. D. from the University of Southern California.
    After a close study of Stoker’s novel, Dragan was intrigued when he learned that the count, a 15th century Romanian prince, was avenging the battle of Kosovo. That battle, he said, fought by the Serbian troops in 1389 against the Ottoman empire, ended up in Serbian defeat but stopped the onslaught of the Turkish empire into Europe.
    Dragan started looking at the vampire’s presence in geopolitics, examining the rise and falls of the world’s empires, past and present. The more he researched, the more he started to believe that vampires do, indeed, exist.
    “I believe what vampires stand for. I know that to be real.”
    It’s a concept he coined vEmpire. Examining both the historical and modern geopolitical climate, he sees that humans have been waging the same war since the beginning of time: “good” versus “evil,” a dominant force versus “the other.” The vampire narrative is legend of this battle, though perhaps a bit more romantic. The world, Dragan says, views the vampire as something that must be destroyed or purified. In the real world, nations view their enemies as monsters, as entities that must be destroyed or, perhaps, democratized.
    “There is a constant monstrosity of ‘the other’ as repugnant and threatening,” Dragan said, citing the Holocaust as an example. The Nazis had their own definition of what was pure, and anyone who did not fit the blue-eyed mold was eliminated. The Holocaust is a disturbing portrayal of the vampire tale, he said. It’s chilling proof that the desire to purge evil is deadlier than any vampire figure, that human desire to destroy anything unordinary is eviler than any monster.
    But in reality, he said, there’s no one “good” side in the battle, as every culture – and every human – has a dark side.
    “Every culture is a culture of blood,” he said, adding that blood can stand for several resources, such as oil.
    Every culture, Dragan emphasized, including the United States. And what is the stage for a America’s production of the classic vampire tale? The South, slavery’s stomping grounds. And in this rendition, the whites are the monsters.
    “The white folks were feeding on blacks, and the blacks were left drained,” he said. 
    And though slavery is gone, vampires still roam in our own backyard. They even walk among us on campus. They sit next to us at football games. Take a closer look and you’ll notice that Albert’s and Alberta’s razor-sharp teeth may resemble those of Edward Cullen in the “Twilight” series. The seemingly harmless Gator chomp so many fans perform is alarmingly similar to a vampire’s bite.
    “Our university has a jaw as its totemic emblem; we want to devour the competition,” he said.

It’s All About Sex
    Destruction isn’t the only thing vampires want.  They want what everyone else wants. They want what every teenage boy daydreams about in Algebra II. They want sex.
    And luckily for them, vampires are downright sexy.
    “Vampires are frightening but enticing. They’re terrifying yet erotic,” Dragan said. “Everything about them is sexual.”
    Vampiric desires dwell in even the purest forms of affection, kissing. He says even most innocent pecks stem from our inner desire to eat one another.
    The vampire bite itself is a metaphor of sex, sex that sees no gender.
    “The mouth is not gendered,” he explained. “There is a unique fluidity of gender in vampires.”
    This sexy side of bloodsuckers is one of the main reasons the vampire narrative has become so popular in literature and film, Dragan says.
    But he makes it clear during the first day of class that “no bodily fluids will be exchanged in this course.”
    Farina said she knew Dragan was a different breed of professor on the first day of class. He walked in and immediately requested the class to pull down the light shades because “my skin is sensitive to light.”
    “He’s humorous in a different sort of way,” said Brett Pokorny, a senior journalism major enrolled in the course. “He does make some pretty bad jokes here and there.”
    Along with an abundant stock of tantalizing candies, Dragan promises an exciting course, and eternal life.
    “I guess that is why they keep coming back, the children of the night.”

Sunday, March 20, 2011



Although this is a clarification rather than a correction, this shows the holes and bias present in the original version of the story. The story was about a debate at a student Senate meeting about a proposed legislation that would allow guns on campus. The story includes only one source for The Unite Party and one for The Progress Party. Carly Wilson, with Unite, supported the legislation, and the Progress Party senator did not. Although there is nothing factually inaccurate, only relying on these two sources makes it seem like The Unite Party is fully in support, but in reality the majority of them are not. The writer should have realized this. Skeptical editors would have questioned it too, especially if they had been keeping up with SG politics.

Blog No. 5

Even though there were only two readings this week, I learned a lot about the future of journalism. The most important lesson is that the journalism of the future needs to rely on the participation of the community and the cooperation of various organizations and the government. Newspapers can no longer expect to be able to report the news without the aid of these key players. Unlike in the past when people looked to newspaper editors and writers as people who were more knowledgeable, newspapers are now going to have to rely on readers' knowledge and cooperation to provide information in an accurate and timely manner.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Editing Exercise and Case Study

Chicago Murder Trial Begins for Former Model
Jeanette Sliwinski Killed 3 Beloved Musicians With Car in Bid to End Her Life, Prosecutors Say

They probably never saw her coming.
It was July 14,  2005. Lunch hour in Chicago.
Three local musicians who worked day jobs together at an audio electronics company were stopped at a traffic light in a Honda Civic in a suburb north of the city.
At a speed authorities estimated at 70 mph, a former model who police said was trying to kill herself ran three red lights and slammed them from behind in her red Mustang convertible.
Both cars flew airborne on impact, witnesses said, landing crushed upside-down on the pavement.
The three young men died. The woman walked away with a broken ankle.
More than two years later, Jeanette Sliwinski’s murder trial begins this week.
Sliwinski's lawyers have denied that she was attempting suicide. Her current lawyer did not return a call seeking comment on the case.
The crash and subsequent arrest brought Sliwinski Internet fame. Many blogs and Web sites have posted modeling pictures of Sliwinski since she was arrested.

Case Study
Especially after taking a look at the readings about linking, I would definitely not have included the links to the pictures of the model. A lot of the pictures are very risque, and I don't think they should be linked to on the website of a professional news organization. Also, the pictures just aren't necessary. The reader does not need to see these pictures to gain a better understanding of the story. A more appropriate use of linking would be to provide the link to the original story. That way, the reader could gain more background information about the case. If the reader really wants to see pictures of her, he or she can look it up. It's not worth it for the newspaper to damage its reputation, even if the website it is linking to is completely separate.

Sunday, March 13, 2011


The Royal Caribbean cruise ship, the Monarch of
the Seas, sits docked at Port Canaveral prior to
embarkation on March 7, 2011. 

A towel animal, suspected to be a swan, rests on
a bed in a room of Royal Caribbean's Monarch
of the Seas cruise ship on March 7, 2011.

Charlotte Smith, 21, left, and Emily Blake, 21, right, head into
the crystal blue waters at Coco Cay, a small island in The Bahamas
owned by Royal Caribbean, on March 8, 2011. 

Cruise guests enjoy the sun by the pool on the
Monarch of the Seas on March 9, 2011. Guests
could also relax in one of the ship's two hot tubs.
A view of Nassau, The Bahamas, from the Royal Caribbean cruise
ship the Monarch of the Seas, on March 10, 2011.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Team Story ideas

Kofi Protests Continue – The buzz on the plaza is about today’s protest by The Coalition for Justice Against Police Brutality on the one anniversary of the shooting of a UF graduate student by the University Police Department. Instead of just covering the protest, we would expand the story to discuss recent administrative changes in UPD and whether or not the department has followed through with its promises. The bigger picture is how UF is different a year after the incident. Photos of today’s protest could run alongside an infographic on the UPD changes. Sources: UPD Information Officer, Protest Organizers, SG liaison to UPD.

Florida Alternative Breaks – As many UF students are preparing for a week of debauchery, several hundred will be spending their time off volunteering. The Center for Leadership and Service is sponsoring 15 trips this break. The bigger picture is what students can do on their breaks besides getting drunk in Mexico. We could try to find photos from last year’s trips, photos from their training or perhaps an info box with a list and synopsis of each trip. Online: a slideshow of pictures and video interview with previous participants. Video interviews with those who were helped last year. Sources: Center for Leadership and Service, Trip Organizers, Trip Attendees, those who were helped.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Blog No. 4

    Last week’s readings showed me how news organizations can use the Internet – their alleged enemy and downfall – to gain readers, and possibly revenue. There are a lot of websites, of both traditional and untraditional media organizations, that are doing really cool, original things with the Web. I think maps are a great way to present information, and using them to present news is an efficient and fun way to engage readers. Cincinnati.com’s CinciNavigator and The Washington Post’s TimeSpace are two examples of how news sites are using maps to allow readers to interact with the news. This is a great way to divide news into different regions, besides the traditional foreign and national news departments. Google also uses the map in a very effective – and possibly even lifesaving – way. Their Flu Trends maps out the areas in the country (and world) that are most susceptible to flu outbreaks based on what people from those areas are searching on Google. I’m not sure if this is a scientifically sound method for predicting outbreaks, but it is a great way of employing maps to display information that just wouldn’t be sufficiently communicated in words. And if it is a sound method, it could save lives, or at least a few doctor visits. 
    The Chicago Tribune’s Colonel Triune and Politifact’s Obamameter are more examples of how media organizations are trying to present news in a fun, engaging way. Colonel Tribune is described as the newspaper’s “Web ambassador,” and is designed to keep readers informed on the latest news. The Obamameter ranks the president’s success in fulfilling campaign promises through engaging graphics. I think the Obamameter is a very effective tool, but I’m not 100 percent sold on Colonel Tribune. I think the Colonel takes the “fun” side of news a little too far, and may come across as ______to readers. Newspapers have to trust that their readers are intelligent, and presenting the news with a fictional tour guide may be insulting to their intelligence.
    Of all the links listed on the blog, I found www.spot.us to be one of the most original and interesting ideas. I’m interested to see if the idea of readers funding news stories works out. Do people care enough about investigatory news to pay for it? If they do, this could be a very profitable form of journalism, though it defies all the traditional rules and ethics of the industry.
    This week’s readings again reminded me about the importance of being skeptical when editing. After reading so many bogus trend stories, I can’t help but wonder if any of these types of stories have any real worth. These stories often make assumptions given only a small number of statistics – figures that may not even be accurate. It’s with this skeptical eye that I read the letter/advertisement from the president and CEO of the Newspaper Association of America. Sure, he throws around some very convincing statistics about the strength of the newspaper industry, but what is he not telling us? He’s leaving out the alarming number of layoffs that newspapers have experienced in recent years, among others. I can’t help but read this wondering if he is just trying to reassure himself that his industry is not indeed dying. 

Case Study 8

    After reading all these bogus trend stories, I think I will be much more attentive when I come across one of these in the news. I was surprised as to how many established and reliable newspapers fell for the lies of various government organizations. It’s easy for reporters to attribute information to a spokesperson or “expert” without double-checking whether it’s true. I suppose when the information is coming from someone else’s lips, reporters seem to think it’s not their fault if it’s not true. Skimming through these stories, I made a list of words, phrases, etc. that should raise a red flag in stories about trends.
1.    The use of confidential sources, especially on issues that aren’t particularly serious. If the source refuses to be named, it might be because they don’t want the spotty information attributed to them. This is seen in the shoplifiting story by The New York Times.
2.    Many: What does this word even mean? One of the first lessons we learned in Reporting is to avoid this ambiguous, meaningless word like this. One person’s “many” could be another person’s “few.” If a reporter can’t get a number or percentage, he or she shouldn’t use the word.
3.    May/seem: This word, like “many,” means nothing in the world of news. There’s a lot of things that “may” happen, but they don’t make the paper because they haven’t indeed happened yet.
4.     Curious numbers and statistics: If a story relies completely on one study or one source for its numbers and statistics, an editor should be careful. When faced with numbers and statistics, I ask myself, “do these numbers add up/make sense?”
    I think what happens a lot of times is reporters are assigned to “go see if the economy makes people do this or that,” and they may find a few statistics to back up that it’s true, and a few people who are prime examples, and they deem it a trend. But you can’t let a few people represent an entire population. You can’t let a few numbers stand for the behavior of an entire nation.


Story idea: How will  Obama’s changes to NASA affect the Space Coast economy?
1.    How much does the Space Coast rely on the Kennedy Space Center?
Will any jobs be lost as a result of the changes? (Especially contractors, engineers?)
Are there going to be any launches? By private agencies other than NASA, for example?
If there will not be any launches, how will the Kennedy Space Center be used?
How do local residents feel about the changes? Employees?
If there is an expected downturn in the economy, how are people preparing?
2.    Most of my previous questions revolve around change. How will the Space Coast be changed?
3.    The unusual: Perhaps finding someone who has gone to a lot of launches in their lifetime. I’m sure there’s someone out there who has gone to nearly every one. What are their thoughts?
4.    I enjoy reading from the perspectives of the people affected, so I would try to include that as much as possible.
5.    What is the Space Coast going to be known for now, if not for space? Its entire identity is changing. How are they going to advertise themselves to potential visitors as the Space Coast?
6.    Already talked about talking to the people most directly affected
7.    Who? Who is going to be affected most severely? Who is in support of the changes? Who is against them?
What? What are locals doing to prepare for potential changes?
Where? Where are potential tourists going to go if they choose somewhere other than the Space Coast?
Why? Why do people visit the Space Coast in the first place?
When? When will the economy start having real effects on locals?
8.    How are residents going to prepare? How will the Space Coast advertise itself? How many people are going to be directly affected?


This enterprise story, published in the Gainesville Story, is a sort of “one year later” story, following up on how the University of Florida’s student health center has adjusted to the shooting of UF doctoral student Kofi Adu-Brempong. Although the writer answers a lot of the questions I had, some holes remain. My first question is, have a significantly greater number of students utilized the health center’s services since they made their adjustments? I ask because I know personally that not many of my friends would feel comfortable going to a mental health counselor at the university. Do people who are mentally unstable really want to see a mental health counselor at a university? The way the story reads, it sound like the mental health center is just trying to make itself sound noble, saving lives and preventing suicides. But is this really true?

Saturday, February 19, 2011


I found this story on the Newsies website, a news website that is part of The Gainesville Sun and is managed and edited entirely by undergraduate students. I realized after writing this that it was published in December, but it was one of the most recent posts.

I had a lot of issues with this story, including where the writer got her information, whom she interviewed, the objectivity of the story itself, its newsworthiness, and whether the writer even understood what she was reporting on. It seems it is a mix between an opinion column and a news story. The first thing that needs to be done is deciding between the two, because you can’t mix the two. The actual "news" of the story is that a study was released that Americans are less confident that Obama will win the 2012 election. That information doesn't come until the very end of the story. Also, the writer does not attribute ANY reasons for disapproval except racism. Why is this the only factor? There are so many other reasons that people have lost confidence in Obama as a reader, and I personally doubt that his skin color has anything to do with it. Attributing his decline in approval only makes it worse.

I questioned every single sentence of this story, but I chose to highlight only those that applied to the section on credit (attribution, sources and substantiation)

The Existence of Racism
 By Mia Saunders, Newsies Contributing Writer
The prejudice, who feel members of one race are superior to other races, are still prevalent in today’s society. When asked  if racism still exists, opinions varied.
 Roughly 38 percent of Gainesville residents believe racism has only gotten worse, especially now that history has been made with the first black president of the U.S. The moment Barack Obama won the election and smashed racial barriers, he has been suffering from taunts from the public, magazines and cartoons.
Poking fun at presidents has always been a hobby for the media, however, the line is crossed when the jokes are only based on skin color. Former President George W. Bush was taunted by the media who believed he was inarticulate.
Bill Clinton was the bunt of many jokes on late night talk shows. Nevertheless neither of these former presidents underwent the racial slurs that Obama has endured. One must ask where to draw the line.
In some cartoon illustrations the president’s image has been altered to look like an African, witch doctor, his wife’s to look like a gorilla, and their two daughters like little monkeys. The idea of having a black family in the White House remains to be a sensitive subject.
“I cannot sit here and lie to you or anyone else by saying I even considered to vote for that black guy,” said Bobby Lee Jameson. “I had McCain stickers, posters and refrigerator magnets all throughout my house, I supported the man who should have been president.”
The most recent racial study was in May 2008 to see how many Americans still use derogatory racial slurs. Faggot, Nigger, Kike and Redneck are still at the top of the list.
Forty-eight percent of Americans still use the term faggot to describe homosexual males, 28 percent say nigger, 39 percent for kike, and 12 percent for redneck. Society needs to adapt to the times, and come to the realization that the world has changed. The people are different and have evolved in this day and age.
In the eyes of some it was truly tough to see the first African American president. The first-term senator from Illinois shattered more than 200 years of history by winning the 2008 presidential election.
Aside from much criticism about Obama running for presidency, he gained a victory. Critics thought of him to be unprepared to run the White House, inexperienced, and out of touch with the necessary tools that are needed to effectively run a country.
“I believe racism still exists in our society because there are people who still look down on other races,” said David E. Carlson, a new media of Journalism professor. He said, “To me it is not necessarily about being racist rather it is about people who choose to be bias.”
Carlson said that people are still bias to different races. In order for us to fight against racism, people should start exposing themselves to others.
Racism is still alive and no culture or ethnic group has a monopoly on racial hatred. That is not to say that this nation has not made great strides in this arena that are both unprecedented and undeniable.
People should be aware that racism exists in a society that hasn’t fully developed. Many people still share the mentality of one race being superior to others. 
Minorities are at a disadvantage, given past issues of slavery, segregation, and discrimination, which all continue to spill over into the present condition of minorities today. America has made advances to ensure racial equality, however racism still lurks.
The 2008 presidential election truly shaped a new era in American history. America has its first black president. The question now is doesObama have any chances of being re-elected?
He faces uncertain prospects for re-election in 2012 as many voters question whether he deserves a second term, a new poll said on Monday.
The Quinnipiac University poll said American voters by 40 to 43 percent do not think Obama has earned a second four-year term, and place him as dead heat with potential Republican challengers Mitt Romney and Mike Huckabee.
“I had hope during the 2008 presidential election and I will carry that hope into the 2012 election for my president,” said graduate student, Elizabeth Thomas. “It almost feels like everyone is blaming Obama for America’s mistakes.”
Thomas goes on by saying, “people must realize that coming into the white house Obama had a huge mess to clean up. Bush left behind a bad economy and a shit load of mistakes, whether America likes it or not those mistakes take time to solve."

Questions about attribution
1. Second paragraph: Did this 38 percent of Gainesville residents come from the writer's own poll? She doesn't cite any study at all. Was this based on her own reporting? If so, this is not at all a legitimate figure. How many people did she interview? Was it a diverse group, or was it all students?
2. The latest information she could find was May 2008? That's hard to believe. Also, what does a poll on derogatory terms have to do with a president's approval ratings? 

Questions about Sources 
1. Who is Bobby Lee Jameson? From reading this story, I think it could be some homeless guy on the side of the road or a Senator.
2. Is Carlson really the best source for a story like this? What makes him the most knowledgeable source on race relations? This is just the opinion of one journalism professor. It has no valuable information that contributes to the story in any way. In fact, I'm sure she just chose to interview one of her professors because she was too nervous to talk to anyone else. Sorry, that was mean. 
3.  What makes a UF graduate student a reliable source to analyze the performance of the president of the United States? This is just lazy reporting. Could she really not talk to anyone else? What about someone who voted for Obama in 2008 but has changed his/her mind? Why did he/she lose confidence? I guarantee it isn't because he's black.

Questions about Substantiation
 All of the remaining questions dealt with substantiation. It seems the writer is inserting her own opinion into what she believes to be a news story. Anything that is opinion should be coming from a source, not the writer. Even then, these claims and opinions should be backed up with sound facts. 

Needless to say, I have a lot of problems with this story. After reading it, I was almost fuming. 

