Archive for the ‘ Press criticism ’ Category

Journalism and women: much more to be said and done

My last post, on women’s progress in newsrooms (far below the proportion of women in journalism programs, thinnest at the top, especially at newspapers), left me unsatisfied. I wanted to say so much more. I wanted to talk about the sometimes outrageous treatment of women journalists and women news sources by some male journalists and the lack of outrage this treatment receives. (Compare this with the outrage over expressions of racial stereotyping. Both are wrong, of course. But when was the last time society called out Chris Matthews for his piggishness? Check out the video linked above for some primo examples of lascivious oink.) I wanted to learn more about, and discuss, organizations that push for more accurate and comprehensive portrayals of women in news stories. And I wanted to continue the conversation about how journalism professors can help prepare students for the obstacles they, or people they care about, may face in the industry.

The Women’s Media Center video linked above and here does a fine job of illustrating the lingering obsession with looks and charm among male talking heads (seemingly everywhere) and female talking heads (largely on Fox, at least as portrayed in the video). Accomplished women, young and old, sources and journalists alike, are reduced to a tone of voice, a bit of cleavage, a hairstyle. It’s infuriating. What to do? Write letters, send emails or let the Women’s Media Center do the job for you by filling out this form when you see, hear or read reductive portrayals of women that disregard their full humanity – like this absurdity from New York City’s WCBS-TV, which I found on the media center’s terrific website. Continue reading

Punctuation, attribution, Romenesko: My kingdom for a quotation mark

Punctuation saves lives!

Punctuation can hurt people, too. It can even cost a columnist his job.

The Romenesko fiasco that has been roiling the journalism world for the past two days originated in a column by Poynter.org editor Julie Moos over the failure of Jim Romenesko, whose daily Poynter column rounded up news about newsrooms, to put quotation marks around material he used verbatim from the stories to which he linked.

Romenesko invented the journalism gossip blog back in the 20th century, before “aggregator” became a household word (at least in journalism households). His column was water-cooler fodder in every newsroom in the country, and for years, it was the go-to place for memo leakers, until its success spawned imitators and rivals. The Poynter Institute in St. Petersburg, Fla., a highly regarded journalism think tank with an emphasis on ethics and best practices, describes itself as “a school dedicated to teaching and inspiring journalists and media leaders.” Uncountable journalists, journalism students and journalism educators have taken courses at, taught at or written for Poynter (including me).

I spent an afternoon reading commentary from around the Web about Moos’ post, a post that led Romenesko to move up his previously announced resignation from Poynter. He had planned to leave at the end of the year. He’s gone now, and lots of people are furious about the unhappy way his long career at Poynter ended. A few argue that Moos was absolutely right, that Romenesko violated basic journalism practice. But the prevailing view on Moos’ critique seems to be, as The New York Times’ David Carr put it, “Jim’s use of quote marks blahbity-blah resulted in questionable whoopdedoo and we are now totally on the case of not very much.” Continue reading

A Gannett strategy on newspaper video inflames the debate

A beet.tv interview with Gannett Digital executive Kate Walters, in which she announced a “significant investment in video” at the company’s 80-plus newspapers, has sparked a bonfire of scorn among photographers, videographers and Gannett employees, past and present.

Walters said the company will train and equip “all reporters” to add video to their stories, use third-party suppliers to provide video in places and on topics where staff are unavailable, and feature user-generated video prominently on all sites.

What really steamed many commenters was Walter’s wide-eyed promise of a “culture shift” for all reporters, getting them to think about stories visually as well as textually. Continue reading

Newspapers and web video, part 3: Choosing the stories that need video

Over the past week, I’ve been reading what newspaper photographers and videographers have to say on the touchy topic of how their sites use web video.

Seems to me there’s a consensus that less IS more, which is exactly my point.

G.J. McCarthy, a photographer at the Dallas Morning News, posted this comment on sportsshooters.com’s message board: Continue reading

Further thoughts on newspaper video

It’s been fascinating to follow the debate that sprang up in response to my Sept. 23 post, “Newspapers should jettison (most of) their web video efforts.” Thanks to all who responded. You have given me much to ponder.

In the original post, I called for local and regional papers to be more selective in deploying their resources in today’s financially straitened times, not to abandon video altogether (emphasis added; not everybody read me correctly). While some categories of video draw visitors to newspaper sites, not every story needs multimedia, and much of what’s produced on newspaper sites goes to waste. Newspapers, I wrote, should play to their strengths.

As evidence, I cited a report from the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University, which suggested earlier this year that fewer than 10 percent of unique visitors to newspaper and local-TV websites watch video streams. Anecdotally, I’ve found this to be true not just among middle-aged people like me but also among the undergraduates I teach.

Several commenters blamed these results the feckless way too many newspaper managers approach multimedia. Giving a reporter, or even a still photographer, a video camera doesn’t make that person a video journalist, any more than handing a photographer a notepad makes that person a writer. Training matters. Some newspapers have provided the necessary education, but many editors panicked once they decided to increase the multimedia on their sites. They shoved video cameras into the hands of nearly everyone on their staffs and demanded that they start shooting.

As Rebecca Gerendasy, a veteran video journalist from San Francisco, commented: Continue reading

Newspapers should jettison (most of) their web video efforts

Newspapers should take a hard look at* their largely feeble attempts to draw readers with web video. It’s a misuse of their shrunken resources. It’s not working. Though visits to newspaper websites keep growing, a small minority of visitors watches videos there.

*(Update, Oct. 14, 2011: My original post read: Newspapers should give up their largely feeble attempts to draw readers with web video. As the responses to this post flowed in, I realized I’d overstated my views in the lede. The title of the post [should jettison most of their web video efforts] better reflects my intent, and later posts on this topic [Oct. 8 and Oct. 14] further clarify my thinking as it evolved through the dialogue my original post engendered. Thanks to all who contributed to the discussion.) Continue reading

Newsday coverage of Nassau County referendum was unbalanced

Nassau County residents’ resounding defeat of the proposed $400 million bond issue to build a new Nassau Coliseum was a clear indication of popular sentiment. Eighteen of 19 voting districts turned down the idea. Countywide, the vote was 57 percent against, 43 percent in favor.

And this despite Newsday’s best efforts to promote the deal. In the 10 days before the vote, Newsday published five staff-written stories that were solidly in favor of taxpayer support for the new arena and a nearby minor-league ballpark. Opposition views were mentioned in passing—or not at all.

  • July 21: “Labor unions step up push for Coliseum.” The story focused on the 3,000 jobs the development was supposed to create but didn’t mention opponents’ arguments that the number was inflated.
  • July 23: “Wang says new Coliseum key to LI growth.” This two-page spread reported on an interview at Newsday with Charles Wang, the billionaire owner of the Islanders hockey team. The Islanders’ lease of the existing Coliseum expires in 2015, and Wang had threatened to move the team if the referendum was defeated. The story focuses on Wang’s arguments for the deal. Opposing arguments are mentioned once – in the 27th paragraph.
  • July 26: “Wang: Privately funding Coliseum unlikely.” The story begins flatly, “New York Islanders owner Charles Wang said last night that there was no alternative to borrowing funds to build a new Nassau Coliseum.” The next 12 paragraphs described Wang’s address to “a friendly crowd of business owners and advocates.” At the end: three paragraphs quoting from an interview on WFAN with the county’s Democratic Committee chairman, who opposed public financing for an arena.
  • July 27: “Islanders ask fans to support referendum.” The paper’s coverage of a rally attended by “more than a thousand Islanders fans”—no source was given for that estimate—made no mention of opposition. Continue reading
%d bloggers like this: