Posts by Al Tompkins

About Al Tompkins

Al Tompkins is one of America's most requested broadcast journalism and multimedia teachers and coaches. After nearly 30 years working as a reporter, photojournalist, producer, investigative reporter, head of special investigations and News Director, Tompkins joined the Poynter Institute where he is Senior Faculty for Broadcast and Online. He is the author of "Aim for the Heart" a textbook about multimedia storytelling that has been adopted by more than 100 universities worldwide. He has taught in 49 states, Canada, Egypt, Denmark, South Africa, Iceland and the Caymans. Tompkins is the recipient of some of journalism's highest awards including The National Emmy, the Japan Prize, The American Bar Association's Silver Gavel, The Peabody (group award), 7 National Headliner Awards, The Robert F. Kennedy Award and The Iris Award. He was inducted into the Kentucky Journalism Hall of Fame and honored with The Governor's Award from the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences. Tompkins helped to author the national codes of ethics for both the National Press Photographers Association and the Radio and Television Digital News Association.
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Station practices for an emergency on live TV

Newsrooms everywhere had reason to cringe watching the unfolding story Thursday at WBFF-TV in Baltimore where a man wearing a costume walked into the station's lobby claiming he had a bomb. The station evacuated as police moved in and shot the man. The whole incident comes just two weeks before Hollywood releases the film "Money Monster" in which … Read More
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How a journalist caught the cops whitewashing their ticketing records

When KXAN investigative reporter Brian Collister reviewed 16 million Texas Department of Public Safety issued traffic citations last year, he uncovered that state troopers routinely ticketed Hispanic drivers but reported to the state that the drivers were White. More surprising, the TV station discovered that four of the top five names listed as "White" on Texas traffic citations sound Hispanic … Read More
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How NPR and ProPublica exposed America's unequal workers' compensation system

When ProPublica's Michael Grabell was a reporter at The Dallas Morning News, there were three kinds of phone calls he dreaded most. "Family law, V.A. cases and calls involving workers' compensation are impossible to sort out," he said. But as he finished a project about temporary workers injured on the job, he began to get comfortable with state databases … Read More
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CBS News journalist arrested in Chicago amid escalating tensions at Trump rallies

Police arrested five people, including a CBS News reporter, Friday night after protesters disrupted a rally for Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump. Sopan Deb, who's covered Trump events across America, kept his camera rolling and identified himself as a credentialed journalist to the officer who handcuffed him. As skirmishes broke out between Trump protesters and supporters, Deb captured video … Read More
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Why you shouldn't ask questions like a White House reporter

Long questions seldom produce great answers. And during President Obama's joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau Thursday, journalists asked some crazy-long questions. Julie Davis, a White House correspondent for The New York Times, opened the question-and-answer session with a 224-word inquiry that I dissect below. But she says there's logic behind her questions — even if they aren't … Read More
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Sun Sentinel picks none of the above for Florida primary

For the first time that anybody at the (Fort Lauderdale, Florida) Sun Sentinel can recall, the paper told its readers that none of the Republican candidates for president earned its endorsement. "I hate that we didn't endorse," editorial page editor Rosemary O'Hara said. "We take this very seriously, we don't take it lightly at all. We offer endorsements not … Read More
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Secret Service agent body slams TIME photographer at Trump rally

Chris Morris, a photographer for TIME magazine, was hurled to the ground by a Secret Service agent Monday at a rally for presidential candidate Donald Trump at Virginia's Radford University. The incident began shortly after a student protest broke out, according to a video recorded by Independent Journal reporter Joe Perticone. On the video, Morris can be heard telling the … Read More
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Trump's favorite target: photojournalists

Just before Donald Trump called for harsher libel laws at a rally in Fort Worth, Texas this afternoon, he fell back on a familiar tactic to mock the press. He was several minutes into a speech on immigration when he was interrupted by chanting from the audience. "Is that a protester?" he asked. "Oh good, turn the cameras! … Read More
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Here's what journalists need to know for covering Scalia's death

In the weeks to come, Journalists will be covering a range of stories touched off by the death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. The decisions ahead have the potential to change the political and ideological complexion of the Supreme Court, set off a power struggle between the president and the GOP-controlled U.S. Senate and compel presidential candidates to … Read More
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Here's what journalists need to know about superdelegates

Yet another thing journalists have to explain to voters during an already complex election season: In America, some people have the voting power of 10,000 ordinary citizens. Case in point: The Iowa Democratic caucuses ended in a virtual tie between Hillary Clinton and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders. But when networks reported the returns, they didn't mention the existence of a … Read More
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How to cover the Zika virus responsibly

I don't know of any journalist who sets out to scare people, but reporters may unintentionally alarm their audiences with shoddy coverage of Zika — a virus that's entered a frenzied news cycle that may lead to panic and ineffective overreaction. It's time we start thinking carefully about the headlines and images we use to cover this story. Context is critical, … Read More
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Local news champion, creator of the 'The Viewers’ Bill of Rights,' has died

I promised my old friend Forrest Carr that when he died, I would write about what he hoped would be one of his enduring contributions to journalism. His death this morning from cancer was not unexpected, but it's painful all the same. This local TV journalist of more than 30 years publicly documented his two bouts with cancer on … Read More
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Covering the Iowa caucuses? Here's what you need to know

When I explain the American election system to journalists in developing countries, they can't believe it. They have this notion that every American can vote in private, free from intimidation. They think that every person's vote counts the same, and the person who gets the most votes wins the race. They have never seen the Iowa caucuses at work. The … Read More
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Nexstar and Media General reach $4.6 billion deal

Nexstar reached an agreement today to buy Media General and pay Meredith Corporation $60 million to walk away from a deal that would have seen it merging with the broadcast giant. The result will be a $4.7 billion transaction that creates a group with 171 full-power television stations in 100 markets. Combined, the companies will reach 39 percent of U.S. Read More