Google Docs

My Google Doc

Case Study 7

    One day during my Dow Jones Newspaper Fund editing residency (a weeklong editing boot camp before my internship), Bill Connolly came in to speak to us. Connolly, who used to be an editor for the New York Times and is mentioned in “How a Copy Editor Might Have Averted Disaster,” shared this story with us. I learned a lot from him, as well as how the mind of an editor should work. He read through the entire story with us, raising every question that popped into his mind. He questioned small details I had glanced over in my first read-through. But at the end of the exercise, I had learned that the best editors – like Bill Connolly – are skeptical ones. That’s what editors are there for. Who else is going to question the validity of a story, except, of course, the readers? Editors should be asking these questions so readers don’t have to.
    Throughout the exercise, we circled aspects of the story that seemed questionable. By the end, my paper was littered with red question marks and circles. The first came in the first sentence: Doesn’t it seem a little odd that an African American boy would have sandy hair? There were many questions like this on little details that just didn’t add up (if he is living in the ghetto, how can he afford fancy running shoes and izod shirts?) Also, the mother seems almost impossibly callous to her son’s addiction. Even though Cooke writes that Andrea too is an addict, she seems unrealistically undisturbed by the situation. A lot of questions came up after reading about his spotty school record. As Connolly brings up in “How a Copy Editor Might Have Averted Disaster,” would Jimmy really have been in fourth grade as an 8-year-old if he rarely attended class? Also, wouldn’t his teachers have inquired if he was constantly missing school? Why didn’t the writer contact the school? These are all questions that should have raised a red flag in the editor’s mind. It’s scary to think that this story somehow endured through so many levels of editing without thought.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Case Study 6

I’ve said it before and I will say it again: One of the first steps for newspapers in saving themselves from destruction is getting over their pride. This anecdote about Google alerts is a perfect example. While most reporters only had alerts on traditional news, Gary Fineout also kept his eye on blogs. Most “traditional” journalists look down upon bloggers and so-called “citizen journalists.” Many reporters and editors don’t take information from blogs seriously because they don’t consider them real journalism. But with the Internet, the definition of journalism is changing, the definition of a journalist is becoming a lot more ambiguous. Gary Fineout understood that bloggers are journalists, too, and often times their information is just as valuable as a traditional newspaper’s. By accepting blogs as legitimate sources of news, he was able to get a story other reporters weren’t.
    However, this doesn’t mean journalists should accept everything they see on blogs as fact. I do think there is legitimacy in the natural mistrust of nontraditional forms of media. Many times, these writers don’t have professional training, nor the sense of news judgment that a professional, trained journalist has. Sometimes, they just want to have as much traffic on their page as possible, regardless of whether or not the information they publish is 100 percent accurate. Although newspapers should be open to blogs, they should not be too quick to accept their information as fact. They should use their own fact-finding skills to double check the information they get from blogs.


1.    “Local legislators to meet today on police merger idea,” from The Gainesville Sun
Nut Graph: The Alachua County legislative delegation will meet in Gainesville today to discuss a proposed bill, floated by the North Florida Police Benevolent Association, a police union, that would create a study commission to look into abolishing the city's police department and transferring policing duties in the city limits to the county's Sheriff's Office.
    Summary Graph: The bill, proposed by a police union, would create a     commission to look into abolishing the city’s police department and transferring     its policing duties to the Sheriff’s Office.
2.    “Gov. Rick Scott won't push school voucher expansion — for now,” from The Orlando Sentinel
Nut Graph: Scott said this week that he won't ask the Legislature to take up his proposal this spring for "education savings accounts." He had previously spoken favorably of the idea, which was advocated by his education transition team but was also likely to spark legal challenges. The plan would have allowed all public-school students to use state school money for a variety of education services
Summary Graph: The plan, which would have allowed all public-school students to use state school money for a variety of education services, would likely have sparked legal challenges.
3.    "Mike Haridopolos addresses public concern over Florida’s budget," from The Independent Florida Alligator
Nut graph: The state senator stressed the importance of budget cuts throughout his presentation at  Pugh Hall on Thursday night. The event, hosted by the Bob Graham Center for Public Service, encouraged people to submit questions to Haridopolos in person and online.
Summary Graph: The state senator, who spoke Thursday and answered questions by students and the public, said the state is facing $3.6 billion in budget cuts.

Strat11 (Assignment 1)

I found a great example of a crystallizing quote in this New York Times article about a Valentine’s Day ban on bad words at a middle school in Alabama:
“The small issue is cussing,” Ms. Ludgood said. “The larger issue is civility. As a nation, we have gotten meaner.”
This quote is placed relatively high in the story, and it does a good job of summing up what the story is about while also taking it one step farther.

This story in The Gainesville Sun is an example where a crystallizing quote is placed far too low in the story. The story is about Marco Rubio keeping a relatively low profile in the campaign. The story is pretty long, and the qriter decided to place this quote at the very end, as “the kicker”:
“While I want to work in Washington,” Rubio said, “I don’t want to be ‘Washington-ized.’”
The first quote, however, is from someone besides Rubio. I think the first quote in the story should be from Rubio himself, and I think this quote perfectly summarizes why he has been keeping such a low profile. Instead of saving this quote for a strong finish, this quote should be used to pull readers and keep them reading, especially because it is such a lengthy story.

Blog No. 3

    The past two weeks’ readings taught me how the Internet is transforming the way we deliver news. Writing for the web is far different from writing for print, as is editing for the web. Although I found the “Writing for the web” blog post by Jim Stovall helpful, I think he puts too many limits and rules on web writing. He says we should limit stories on the web to 200 words unless there is a “compelling reason.” He also says paragraphs should be a maximum of two sentences and 50 words and that writers should only use one direct quotation per story. I don’t think we can apply these rules to every story on the web; it’s just not practical. Every story is different. Some require more sources, more explanation, and certainly more than one direct quote. Although I agree that web stories should be concise, sometimes we should take advantage of the unlimited amount of space to go into more depth that we wouldn’t have room for in print.
     Besides the basic structure of stories, I also learned that the kind of writing on the web is entirely different from print. The writer of “Journalism’s Many Crises” put it this way: “Very few online sites practice the unearthing of facts. For the most part, they opinionate - which is a useful but parasitic activity.” In the days before the Internet, newspapers were often the first sources for breaking news, and the stories on the front of the morning paper were never old news. Nowadays, news spreads like wildfire. Blogs and other non-traditional media sites are often the first to report breaking news, so traditional newspapers must have something new to contribute to the story. News stories are becoming more and more opinion-based. This could change the face of news writing forever.    
    The reading on The New York Times’s “look up” feature reminded me of the lessons I learned working at The Times. Going from the copy desk of The Alligator to the national and foreign copy desk of The Times was a huge adjustment. Although most stories were very straightforward and clear, there were many instances when I ran across words that I had to look up, words that would never have appeared in The Alligator. Our first week, during our training, we had an hour-long workshop about Times style. The message, put shortly, was that The Times does not talk down to readers, whom they consider a very intelligent, well-informed group. They expect their readers to be familiar with intelligent vocabulary, and they also expect them to already know background knowledge about current events. In my time at The Alligator, I would always try to use simpler, shorter words. I was always taught to write like you are writing to the least intelligent of readers. But at The Times, they considered that mindset offensive to their audience. There were many instances where I had to look up a word in the dictionary, but the other editors wouldn’t even think twice about letting it in the paper. I also had to abandon my habit of inserting additional information about stories because The Times assumes that their readers have been keeping up with world news. It took me a good month or so to learn that you can’t always write for a 5-year-old.
    Doug Fisher sums this thinking up well in his blog post on social media and journalism. Fisher writes, “Part of the challenge is how to effectively acknowledge and use the audience to broaden and deepen our journalism while understanding that the institution does not give us license to think we are delivering tablets from the mountain.” Newspapers need to stop writing like their readers are dumb. Many readers are just as knowledgeable, if not more knowledgeable, about news than writers and editors. Collaboration of news organizations with their readers is the key to journalism’s survival

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Case Study 5

    The two stories by The New York Times and USA Today display how drastically different two news organizations can present the same story. Although both newspapers presented factual information accurately and clearly, one is negative while the other is positive. This is because the reporters presented the information in different contexts and relied on different sources.
    In general, I think The Times did a better job at presenting the facts in an objective way. The writer did not speak to any human sources. Usually I think having human sources is essential, but in a story about a survey, sometimes it’s best to just stick to the facts. USA Today, however, uses several human sources. This doesn’t necessarily make the story any weaker or less objective, but the quotes can sometimes get in the way of the facts.
    Although it is significant that a majority of Afghans are confident about the direction of their country, I think it is even more significant that the number of people who believe this had decreased in the past two years when the story was written. This is the context that was made clear in the story in The New York Times, but USA Today only briefly mentioned it in the story. The Times centered the entire story on this very important detail, but USA Today only said: “Still, the optimists were down from 64% in a smaller Asia Foundation survey conducted in 2004.”
    No matter how many people are confident in the country, even if it is a majority, if this number is declining, it’s not a good sign. Focusing on only the current statistics displays the state of the country in a false light, perhaps in favor of the United States and the war effort in Afghanistan. 


I used Google News to search for news stories containing any of the 25 phrases to tighten. I discovered that the three most common phrases were "reason why," "in the near future" and "in the meantime." I think these are the most common because they are often used in everyday life, in casual conversation. Some other popular phrses were "due to the fact that," "at any given time" and "in the event that."

One of the phrases that has always annoyed me is "reach a decision" as opposed to "decide." This is one of the stories that I found in my search. Although it's a pretty short story in its original form, it could still use some trimming. Here's my slimmed-down version:

MU planning snow day rescheduling
COLUMBIA —Faculty and administrators met Friday to discuss options for making up recent snow days, and they hope to decide reach their decision next week.

After Faculty Council members weigh their options, students and other faculty will also be asked to comment, said Leona Rubin, chair of the executive committee.

The situation is a new challenge for MU administration because classes have never been canceled twice in one year, let alone three times in a row.

 “Some professors might have to come up with their own ways of making up those days,” Rubin said.  “But we would like to give them an option.”

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Blog No. 2

Week 3’s readings gave me a lot of useful information about what a journalists should and should not do. After skimming Poynter’s “100 Things Journalists Should Never Do” and “Frank Fee’s Tips for Accuracy,” I walked away with several tips that will help me both as an editor and as a reporter. I think one of the best tips is to always ask, “Is there anything else I should know?” This is always a question I get nervous to pose when I am reporting. In my mind, it seems like a weakness if you have to ask it. Shouldn’t you be able to know if you’re missing something? Besides, it’s the reporter’s job to ask, and the source’s job to answer, right? But if I’ve learned anything from my (albeit not very extensive) reporting experience, it’s that you can’t be afraid of putting yourself out there and sometimes looking like an idiot. I would much rather have to bite the bullet and ask that humble question than later have to go back and ask again. And as an editor, I would hate to have to scurry to find missing information in a story on deadline.

    One of Poynter’s tips that stood out to me was: “A journalist should never do: confuse impartiality with decontexualised he said-she said reporting.” I was always taught that if you are dealing with a controversial story, you have to get both sides. Frank Fee, in his “Tips for Accuracy,” says journalists should “always follow the Rule of Fair Comment.” But when does it turn into pure hearsay? I know I’ve read several stories that sound like they were collected from a middle school cafeteria. Many stories dealing with two sides sound like gossip. But if you have to get both sides, how do you prevent this? I don’t really have an answer to that; I am really just thinking out loud. Perhaps the key is to follow another one of Frank Fee’s tips and follow the “Rule of the Best Source.” If journalists always make an effort to contact the most authoritative and objective sources, these he-said, she-said stories could be avoided.

    After reading through week 4’s readings, I learned that my own hesitation to ask “Is there anything else I should know?” reflects a problem all across the journalism industry. I think one of journalism’s main flaws is its own ego. For so many years, newspapers were the sole authority for news. They were trusted everywhere. People ran to the streets to grab copies when something major happened. Newspaper reporters and editors were people who were trusted among citizens. Then came the Internet, and everything changed. Nowadays, there are such things as “citizen journalists” and bloggers. They provide established media organizations with competition, competition that often lacks the professional training of traditional journalists. Our first instinct as journalists is to disregard these new media outlets. But this week’s readings show me that collaborating with the public, as well as competing media organizations, might just save the industry. The writer of “State 2.0: A Front End?” defines networked journalism as a collaboration of “the technical capacity of mainstream media with much greater public participation in a thoroughly more open structural relationship between citizen and/as journalist.” In other words, news organizations work hand in hand with the public to deliver news. In “SuperMedia: The Future as ‘Network Journalism’” the writer says this public participation “liberates” traditional media. Now it’s up to traditional media to get over its long-held ego and let the public in. If newspapers can break the façade that has separated them from the public, I think they have a shot at surviving. The writer also says “networked journalism is a process, not a product.” Before the Internet, when newspapers only had to worry about the actual print product, journalism was very much a tangible product. Nowadays, when people expect live updates on news all day, journalism is becoming less about the tangible product and more about the process. The Fort Meyers News Press understood this when they asked for readers’ help in finding information after Hurricane Katirna. There’s no doubt that they had to overcome a lot of pride in doing this, but in the end, collaborating with the public worked for them. 

