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.

    Case Study 1

    Eagle Snatches Dog While Owner Watches
    Valdez, Alaska -- A bald eagle satisfied its hunger at a Valdez gas station when it snatched up a small dog and flew away, leaving the dog's owner screaming in horror.

    The chihuahua-like dog had been let out of a motor home to run around in the station's parking lot while the owners, an unidentified couple from Georgia, cleaned the vehicle's windshield.
    Witnesses said the pet was about 5 feet away from the RV when the eagle swooped down from a perch in a nearby tree. Before the owners could react, the eagle circled up and away, heading off toward the city's harbor clinching the pooch tightly.

    "It was the damnedest thing I ever saw," said Dennis Fleming, a gas station attendant. "The dog gave one yelp and that was it."

    The woman owner clutched her hands to her face and cried, "Oh, my God," while Fleming tried to console her.

    Her husband, however, didn't appear to take the dog's departure too seriously. Fleming said as the man walked around the side of the motor home, out of sight of his wife, he began to grin and chopped his hands in the air and exclaimed, "Yeah! Yeah!”

       After reading “Eagle Snatches Dog While Owner Watches,” I was appalled that the story was actually published in a newspaper. The story is based entirely one on person’s account, and this one person is a gas station attendant. This should have raised an alarming red flag in the copy editor’s mind when he or she was reading it. A news story should never rely on one person’s word, especially if the person is not some sort of expert or official. On top of the lack of reliable sources, there are a lot of gaping holes in the story that led me to believe the attendant made the whole incident up. There are many unanswered questions that need to be addressed before this story could ever be published.

        The first question I asked myself when reading this story was, “Why did the reporter not speak with the dog’s owners?” I found it very surprising and quite questionable that the only source in the story was Dennis Fleming, the gas station attendant. Also, the story reads “witnesses said the pet was about 5 feet away from the RV when the eagle swooped down from a perch in a nearby tree.” Who are these other witnesses? Why are they not quoted in the story? If this incident actually happened, the accounts of the other witnesses as well as the owners themselves would not have been difficult to attain. Instead, the entire story is based on hearsay, and hearsay is not sufficient in newspapers, which are supposed to present facts only. If newspapers relied on sources like this all the time, they would have outlandish stories every day. There’s no doubt that these kinds of stories would sell papers, but journalism is about reporting the truth.
        For all we know, Fleming could be making this entire story up. In fact, there are some major holes in the story that lead me to believe he fabricated the story entirely.
        The first clue that this story was fabricated was its defiance of basic physics. When reading this, I asked myself “Would a bald eagle be capable of ‘snatching up’ a dog – even one that is the size of a chihuahua – and flying away effortlessly?” The story says the eagle had come from a nearby perch. If it was coming from a short distance away, would the eagle really be able to gain enough momentum to swoop up a dog “before the owners could react”? I did some research on bald eagles and their flying capabilities and found this article on the website of the Division of Wildlife Conservation Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Ron Clarke, a biologist who has his master’s degree studying birds of prey and is also a falconer himself, explains in further detail the carrying capabilities of bald eagles. He says if an eagle has a lot of momentum (about 20 to 30 miles per hour), it could pick up a small dog and continue flying. I doubt that an eagle could gain this kind of momentum flying from a nearby perch. I trust Clarke’s expertise on eagles much more than the account of a gas station attendant.

        Another aspect of the story that caused me to believe it was fiction was the husband’s reaction to the incident, as well as Fleming’s reaction. Fleming said the husband “began to grin and chopped his hands in the air and exclaimed, ‘Yeah! Yeah!’” after watching his pet being carried away into the sky. Even if the husband didn’t have the fondest feelings for the dog, I find it very unbelievable that anyone would react like this. Even if he loathes his wife’s pooch, his natural reaction would be shock, not celebration. While Fleming describes the husband’s reaction as one of insensitivity, he describes his own reaction as comforting. The story reads: “The woman owner clutched her hands to her face and cried, ‘Oh, my God,’ while Fleming tried to console her.” It sounds to me like Fleming is making himself out to be a sympathetic hero, while the husband is crass. Besides, would a gas station attendant really be in the position to console a customer? I highly doubt it.

        This story is the perfect example of what not to do in reporting and what to watch out for when editing. A story should never rely on one source, especially if the source is not an official, expert or spokesperson. Copy editors should not be too quick to trust reporters and should instead question everything. For example, in this story the editor should have questioned whether it was physically possible for an eagle to swoop up a dog in the circumstances described. If editors do not have a critical eye for anything that seems fishy or untrue.

    Saturday, January 8, 2011


    I decided to share this story in The New York Times about how the Cambridge Review is attempting to reverse the trends among today's high school students of poor writing.

    Who Am I?

    Name: Emily Blake
    What year? Senior

    • Where are you from? Maitland, Fla.
    • Why did you come to the University of Florida? I grew up a die-hard Seminole fan (both of my parents went to FSU). However, after researching public universities with the best journalism programs, UF was the most impressive one I found for which I didn't have to pay out-of-state tuition.
    • Major? Journalism
    • Why are you taking this course (besides the fact it is required)? I want to learn how to improve my editing skills, especially in a changing world dominated by the Internet.
    • Outside interests, hobbies, avocations, things you love to do? I love traveling and running. After I graduate, I plan on backpacking across Europe in May, going to Italy, France, England and Ireland.
    • Tell me one interesting thing about you – something that makes you unique. I love to run. I did the New York City Marathon in 2008, and I plan to do more marathons in the future.
    • Are you the first person in your family to attend a university? No.
    • On a scale from 1 to 10, with 10 being top-notch, how would you rate your knowledge of grammar, punctuation and AP style? 8 or 9.
    • On the same scale, how would you rate your skills with working with InDesign and PhotoShop and with online media in general? 6
    • What online skills do you feel you are proficient at? HTML, CSS.
    • Where do you get most of your news? Newspaper websites, primarily The New York Times. I also read the print version of The Times almost every day.
    • What books are you reading and have read in the last three months? I am currently reading "Play It as It Lays" by Joan Didion. In the past three months, I have read "The Magicians" by Lev Grossman, and "Something Borrowed" and "Something Blue" by Emily Giffin.
    • Career Goals? Be specific as possible. Elaborate a bit. Ideally I would like to be an editor at a larger magazine. Ever since I started seriously running six years ago, it has been my dream to work at Runner's World. If I can't find a job at a magazine, I'd like to work for a larger news website such as The Huffington Post.
    • What magazines, newspapers and news Web sites do you read regularly? The New York Times, Runner's World, The Huffington Post, Rolling Stone, The Onion, Vogue
    • What is your favorite Web site? For news websites, definitely The New York Times. They have some of the best online media projects in the industry such as videos, interactive graphics, etc.
    • Do you blog? Not yet, but I plan to!
    • Do you have any media/communication experience? If so, what? Yes, I was the copy desk chief at The Independent Florida Alligator. I have had one reporting internship at The North Florida Herald. I have had two copy editing internships, one at The Orlando Sentinel and one at The New York Times (through the Dow Jones News Fund).
    • Are you pursuing a media related internship or job at this time? I will be interning on the copy desk of The Seattle Times this summer.
    • Do you have an updated resume in your files? Yes.