Alicia Shepard


Largest German newspaper rejects prestigious prize it would have shared with tabloid

The Henri Nannen Prize is considered the most prestigious journalism print prize in Germany, the equivalent of the Pulitzer Prize in the United States.

So it came as a surprise earlier this month when, at the annual awards ceremony in Hamburg, three journalists from Sueddeutsche Zeitung rejected the award for the investigative news category.

The judging is similar to the Pulitzers in that submissions are weeded down to three finalists. This year, however, the Henri Nannen judges could not decide between two of the three finalists in the investigative news category. So they split the prize between Sueddeutsche, the largest broadsheet in Germany, and Bild, a populist New York Post-style tabloid that runs pictures of half-naked women inside.

It was the first time the award had been split, said Susanne Hacker, a spokesperson for the Henri Nannen Prize, by email.

Sueddeutsche was nominated for a series the Munich-based paper did uncovering tax evasion and corruption surrounding the Bayerische Landesbank that involved Formula One car racing. Bild was nominated for reporting that led to the resignation in February of German President Christian Wulff over a loan scandal. In 2010, Wulf became Germany’s youngest president at age 51.

According to the Henri Nannen website, judges must evaluate entries based on two criteria: reporting and social impact of the investigation.

Here’s what the jury said about Sueddeutsche’s work:

“They started from scratch. There was no investigation by the public prosecutors, no suitcase stuffed with documents, no whistleblowers. Only the suspicion that there was more to the scandal surrounding the Bayerische Landesbank than was revealed by late 2010. Without the months of persistent work by the SZ journalists probably none of this would have come to light. A truly excellent investigative achievement.”

But the jury felt that Bild had done an equally impressive job. “They researched the story for nearly a year and were the first to reveal that the former German president had accepted a shady private loan in his prior role as the state premier of Lower Saxony – and had failed to tell parliament the full truth about it,” said the jury. Then Wulff resigned. “A case of greatest possible fall from grace,” the jury said.

“So, on the one side, a truly excellent investigative achievement,” said the jury on the Henri Nannen website, “and on the other a superlative example of social impact, both balancing each other out.”

When the double-winner was announced for Bild and Sueddeutsche, several German newspapers reported that it was met with some boos from the 1,200-person audience at the awards.

Writing in the Frankfurter Rundschau newspaper earlier this month, Green politician Antje Vollmer called the nomination an ‘alarm signal’ which threatened to blur the line between ‘serious journalism and pseudo-journalism,’ ” said The Local, which publishes Germany’s news in English.

The Bild team of Martin Heidemanns and Nikolaus Harbusch happily accepted the award, a first for the tabloid.

But when the Sueddeutsche’s Hans Leyendecker, Klaus Ott and Nicolas Richter walked to the stage, they turned down the renowned award. Leyendecker is considered one of Germany’s best-known investigative reporters. 

Leyendecker told the audience, “We do not want to be awarded together with Bild Zeitung,” according to translated stories in Hamburg’s Morgenpost and Tagesschau, a German TV news service. Leyendecker added that for the Henri Nannen Prize to include Bild amounted to a “break in the culture” because Sueddeutsche’s journalists don’t believe Bild does serious journalism.

“No recipient has ever before declined an award,” said Hacker in an email.

The German Journalists’ Association called for a restructuring of the jury and criticized the decision to provide a double-award under the headline: “Time for an Overhaul.” The Union said the jury had confused a newspaper scoop with deep investigative reporting, according to a translated version of an article in Sueddeutsche.

Sueddeutsche’s decision to refuse the award has drawn criticism for coming across as “arrogant,” and praise by others who don’t like the tabloid culture.

Martin Thunert, a senior lecturer in political science at the Heidelberg Center for American Studies, said in an interview that Sueddeutsche might regret refusing the award.

“It might backfire,” said Thunert. He pointed out that what Bild did was considered brave by many because it had a long, close relationship with Germany’s former president.

“It may be considered too much of an honor for a tabloid,” said Thunert, “but you can’t overlook the fact that they turned against a federal president that they had been very much in bed with for the past two years. Saying they don’t want to be with Bild confirms a stereotype of Sueddeutsche as a liberal, elite paper.”

This is the second year that controversy has marred the prize.

“Last year the prize was taken away from one winner by the jury because in his article he gave the impression to have visited a site he wrote about personally,” said Hacker. “But during the ceremony he said that he never had been there.”

Guardian reporter Nick Davies won the Henri Nannen Prize for press freedom. Davies covered the News International phone-hacking scandal that resulted in Rupert Murdoch shutting down the News of the World; most recently, Murdoch deputy Rebekah Brooks was charged with interfering in the phone-hacking investigation.

Nannen, who died in 1996, was a journalist who founded Gruner + Jahr and the news magazine Der Stern, which he led from 1948 to 1980. Journalists submitted a total of 872 works from 154 print and online publications for this year’s Henri Nannen Prizes, awarded in his honor. Read more


ASNE chooses five women editors for leadership panel

The opening panel of the American Society of News Editor’s convention on Tuesday starred an unusual lineup: five heavy-hitting top female journalists.

ASNE, long a bastion of white male editors, intentionally decided to have a high-powered, women-only panel this year. It was the brainchild of Wanda Garner Cash, associate director of University of Texas’s journalism school, who has held several top newspaper editor jobs.

“This is extremely rare, probably unprecedented in my life,” said panelist Chrystia Freeland. (Photo by Alicia Shepard)

The “Innovative Newsroom Leadership” panel included Jill Abramson, editor of The New York Times; Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post; Kathleen Carroll, AP executive editor; Donna Byrd, publisher of of; and Chrystia Freeland, editor of Thomson Reuters Digital. Gwen Ifill of “Washington Week” and PBS “NewsHour”moderated.

“The fact that they are all women is incidental but notable,” said Cash, who is on the ASNE planning committee. “I wanted all women up there but didn’t want to make it about shattering glass ceilings but about breaking through entrenched institutional barriers. These women are leaders pushing for cultural changes in news rooms and encouraging and rewarding innovation.”

They are newsroom leaders who happen to be women.

“My hope is the audience will look up and realize the innovators are all women and a light bulb will go off, and they’ll see this is a new trend in American journalism,” she said.

George Stanley, Milwaukee Journal managing editor, is a co-chair of this year’s convention held in Washington, D.C., at the Marriott Wardman Park.

“We wanted to make a statement with that opening panel,” he said, “without actually making a statement. We wanted the makeup of that panel of top leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators to speak for itself – just as the makeup of all those other panels throughout the years had sent a different message, intended or not.”

The message it sent

Freeland joined Thomson Reuters in March 2010 as global editor-at-large. A year later, she was named to a newly created position in which she is responsible for online, mobile and digital, including

“This is the probably the first panel I can think of that I have been on that is all women apart from another that was a non-profit,” said Freeland. “This is extremely rare, probably unprecedented in my life.”

Freeland, who got her first job in journalism in 1991, calls herself a feminist.

“As a feminist, it often makes me sad, particularly since I’m mostly a business journalist and in the professional world I inhabit, that there are often so few women,” said Freeland. “That worries and disappoints me. I was really thrilled to be on a panel of all women. What I particularly like is it’s not a panel to talk about women’s issues.”

Ifill began the panel by saying, “It’s interesting to look across the panel and realize we are not talking about contraception or women’s health issues.”

After that, not another word was spoken about gender. In fact, there was more discussion about the age gap in news rooms between young and digitally savvy and older grizzled journalists married to strong ethically sound reporting.

After the panel, Huffington echoed Freeland’s feelings. “It is great to be on a panel where we weren’t talking about contraception,” she said. “It’s not often I’m on a panel with all women journalists. In fact, I can’t remember another time, actually.”

Not everyone is so impressed.  I emailed the AP’s Carroll before the panel to see what she thought.

“Really, an all girl question? C’mon….” Read more

1 Comment

The iconic photos of Trayvon Martin & George Zimmerman & why you may not see the others

Since the shooting of Trayvon Martin became national news, two photos have come to define the emotionally and racially charged narrative.

News organizations initially had just a few photos of Martin to choose from, and just one of George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watchman who shot and killed him. More recent photos have emerged lately, but a month after the shooting, the narrative already has been established.

This is the most recognized image of Trayvon Martin, although it’s several years old. (Associated Press)

“The challenge we have is a lot of folks are getting a very surface view from the photos,” said Orlando Sentinel photo editor Tom Burton. “Photos can be used to get people emotionally involved and we need to be careful. It’s a concern if we had more of a choice, but we are limited by availability.”

The dominant photo of Martin shows him 13 or 14 years old, wearing a red Hollister T-shirt. Other photos, none of them recent, depict a young Martin in a youth football uniform, holding a baby and posing with a snowboard. He is the picture of innocence.

The most common photo of Zimmerman is a 2005 police mugshot. He is 22 in the photo, which was taken after he was arrested for assaulting an officer. (The charges were dropped.) He looks unhappy, if not angry.

This mugshot has become the dominant image of George Zimmerman. It, too, is several years old. (Associated Press)

The contrast — the two photos are often published side by side — has led to criticism that news media have tilted the story in favor of the 17-year-old victim and against the 28-year-old man who shot him.

“The images used are clearly prejudicial to both men,” said Kenny Irby, Poynter’s senior faculty for visual journalism and diversity. “If those are the repeating images, then we continually reinforce prejudice and negative emotions. We never get to appreciate the life experience or further context of either individual.”

Although more recent photos are now available, there are legal and contextual arguments against using them.

Can news outlets use photo of Zimmerman in a tie?

Take the newest Zimmerman photo. Last Friday, Orlando Sentinel reporter Jeff Weiner got a photo from Zimmerman’s last employer. In this one, he is smiling and wears a tie and jacket.

This more recent photo of Zimmerman has not been used as widely as the mugshot, in part due to copyright issues. (Orlando Sentinel)

The Sentinel obtained the photo through an unnamed source, but the paper hasn’t given anyone else permission to use it. It has, however, made the photo available to clients of McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

“We got it from a source and published under fair use,” said the Sentinel’s Burton. “We are not selling it because we don’t own it. If someone takes it from our website, we are not going to pursue them.”

Staff at The Miami Herald saw the photo of Zimmerman in the tie and wanted to run it with a profile last Sunday.

“When one sees a solitary mugshot of Zimmerman …, with a negative expression on his face, that kind of photo can influence the story,” said Herald photo editor Roman Lyskowski. “You look at it and say, ‘A booking mug. Yes, of course, he’s guilty.’ “

Yet the Herald had to run the old booking photo on Sunday. Only the Sentinel knew where the newer one had come from, and it wouldn’t grant permission to publish the image.

“The risk in using that photo is that the owner of the copyright has not consented to your use and can sue you for copyright infringement,” said Andy Sellars of Harvard’s Berkman Center for Internet & Society. “You could raise fair use, but then a judge has to decide the case. … The more you need the photo to tell what you need to say, the more the photo is an essential part of the story and the stronger your case is.”

The Herald decided to use the photo later in the week after it had been distributed on the McClatchy-Tribune wire.

Irby believes the decimation of newsrooms, including photography departments, is one reason news outlets continue to run the same photo rather than pursue newer, more accurate ones.

“Picture editors and photographers are some of the biggest newsroom casualties” of budget cuts, he said. “So when you have a story laced with subtleties, it becomes key to really work to have the latest visual content and representation of that story.”

Five years ago, the Sentinel had five photo editors and the Herald had six. Today, each paper has two.

Trayvon Martin photos loaded with meaning

Keith Jenkins, head of multimedia at NPR, wasn’t as concerned about the first Zimmerman photo — it was the only one available — as he was with news outlets’ choice of Martin photos. They generally chose the one of the boy in the red T-shirt rather than a more recent photo of him in a gray hoodie, which has been available all along.

Photo editors said this image of Trayvon Martin has been available as long as the one of him in the red shirt, but it hasn’t circulated as widely. Miami Herald and Orlando Sentinel photo editors expressed reservations about the connotations of image, although they have published it.

“The picture of Trayvon in a hoodie is one of a normal kid in a hoodie. My kid looks like that,” Jenkins said. “The standard is to use the most recent picture. Why have we moved away from the hoodie picture? We should be as honest with the visuals as we are with the text and audio.”

When the story first broke, Burton questioned whether his paper should use the hoodie photo. But it did.

“Our initial question is whether the hoodie photo was making Trayvon look more like a criminal,” said Burton. “Of course, now it’s flipped itself culturally with the Million Man Hoodie thing in New York City. The hoodie has become a badge of honor.”

(Burton discusses the Sentinel’s decision-making in detail in this video.)

The Herald’s Lyskowski also was reluctant to run the Martin hoodie photo with its March 22 profile, but he did.

“The picture of him was not of a happy, smiling kid in a hoodie,” said Lyskowski. “He looks hard in it. His expression is stern. Having the hoodie around his head can have a negative connotation. We talked about that but decided at that point, the hoodie had become part of the story.”

Poynter’s Kenny Irby said he doesn’t see a reason not to use this photo.

This week, additional, more recent photos of Martin appeared. One, from his Twitter account, is a close-up of a smiling, gold-toothed Martin, wearing a sleeveless T-shirt and looking more like a 17-year-old.

The Sentinel published a story about the gold-toothed photo Wednesday.

Irby believes news outlets should use this photo even though Martin has a “grill,” a removable piece of dental jewelry that mimics the gold teeth often associated with rappers.

“I just don’t see that photo as demonizing,” said Irby. “It’s a picture of a contemporary youth. I see white kids with grills, Asian kids with grills. It’s one of the visual symbols of youth in America today.”

“The old pictures still have relevance,” he said, “but we should try not to relegate it to one photo defining who Trayvon is.”

Correction: In the original version of this story, the Herald’s Lyskowski stated that Zimmerman was wearing an orange jumpsuit in his 2005 booking photo, but as a reader pointed out, it’s a polo shirt. That portion of the quotation has been removed for accuracy. Read more


Chicago Public Radio to examine what went wrong with ‘This American Life’ story on Apple
The leaders of Chicago Public Radio and “This American Life” will conduct an in-depth examination into why they had to retract perhaps the most popular episode in the show’s nearly 17-year-history.

Torey Malatia, president of Chicago Public Radio, which produces “This American Life,” told me for a story that he wants to see what went wrong with the show’s fact-checking:

`“We are doing a forensic on this whole thing as soon as Ira [Glass] gets back, and we will write up some policies on verification and confirmation,” Malatia said. “Our managing editor, Ira and some folks from other shows will be involved, and there will be a report handed over to our board for approval.” …

“My instincts are that, had the procedures been followed the way it is usually done, you never would have heard the initial broadcast,” Malatia said.

Malatia has already taken a big lesson from this embarrassing episode: “There is a universal responsibility for attention to detail that never goes away and can never be assumed. It’s like practicing scales if you are a musician. Even if you are virtuoso, you still have to practice scales.”

Read more

CNN producer wins $1 million lottery, says ‘I’m not quitting my job’

Late last Saturday night, CNN producer Jennifer Hauser and her husband, on a whim, bought a $10 lottery ticket to mark their seventh wedding anniversary.

They scratched off the blue “50X The Money” ticket and couldn’t believe their eyes. They’d won $1 million. Only three months before, the lucky couple won $100,000.

“It was late at night and I was pretty tired and had to be up at 6 a.m. to work the next day,” said Hauser, 29. “I didn’t really believe it was real.”

On Monday, she took the ticket to the Georgia Lottery and they confirmed that she was indeed a two-time lottery winner.

Did she want to hold a press conference?, they asked.

No way, she wanted to keep this quiet, like she had with the previous win. She actually went to work and didn’t tell anyone for two days.

During her CNN appearance Hauser said she wasn’t sure how to tell her parents about the lottery win.

What was she thinking? The lottery put something on its website, and soon everyone in her CNN newsroom knew. “I don’t know what I was thinking,” said Hauser. “I figured they’d put a blurb on their website and no one would notice it. I was kind of stupid to think that.”

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution picked up the news and CNN put her on the air Thursday. Hauser, who has worked as a CNN producer for almost eight years, answered the obvious question: Is she going to tell her bosses to take this job and shove it?

“No, I’m not quitting my job,” said Hauser, who has a six-year-old daughter. “They take over half of it in taxes. I really want to help my family and invest it. Nothing too wild.”

Not quite half, said Tandi Reddick, media relations manager for the Georgia Lottery. “Thirty-one percent is withheld from all prizes over $5,000. 25 percent is withheld for federal taxes and 6 percent for state,” she said.

Hauser is the fourth $1 million winner since the “50X The Money” instant game began in late December.

With the previous win, the couple paid bills and bought a new Maxima. She and her husband are still absorbing the news, and may take her parents on a trip.

“I did start a frenzy at work with a couple of producers running out to buy lottery tickets,” said Hauser. “They were disappointed they didn’t win anything. I don’t encourage people to do this.”

Maybe she should get a side job picking lottery tickets. Read more

1 Comment

Park City paper shifts coverage from government to celebrities during Sundance

Reporter Jay Hamburger’s beat is county government in the 7,500-population hamlet of Park City, Utah – but anything goes when the Sundance Film Festival kicks in.

“How could I forget my story, ‘Lady Gaga-dressed man arrested at Occupy protest on Main Street‘?” said Hamburger, who has reported for The Park Record for 14 years. “That’s a Sundance-only type story.”

Every third week in January since 1981, Sundance has premiered thousands of films in Park City. Some 50,000 pour into town over 10 days, dramatically shifting the coverage from local politics and property disputes to parties and stories on the latest movies.

Each year, the 132-year-old paper kicks into gear for the onslaught.

Nan Chalat-Noaker has been the Park Record’s editor for 16 years.

“We have this delicate balance,” said Nan Chalat-Noaker, editor since 1996. “On the one hand, there are all these celebrities in town. But we can’t forget our deeper mission to our residents. I consider the festival a thrill, but there are people in town who get irritated. If our newspaper only covered Sundance, we’d be in trouble. We can’t get stars in our eyes.”

One notable story advised residents and tourists alike where to park and what it might cost them. During the festival, Main Street turns into Mecca, and parking is outlawed.

And, of course, there’s the expected front-page story on the latest thoughts of Sundance Pooh-Bah, actor Robert Redford. This year, Redford explained — as he probably has hundreds of times before — that Sundance and Park City are two different places. Redford runs filmmaker labs at the Sundance Institute, 40 miles from Park City.

Six reporters, an editor, a copy editor and two part-time photographers put out the paper twice weekly but like all papers, it has an online presence 24/7. During Sundance, the staff works nearly around the clock because so much is going on. “We can’t afford to have anyone on our tiny, tiny staff sick,” said Chalat-Noaker. “So we give free flu shots.”

The paper publishes four issues during Sundance’s run, and prints an extra 1,200 copies throughout the winter season. Some are sold for 50 cents a copy, but the rest are distributed free to hotels and property management companies if they promise to give the broadsheet a noticeable perch.

“We also publish an annual ‘Film Festival guide,’ that is a glossy, saddle-stitched magazine formal publication with a press run of 12,000,” said Andy Bernhard, publisher for 24 years.

This year’s big front-page news story, “Sundance, Occupied,” was about a handful of Occupy Wall Street demonstrators who stormed a local bank. “There’s a lot of police-type activity we … see in this town during Sundance,” said Hamburger. “Brawls, crowd control, breaking up parties, celebrity misbehavior, people using hot tubs that don’t belong to them.” The town doesn’t usually see this activity other times of year.

With rappers Ice T, Common, Chuck D and Drake in town (Ice T was promoting his hip hop documentary, “Something for Nothing”), crowds quickly formed. “When the festival is at its biggest, it can be mayhem,” said Hamburger. “As a reporter, though, it’s more interesting than a typical day in Park City.”

Jay Hamburger usually covers county government for the Park Record.

Mostly, it’s fun for the staff. This year’s papers tried to balance front page stories on a high-profile development deal to build a movie studio with stories on documentaries about rape in the military, battling food giant Dole and a couple building a 90,000 square-foot home in Florida in the style of Versailles.

Chalat-Noaker saw “The Queen of Versailles,” and wrote about the documentary, which tells the story of a rags-to-riches couple, David Siegel, 76, and his wife, Jackie, 43, who have eight children and own the biggest privately held timeshare company in the world. Siegel’s resort empire includes a project in Park City.

“I wrote about it because of the connection to here,” said Chalat-Noaker. “But also because of the dichotomy between the uber rich and the tumble of the economy.”

As the economy crashes, the Siegels are forced to put their mansion on the market. Chalat-Noaker wrote about “Queen,” she said, because she feels if she sees a free screening and takes up the filmmaker’s time with interviews, “I’m obligated to write about it.”

Her staff doesn’t review movies, but they do tell the filmmaker’s stories on how the film was made and what it took to get into Sundance. The editor encourages her staff to see films as well, but there’s rarely enough time.

“During Sundance, I just have the feeling that I want to be in six places at once,” said Chalat-Noaker. “I get extraordinary access, but can’t take advantage of it because I have to be here to copy edit, design pages and put the paper out. But overall, I feel damn lucky.”

Just to make sure her staff got to see some films, the Wednesday morning meeting was canceled.

“I do encourage staffers look at the list of films and pick one or two that sparks their interest personally in hopes they will have a little fun,” said Chalat-Noaker. “I try to remind staff and remember myself that when all of these hot shots leave town, we still have to live with one another. So, no snapping at service workers who are just trying to do their jobs.”

Alicia Shepard was in Park City, Utah for the Sundance Film Festival to attend the premier of her son Cutter Hodierne’s film “Fishing Without Nets,” which won the Jury Prize for Short Filmmaking.

Eric Carvin

Eric Carvin’s social media goal: ‘To get to every last journalist at AP’

AP’s new social media editor, Eric Carvin, 38, got his first computer in grade school. His mom won the IBM PCjr. in one of many sweepstakes contests she regularly entered by mailing in dozens of postcards.

“I was in fourth or fifth grade and someone from the front office stopped me and told me my mom had just won me a computer,” said Carvin. “I was so excited. The one characteristic of this computer that was unusual was it had a keyboard that wasn’t attached to the computer but had an infrared sensor that connected it. You could say it was the Bluetooth of the day.”

It was also a big flop.

“We won it just as it was being discontinued,” said Carvin’s mother, Nancy. “And that kept me from having to pay taxes.”