    Network journalism not only requires collaboration with the public, but also with competing news organizations. An example of this can be found in Publishing 2.0’s reading about four journalists from competing newspapers in Washington working together and linking to each other’s stories when covering a major story. This also must have taken a lot of humility, but in the end, the news was delivered in a more timely and accurate fashion. And that is the No. 1 priority in journalism, not our egos.


I chose to run this story in the New York Times through Poligraft about the Tea Party's efforts to secure candidates in the Senate primaries. Tea Party organizers are preparing to challenge some of the longest-serving Republican incumbents in 2012. I chose to use this story because I believe in stories about political candidates, information about campaign contributions from various groups and industries is very important. Knowing who is receiving funds from whom is key when making decisions about future leaders. I believe Poligraft is a very useful tool in tracking campaign contributions and determining who is backing whom. Below is the report I received from Poligraft after running the story through. I learned a lot about what industries are backing Tea Party groups and whose priorities these candidates would be looking out for if they were elected.

Club for Growth has aggregated
$2,000 to Chris Cannon (R) 

Points of Influence
Olympia J. Snowe (R)

Top Contributing Industries: Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Ideology/Single Issue, Misc. Business

Elena Kagan

Jason Chaffetz

Top Contributing Industries: Ideology/Single Issue, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Misc. Business

Chris Cannon (R)

Top Contributing Industries: Communications/Electronics, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Misc. Business

Robert F. Bennett (R) 
 Top Contributing Industries: Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Misc. Business, Ideology/Single Issue

Club for Growth

Richard G. Lugar

Top Contributing Industries: Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Misc. Business, Agribusiness


Orrin G. Hatch

Top Contributing Industries: Health, Finance/Insurance/Real Estate, Lawyers/Lobbyists

    Case Study 4

        After debating with myself the consequences and benefits of running this photo, I decided that if I were the editor, I would run this photo, just not on the front page of the newspaper. When I first saw the image and read the accompanying description, my jaw dropped. I was appalled. It’s pretty gruesome and hardly an image the everyday person wants to see as they are eating their breakfast with the morning paper. But in my opinion, that’s not reason enough to refrain from running it in the paper. No matter how gruesome it is, this is happening. The duty of the news media is to tell people the truth about what’s going on in the world. We can’t hide the truth about the war just because it might offend some people. On top of that, nothing delivers a message like a photograph. Telling this story with only words simply wouldn’t have the same effect as running the photo.

        Another reason I would not refrain from publishing this photograph is that it is not obvious what is being hanged. Without a description, it’s nearly impossible to tell that these are the remains of human bodies, much less those of American civilians. If the charred bodies could be recognized as human forms, I would most likely still run it, but possibly on the newspaper’s website with some sort of warning ahead before the reader just stumbles upon it. If the bodies were not charred or the face on one of the bodies was recognizable, I would not run the photograph. I would not want to run the risk of any of these civilians being recognized. Even if none of the faces were showing, someone could possibly recognize a family member based on their clothes, body types, where they lived in Iraq, etc. The harm inflicted upon the family members of these civilians outweighs any benefits of running the photograph. In my opinion, who was charred doesn’t make a huge difference in my decision, unless they were children. If they were American soldiers rather than civilians, or if they were Iraqis, the duty of the newspaper is still to display what’s happening. However, if they were Iraqis being hanged, I would want to be very cautious about how I would present the photograph so it doesn’t seem that I am praising their actions. On the other hand, if children were charred, I would absolutely not run the photograph. Maybe I don’t have a solid, justified reason, but that just seems cruel.

        I would prefer an alternate image on the front page, and I would run this story inside the paper. I would not make it any bigger or smaller than a standard news image, especially because it is not obvious that people are being hanged. If it were obvious, I would make the photograph smaller or run it on the website instead. I suppose I would include an explanation for running the photograph. I would explain the importance of publishing the truth about world news, no matter how gruesome or appalling it is. I would issue a warning about the graphic nature of the photo on the website. I don’t know how that would work in the print edition, but if it were possible, I would do it. Although I may be tempted, I would not alter the photo in any way. In news, there are only a few exceptional cases in which it would be acceptable to alter a photo, and even then the newspaper would need to tell the reader it was altered. This is not one of those cases. The media platform would have a huge influence in whether I run this photo and how I run it. On the website, I would not put this photo on the homepage, but rather include a warning about graphic footage. On television, I would also make a verbal warning before running these kinds of photos. But even then, there is the risk of someone simply flipping through the channels stumbling upon a photo they don’t want to see.

        The issue of public opinion for or against the war in Iraq would not really affect my decision. It’s not like publishing this photograph is manipulating the news in any way to make a point. This photograph is telling people what’s happening, whether they support the war or not. Any change of opinion would be the result of an honest portrayal of the war, not manipulation or propaganda. The only questions Poynter poses that would concern me is that it would somehow affect the safety of other civilians or soldiers in Iraq. This photo could possibly be a sort of inspiration among (some) Iraqis, possibly spurring even more violence. And more violence is the last thing I would want.

    Friday, January 28, 2011


    Team Ace decided that our FOIA request would be the amount of money spent by UF Housing on the creation and maintenance of "GatorSpace," a new social network created for UF students. Here's the letter: FOIA Letter Team Ace.

    Sunday, January 23, 2011


    From The Gainesville Sun
    Third-grade jugglers participate in Littlewood Elementary School's annual Medieval Faire Thursday in Gainesville.

    The second tip on the cutlines checklist is to “write with energy… a good cutline can sell the readers on taking a look at an accompanying story. I think that this is a good example of a cutline that could use a little more flair. “Participate in” and “third-grade jugglers” could both be reworded to reflect the lighthearted, fun nature of the story and event. With these kind of events, I think the writer has a lot more leeway in the types of words they choose.

    Three ye-young jesters juggle for the crowd Thursday at Littlewood Elementary School's annual Medieval Faire in Gainesville.

    From The Independent Florida Alligator

    Freshman Gabby Jackson drums on a garbage can on Turlington Plaza Thursday afternoon. The garbage can drums were part of an effort to spread gospel through different mediums such as music, step, dance and drama.

    The third tip on writing cutlines is to “Explain what is happening in the picture, without wasting words on what is obvious.” This is an example of a cutline that explains the obvious. In my opinion, some of the best cutlines are those that include quotes from the people pictured in them. I’m sure the photographer would have talked to Jackson, so he or she could have gotten a quote about “spreading the gospel,” the importance of music, etc. To make room for this quote, I would merge the two sentences into one and get rid of the unnecessary “drums on a garbage can”:

    Freshman Gabby Jackson makes music on Turlington Plaza on Thursday in an effort to spread the gospel. “Quote,” Jackson said.

    From The Gainesville Sun

    In this photo provided by The White House President Barack Obama takes part in a conference call in the Situation Room of the White House concerning the shooting of Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Ariz., Saturday, Jan. 8, 2011. From left are Obama, National Security Advisor Tom Donilon, incoming Chief of Staff Bill Daley, Deputy Chief of Staff for Ops Jim Messina, Director of Communications Dan Pfeiffer, and Assistant to the President for Legislative Affairs Phil Schiliro. Also taking part in the call are Attorney General Eric H. Holder, Jr., Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano, and FBI Director Robert Mueller.

    This cutline is way too long, and pretty daunting to readers. Most readers will not want to read this cutline, nor the story accompanying it. It’s an AP photo, so I’m sure the cutline was provided on the wires. Not everyone in this photo needs to be identified. All this information is not necessary, and the editors should have cut it down to make it more readable like so:

    Barack Obama takes part in a conference call at the White House concerning the shooting of Rep Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Ariz., on Jan. 8. Photo provided by the White House.

    AP Terms

    AP Terms

    Case Study 3

    Why Protocols are Important

    We've all heard the familiar phrase about what assuming does. This story is a perfect example of the consequences of making assumptions. Clearly, the editor assumed that because Leslie Manning had a girlfriend, Leslie Manning was a man, therefore changing the second reference of Manning from a "she" to a "he." But in reality, Leslie Manning is a woman, as the writer had it in the original story. One little letter can change so much. I can't imagine the backlash the editor or writer received from Manning. Especially these days, when so many people are openly homosexual, no one should have ever made this assumption.

    This story reminds me of when I met the corrections editor at The New York Times this summer. He's probably one of the funniest people you will ever meet. Occasionally, he'll let some of his humor show in corrections. Anyway, he was telling us interns about a story in the Weddings/Celebration section one week about the marriage of two gay men. I don't remember the specific details of the scenario, but there was debate over who was the bride, who was the groom, or whether to refer to both of them as grooms. And whoever won the debate was wrong. The couple was, to put it lightly, a bit annoyed.

    In terms of editing, I think this is mistake is a good lesson on why editors should always double-check with writers before making major changes. An editor should never change the facts of a story without asking the writer first. I learned that this summer. Even if I was absolutely positive that a name was spelled wrong or that the numbers in a story didn't add up, I would always check with the writer before changing any facts. Granted, sometimes the writer would be a little defensive, but usually they would respond respectfully and thank me for catching the mistake.

    This is why protocols are important. If editors do not have guidelines on what they can and cannot change and what all they should review with the writers before tweaking, editors may make these mistakes all the time.

    Sunday, January 16, 2011

    Case Study 2

    One of the greatest things about working at a newspaper is you never know what’s going to happen. Especially nowadays, with online media ramping up the pace in the newsroom, there’s always something going on. And every once in a while, something huge happens, something that everyone in the country is talking about. When the world stops, newspapers have to hustle. The Tucson Massacre is the perfect display of why every newspaper should have a plan for crisis situations.

    In a situation like the Tucson massacre, I would immediately send two or three reporters to the scene, along with a photographer. When the crisis first happens, the most important job we have is to go to the scene and find out as much information as possible. On top of the basic who, what, where, why and when, the reporters would need to find out the status of the victim or victims, whether there is still a threat, what comes next and how officials are responding. All this information needs to be posted to the website immediately. If possible, I would want the reporters blogging about this as they find the information so that readers everywhere can get up-to-date information quickly. This also might be a good opportunity to take advantage of Twitter as reporters find more information out.

    After the most crucial information is published, we would need to find out more about the circumstances behind the incident. In this case, I would want a reporter to contact Gifford’s office and – eventually – her family. I would also want this reporter to do research on the suspect so we can try to find out what his or her motivation was. I would not want the information about the suspect to be published like we published the other information. Rather, I would save that for the print edition so it can become a more in-depth piece, delving into public records and hopefully including interviews with people who know the suspect and victim.

    When crises like the Tucson Massacre occur, it is important for newspapers to respond quickly and accurately. I think the Internet is the perfect way to keep readers updated on issues that they care about.

    Blog No. 1

    These past two weeks’ blog readings reminded me that copy editing is much more than searching for misplaced commas and AP style slip-ups. I also learned that one of the most crucial jobs copy editor has is to focus. A copy editor is often one of the only people who have the time and perspective to read the story with a critical eye, questioning everything that seems even slightly fishy. Through my editing experience I have noticed that at the beginning of my editing shifts, I am much better at reading stories with a very critical eye and rarely missing any mistakes. However, as the night goes on, I lose focus, and that’s when I have let mistakes through in the past. I think in the future I will try to follow the critical thinking checklist in my mind to keep myself more alert and focused. The only part of the checklist I wlll never be able to follow is the first step, “reading, not editing, is the first step.” No matter how hard I try to restrain myself, I always make small changes on my first reading of the story. After reading the seven questions copy editors should ask of every story, I think one of the most difficult things to fix in a story are transitions. Especially when I am editing a story for print and space is limited, it’s not always easy to put in flowing transitions. That has always been something I have struggled with in my editing experience.

    I did have some issues with the Skeptical Editing article. Although I do believe that copy editors should question everything, I’ve learned that sometimes you just have to trust the writer. They are often experts on the story’s topic, and sometimes it’s not practical to verify every single fact when on deadline. During my time at the Alligator, I had no hesitation questioning writers. However, when I was at the New York Times, I found that the editors place a lot of trust in their writers. It was hard to transition from scrutinizing everything to “just going with it.” However, I don’t think editors should blindly trust the writers; there has to be a balance.

    Speaking of the New York Times, I have to say I was a little terrified after watching the speech by Bill Keller, the executive editor. I realized that I definitely need to pump up my online experience in order to have a job after graduation. Also, I was very surprised that one of the “questions that loom largest to us (The New York Times) at the moment” was the possibility of redesigning Times article pages. This is huge. There’s a reason the Times is known as the Gray Lady -- it has always been a very traditional paper and for the most part have had a similar design since it began. I can’t imagine a redesigned New York Times. It’s a terrifying image.


    Two websites I visit most often for news are The New York Times and The Huffington Post. I also try to read the print version of the New York Times as often as possible. The ways the two present the news are very different, even for the same story. When I visited the Huffington Post, I saw the image to the left.

    The Huffington Post didn’t even have its own story. Rather, the headline is a link to this story on the New York Times website. Comparing these two presentations of the same story is a perfect display of the difference between the news judgment of traditional media and that of online media. The Huffington Post’s priority is clearly to receive traffic on its homepage. They want people to look at their site and attempt to draw readers in by using caps lock and words like “secret” and “sabotage” to further promote the story.