Carvin’s fascination with computers, and the promise of social media, stem back to his father, an electrical engineer. Bob Carvin introduced Eric and his older brother Andy to computers and programming at an early age. Andy, 40, has been NPR’s social media strategist since 2006.

“Though neither of us stuck with programming, we both continued to use computers a lot,” said Andy in an email. (The family got its first computer, an Atari 800, around 1980.) “If anything, I’d say what he introduced us to was curiosity, which I think is far more important than any particular technology could be.”

The Carvin brothers may have remarkably similar seeming jobs, but the responsibilities are quite different because the AP is a much larger organization with about 2,400 journalists, compared to NPR’s 350 journalists.

Eric comes with a strong news background and is embracing his new role, while last fall Andy, who did advocacy work before NPR, told a Harvard seminar that he’s “sick of the term social media.”

Andy sees himself more as a “guinea-pig-in-residence” at NPR. “My job is to experiment with new forms of journalism and develop strategies for NPR to adopt the ones that make sense for us,” said Andy. Of late, he’s been heavily involved in tweeting the Arab uprising.

Eric’s role is to make sure that social media becomes an integral part of every AP story. In addition to figuring out best practices standards, Eric will be teaching AP staffers how to effectively use social media tools.

Eric Carvin will be involved with policing AP staffers’ use of Twitter and Facebook.

“We have people everywhere and their skill levels are widely varied. Most AP journalists have a good understanding of social media’s benefits, but there are people who know more, and people who know less. I’ll be involved with training efforts hoping to get to every last journalist at AP.”

While many U.S. social media editors focus on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, it’s just as likely that Eric will have to delve into Orkut, a social networking site popular in India and Brazil or the leading social networking site in China,

The brothers rarely used to talk about social media, but do more now though both see it as a means to an end. “I see us as having journalism in common, not social media,” said Andy. “We just happen to be doing it in such a way that values the role the public can play in the newsgathering process.”

Eric joined AP in 2000 as a news researcher. He graduated from Yale University in 1995 as an English major despite growing up as a math whiz.

“Eric won mathematics competition after competition but was never one to brag,” said Nancy Carvin, who still lives near Indialantic, Florida, where the brothers Carvin grew up. “He was also very good in science. I think he probably got burnt out at the end of high school and went to a school where the English department excelled.”

She said the two brothers are close but had different interests and different friends growing up, although they are only 19 months apart.

“Andy won awards for essays and Eric for math,” said Nancy. “It’s very strange to me that they both ended up in the media and in social media. Eric is very mellow. He’s about the most easy-going person with a very sweet nature. He’s got no ego.” She said they are not competitive. “We’ve never been competitive, though, if anything, we’ve always shared ideas with each other and encourage each other,” said Andy.

Right out of college, Eric became a writer and editor for Facts on File World News Digest, and after five years moved to AP. Soon, Eric said, he joined the National Desk and began paying his dues as an overnight editor.

“One thing about doing the overnight shift was that eventually the Iraq War broke out,” said Eric, who after three years became overnight supervising editor. “Suddenly the most important time of the day was three or four in the morning on the East Coast when the dramatic fighting was taking place. I was effectively running the AP news service and it exposed me to a lot of responsibilities and decision-making.”

In 2005, Eric became a founding news editor of “asap,” AP’s first foray into trying different ways to use digital media to tell stories. He ran “Far and Wide,” AP’s first news blog.

“Asap was an interesting turn in my career,” said Eric. “It was an experimental multimedia-focused news service within the greater news service. We got some interesting results.”

One involved a semi-regular feature where the AP gave cameras to non-professionals to take photos of their daily life. One instance resonated with Eric. An AP photo editor gave cameras to two Iraqi boys in different cities.

“What really floored me was two pictures that came in from one boy where he and his friends were pretending they had taken a hostage and were holding fake guns over their heads,” said Eric. “It was pretty heart-breaking.”

A big part of Eric’s new job will be thinking about ways of using social media across formats, departments and platforms. And finding ways of using and verifying content from sources outside of the AP.

He also will be involved with policing AP staffers’ use of such tools as Twitter and Facebook, and continually tweaking the news co-op’s social media guidelines.

Last July, the AP warned staffers not to express opinions on Twitter after tweets appeared about Casey Anthony’s trial and the New York Senate vote on gay marriage. At least 850 AP staffers have Twitter accounts.

The AP itself runs 18 Twitter accounts, including @APStylebook, @AP_Images, @AP_Video and the popular @AP_Fashion. They also have five AP Facebook accounts.

A week after the warning, AP updated its guidelines, including a proviso to not break news that AP hadn’t published, no matter what format. “What we are looking to do is avoid breaking news in a tweet that hasn’t been distributed through the AP newswire to our customers,” said Eric. “It doesn’t mean that our reporters can’t tweet anything without running it by the home office. Far from it.”

But it means they have to be more careful and strategic in tweeting since the AP is a cooperative of paying news organizations. If the AP created a Twitter feed with lots of breaking news, Eric noted, what value would the newswire be to its customers?

“Maybe we will decide ahead of time to go ahead and tweet that big thing that happens,” he said. “But we need to make those decisions carefully.”

His new job will better define itself as it evolves, he said.

One thing he can be sure of, Nancy Carvin will continue to follow @EricCarvin and @acarvin on Twitter. “You bet I do,” she said. “But I never impose my thoughts on their Twitter accounts.” Read more


‘60 Minutes’ story on homeless children in Florida spurs $1 million in donations

“60 Minutes” doesn’t often do updates unless it re-airs an old story. But it will this weekend because of the overwhelming response to its story on homeless kids living in vehicles in Florida.

Since the piece aired Nov. 27, offers of cash, housing and even scholarships have poured in. The children in the story “didn’t ask for anything,” “60 Minutes” Correspondent Scott Pelley will say this Sunday, according to a transcript. “But since our broadcast, viewers have sent in or promised more than $1 million to help homeless families in Central Florida.”

Three colleges also offered two children in the story, Arielle and Austin Metzger, full scholarships, and all the parents in the story have been offered jobs, according to “60 Minutes.” One of the schools is Stetson University; Arielle wore a Stetson T-shirt in the first story.

“We’ll do several updates a year, but it’s not exactly common,” said “60 Minutes” spokesman Kevin Tedesco. “But in this case, within two weeks there has been a large enough outpouring of offers to help that we felt we needed to let our audience know.” Read more


CPI reduces staff to compensate for $2 million budget hole

The Center for Public Integrity laid off staff today to try to compensate for a $2 million budget shortfall.

Ten positions were eliminated, and five people lost their jobs with the Washington-based nonprofit journalism organization. One of those five people was transferred to a newly-created position within CPI, according to Communications Director Randy Barrett.

Sandy Johnson and Keith Epstein were among those laid off. Johnson started working at the Center one year ago this week. She was the managing editor for politics and government. Epstein was also a managing editor.

“It’s a very difficult position,” said Bill Buzenberg, CPI’s director, who also handled the 2007 layoffs when nine people lost their jobs.

“We started 2011 with a lot of momentum. It was the most money we’ve ever had rolling into 2011. But it’s no surprise that 2011 has been very challenging. And yes, we’ve come in short and had to draw down on our reserves,” Buzenberg said by phone. Read more


Journalists have better communication tools than on Sept. 11, but challenges persist

Ten years ago on Sept. 11, Paul Steiger was standing in lower Manhattan repeatedly dialing his cell phone to call The Wall Street Journal, where he was managing editor.

But his cell didn’t work. Nor could he use a pay phone — he didn’t have enough change. He vowed to carry a roll of quarters from then on; that only lasted a few years, considering pay phones are all but gone and BlackBerrys and their ilk are more sophisticated than a decade ago.

If a catastrophe the size of 9/11 were to occur today, Steiger would have many more options for reaching the office or loved ones. But he likely would face the same jammed wireless lines that made his cell unusable that day.

The gadgets may be more powerful and plentiful now, but wireless capacity hasn’t grown at the same rate. It’s like today’s hotshot appliances: They do more, but if they were all turned on at the same time in one house, they’d trip the circuit breaker.

More powerful phones, more of them, and more to do with them

What’s happened since 9/11 is a virtual digital revolution, largely reflected in the explosion of cell phones, particularly smart phones. In 2001, Americans had 128.4 million cell phones, about 10 percent of which were so-called smart devices — pocket-sized computers that also happen to make calls.

Today, 303 million Americans have cell phones, 97 percent of the population. About 30 percent of those phones are smart devices; that figure will continue to grow, according to the Public Technology Institute.

In short, we’ve gone from about 12 million “smart” devices to about 91 million in 10 years. These are the devices that offer the most potential in reporting breaking news, and yet they are the ones that demand the most of the wireless infrastructure.

And with those “smart” devices, Americans expect to do a lot more today than was even possible a decade ago. Then, communication tools such as Skype (invented in 2003) Facebook (2004), YouTube (2005), and Twitter (2006) didn’t even exist. There wasn’t anything called “social media.”

The iPhone (2007) wasn’t even in our cultural lexicon.