    The New York Times, however, uses this headline: “Israel Tests on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay.” This is very different from the Huffington Post’s presentation of the story. As a traditional newspaper, The Times strays away from headlines that could seem sensational. This sometimes means that their headlines are a little more bland than headlines on newer, less traditional media websites. This may mean that for a specific story, another website may receive more hits than The Times.

    The stark difference between an online-only newspaper and a traditional newspaper’s website reveals how the Internet can often prompt journalists to present their news in sensational ways to gain traffic. This has potential to have a dangerous effect on the future of journalism. If priority is placed on making money and getting “hits,” news organizations may be tempted to dramatize the news, which defies the primary goal of a newspaper: to present the news accurately.


    1. “Traveling homeless man shares his message, story”
    From The Gainesville Sun

    This headline, unlike the previous headline, is accurate, but it doesn’t have enough flair. This guy’s story is pretty amazing. He quit his job at JPMorgan in 2009, sold everything he had, bought a van and now travels around the country with the homeless. I don’t think this headline does the story justice. This story needs a headline that really grabs the reader in and makes them want to hear more about this man. Also, I think including both “message” and “story” is a waste of valuable space, space that could be used for more colorful language.

    “A man without a home gives hope to local residents”

    This may be too corny or mushy, but I figured this is a better portrayal of what the story is really about. This man has no home, but he seems to have an amazing outlook on life and more hope than most people who have everything. I like this headline because it catches the reader off-guard by saying a homeless man is giving other people hope.

    2. “Arctic chill to hang around”
    From The Gainesville Sun

    This headline appeared on the front page of Friday’s edition of the Campus Sun. At the bottom of the story, there is a 6-day forecast for temperatures. I would rewrite this headline because I do not think it is accurate. In the 6-day forecast, the temperature increases from a low of 25 degrees to a low of 56 degrees. In my opinion, 56 degrees does not define an “arctic chill.” The story says that it will be cold for “one or two more nights.” In my mind, “hanging around” implies that it will be around for longer than a couple days.

    “Temperatures looking up”

    The challenge with this headline is that there really is not much room at all to be creative, so I had to write very straightforward. However, even though there is not much color, the headline is accurate, which in my mind is the No. 1 priority for a headline. No matter how beautifully a headline is written, if it is inaccurate, it’s worthless.

    3. “Goofy Challenge just a walk in the park for Parkland couple at Disney”
    In The Orlando Sentinel

    This headline jumped out at me because it relies on a cliché, “a walk in the park.” One of my biggest pet peeves in headline writing is the use of clichés. It’s just plain lazy, unless you can somehow come up with a way to tweak it in a smart, fresh way. I understand what the editor was trying to do here, with the word “park” (considering Disney is a theme park), but it could have been done better.

    “For one couple, Goofy Challenge is just another 40-mile walk in the theme park”

    Sunday, January 9, 2011


    Undercover sting targets taxis overcharging students
    From The Independent Florida Alligator

    A joint investigation of local cab companies by Gainesville and University Police revealed that many cab drivers have been operating against city ordinances to overcharge customers, adding hard evidence to a long list of complaints of unfair practices.

    The operation was launched in late fall in response to ongoing complaints from UF students that drivers were overcharging them for non-metered rides, according to a UPD press release.

    UPD and GPD worked undercover with members of UF Student Government, and on two separate nights last semester, took rides from random companies all over the city.

    Out of 19 fares, 11 were found in violation of City Ordinance 28, which requires cab drivers to use their meters for paying customers.

    The punishment for breaking the ordinance is a $50 fine.

    “We’ve heard numerous times that drivers were taking advantage of students,” said Jillian Rogers, the SG liaison to UPD. “It’s always been an issue, but until now, no one could do anything about it.”

    The results of the investigation, as well as ideas to curb the problem, will be open for discussion in a combined Student Senate and Gainesville City Commission meeting, open to the public on Jan. 18 at 7 p.m., in the Reitz Union Auditorium.

    “It’s great that UPD, GPD and SG are working together to fix this problem,” Rogers said. “This is the only way right now and we’re taking positive steps to protect students in the future.”

    If I were handed this story, I would most definitely not run it. With only one source, it is not balanced because it does not provide the cab companies with their defense. It also does not provide students’ reactions to the news, which is very important in a story that obviously affects many of the newspaper’s readers.
    I would also want some questions answered before I would consider running this. Specifically, I would want to know if it was only students who were being overcharged. Right now, the story makes it seem like students were the only victims, but it does not provide any specifics about the ratio of students to non-students who were affected.

    1. Who are the people affected?
    Students are affected. However, it is not clear if it is only students who are being overcharged. Do cab drivers bump up the prices for everyone?

    2. How are people affected or how might they be affected?
    This story definitely sparks interest among readers, especially because it is a student newspaper. Many students may be motivated to no longer use cab services after reading this story. The story might also motivate cab companies to ensure that their drivers are abiding by city ordinances to prevent overcharging.

    3. Why are you writing this?
    To make students aware of the corruption that is occurring among cab companies, corruption that has a direct effect on them.

    4. Who are the bureaucrats?
    The bureaucrats would be representatives from University Police and the Gainesville Police Department, UF Student Government leaders and representatives from cab companies.

    5. What are the key questions?
    -    How often were people being overcharged? By how much?
    -    Were only students being overcharged?
    -    How are cab companies responding to the investigation?
    -    Was there a certain type of student overcharged most often (race, ethnicity, etc.)?
    -    Are students now less likely to use cabs?

    6. What research must you do?
    The reporter would want to look at the detailed results of the investigation, including the details on who all was affected by the overcharging.

    7. Where can you go?
    For this story, the location of the interviews is really not all that important, especially because it is not a feature story. However, it is always best to do the stories in person, rather than over the phone.

    8. What are you missing?
    The story is missing information from several sources. Right now, it only has one source, the Student Government liaison to UPD. This is not nearly enough for this story to be balanced and complete.
    Most crucially, the story is lacking key information from  a very important source: the cab companies. This story is unbalanced because it does not provide these companies with the opportunity to defend themselves. Even if they are unwilling to talk, the story needs to include the fact that the reporter attempted to contact them.
    It is also missing the reactions of students to the investigation. The story lacks a human aspect because it only has a bureaucrat source.

    9. How can you be creative?
    For a follow-up, the reporter could do his or her own investigation by riding various cabs to see if he or she is overcharged.

    10. What is your vision?
    After speaking with more sources, this story could be completely reworked to provide more human accounts and personal stories of overcharging. It could also include a firsthand account from the reporter if he or she does his or her own investigation.