“The social media revolution was just dawning,” said Lee Rainie, director of the Pew Internet and American Life Project. “Moments after 9/11 some bloggers were talking about their experiences. But blogging was brand new. … People were just beginning to think of the Internet as a platform for expression.”

Crowded out on 9/11

Like Steiger, many journalists working on Sept. 11, 2001 — whether in New York, Washington, D.C., or Pennsylvania — found their mobile phones mostly inoperable largely because the wireless system couldn’t handle everyone tapping into it at the same time. In New York, fallen towers on the World Trade Center made it worse.

The most valuable reporting tool that day was the BlackBerry 957, but it didn’t even have cell phone capability, let alone the ability to take a picture or shoot video and email it to the newsroom. On 9/11, all BlackBerry handhelds used a proprietary network; today, they use the same spectrum as other cell phones.

BlackBerrys helped The Wall Street Journal, which had to evacuate its newsroom near the World Trade Center, publish the next day’s paper.

“We never lost email that day,” recalled Jim Pensiero, the Journal’s deputy managing editor who quarterbacked coverage from a remote office in New Jersey. “It was absolutely an advantage to have BlackBerrys. Not everyone on the staff did then. We only gave them to reporters on hypercompetitive beats. Today they are ubiquitous.”

They are, and so are iPhones and other smartphones. At NPR, reporters today use their iPhones to record, edit and transmit stories from the field, said Charles Mayer, NPR’s director of news operations.

Similar challenges during the earthquake

But these tools aren’t worth much if a reporter can’t get through in a big story. Just ask the Los Angeles Times’ Geraldine Baum. She was in a New York City courtroom when the rape charge against Dominique Strauss-Kahn was thrown out.

“There we reporters were — TV equipment set up, laptops open, and the building literally started to sway,” said Baum about Aug. 23, the day a Magnitude 5.8 earthquake rocked the mid-Atlantic corridor.

Everyone ran out of the building. Baum began interviewing people and pulled out her two cell phones — one a BlackBerry, the other a garden-variety model. One used Verizon; the other T-Mobile.

Neither got through.

Her editor in Los Angeles was emailing her, saying, “Geraldine. Call me!” Unable to do so, she tried to email him.

“I kept hitting send but it wouldn’t go through,” said Baum, who covered 9/11 and just wrote a 10-years later piece about it.

Everyone around her was frustrated, staring at their phones and frantically trying to make them work. Baum ran into an apartment building and begged a doorman to let her use a land line to call the Times’ toll-free number. But she couldn’t get through.

“Here we are 10 years later, two weeks before the 9/11 anniversary, and as a journalist, I think I would have been better shouting than using all my fabulous technology,” she said.

Internet proves resilient in earthquake

Ten years later, another crisis and once again the lines are jammed. But it’s not quite so dismal.

“On 9/11, we learned that mobile phone networks can collapse under heavy traffic,” said Mayer of NPR. “We learned that again after the Aug. 23 earthquake. We also learned after the earthquake that the Internet was resilient even as the mobile network was unusable.”

At NPR, some journalists communicated during the quake with their iPhones over the Internet, using Apple’s FaceTime video-chat app and VOIP.

Pew’s Rainie was in Las Vegas during the earthquake. He tried calling his staff and family in the Washington, D.C., area but couldn’t reach them. He sent a text instead. Texting, it appears, is often the most reliable way to communicate in an emergency because it takes less bandwidth.

Satellite phones are also a boon in times of crisis, especially now that they are smaller and more reliable. But satellite phones are expensive and nowhere near as ubiquitous as iPhones or Androids.

NPR has 18 satellite phones deployed internationally, 10 outside of its Washington headquarters and several more in D.C.

The future looks tight

Bandwidth is the major concern for anyone in an emergency, especially someone covering it. Today, in addition to transmitting basic emails, wireless networks stream video and transfer photos for smart phones, tablets and laptops.

Wireless providers are simply running out of spectrum — the invisible frequency the Federal Communications Commission allocates for carriers to use.

The FCC knows this is a problem and would like to provide wireless carriers and other companies some of the spectrum freed up during TV’s transition from analog to digital, but that has become yet another Washington political fight that’s not likely to be resolved soon.

“Nothing has changed. It’s gotten worse,” said Alan Shark of the Public Technology Institute in Alexandria, Va. “During the earthquake, for at least 20 minutes, most wireless communication was brought to a standstill. This problem was never resolved after 9/11.”

Alicia Shepard, former ombudsman for NPR, is co-author of “Running Toward Danger: Stories Behind the Breaking News of September 11.” Read more


Get the latest media news delivered to your inbox.

Select the newsletter(s) you'd like to receive:
Page 1 of 212