Al Tompkins

Consulting clients: ABC Owned and Operated Stations, Telemundo Television Stations; Meredith Television Stations; Scripps Howard Television, NBC owned and operation stations Promotions Directors; Stations; Hearst Argyle Television Stations; Gannett Television Stations; Griffin Communications; NBC Owned and Operated Stations; New York Times Television Stations; Cox Television; Cox Cable, Cox Washington DC Bureau, RUV TV (Iceland), Belo Television Stations; Freedom Newspapers of Florida, Freedom Newspapers of North Carolina, The Raleigh News & Observer, Shurz Broadcast stations, Radio and Television News Directors Association; RTNDA Canada; Radio and Television News Directors Foundation; The Ford Foundation; Hampton University, Kings University, Belmont University, Western Kentucky University, Middle Tennessee State University Alabama Broadcasters Association; Arkansas Broadcasters Association; Oklahoma Broadcasters Association; Hawaii Association of Broadcasters; Texas Association of Broadcasters; Ohio AP Broadcasters Association; Pennsylvania Broadcasters Association; Illinois Broadcasters Association; Washington State Broadcasters Association; Georgia Broadcasters Association; Tennessee Broadcasters Association; Louisiana Broadcasters Association; New York State Broadcasters Association; West Virginia Broadcasters Association; Missouri Broadcasters Association; Virginia Broadcasters Association; North Carolina Broadcasters Association; South Carolina Association of Broadcasters; Wisconsin Broadcasters Association; Iowa Broadcasters Association;Oregon Broadcasters, North Carolina Press Association, Alaska Broadcasters Association, New Mexico Broadcasters AssociationNational Academy of Television Arts and Sciences -- NATAS (Pennsylvania); NATAS (Washington DC); NATAS (Miami); WMC-TV; WSB-TV; KXAS-TV; KHOU-TV; WNEM-TV; KPHO-TV; WEWS-TV; WPTV-TV; WESH-TV; WKMG-TV; WTVW-TV; WPBF-TV; WHO-TV; KWTV-TV; WZZM-TV; WNEP-TV; WTKR-TV; KTHV-TV; KCTV-TV; WGAL; WTVF; WSBT See discussion of Poynter consulting in Poynter Ethics FAQ.


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Lessons learned: TV-newspaper partner on investigative project

Dallas TV station KXAS (NBC5) and the Dallas Morning News teamed up to investigate complaints of harassment by hundreds of soldiers at the Army’s Warrior Transition Units (WTU’s) that were designed to help the injured heal. In the process of documenting the poor treatment of Army veterans these separate media outlets learned about how to work together.

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The story 
The project, called “Injured Heroes, Broken Promises,” took more than six months of work, relied on hundreds of pages of government records and interviews with dozens of injured veterans who said they had been “ridiculed, harassed and threatened by the commanders of Army units created to help injured soldiers heal.

Three of the nation’s 25 WTU’s’s are in Texas. The units are supposed to manage the care and treatment of wounded, ill or injured soldiers, whether they are physically or mentally injured, or both. 64,000 soldiers have used the treatment programs since 2007. Read more

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TV Station takes heat for exposing criminal

KXLY TV in Spokane, Washington is taking heat from some viewers for exposing supposed do-gooder as a criminal.

Sunday afternoon, a man called the KXLY newsroom with an offer. “The caller told our weekend anchor Aaron Luna that he wanted to help Spokane’s homeless population so he was going to hand out thousands of dollars in the next few weeks and that we could come along,” said News Director Jerry Post. “After he called, he sent emails with several videos showing himself handing out cash.”

Monday, Luna took a ride with the man who said he didn’t want to be identified and KXLY got video of the “donor” handing out twenty dollar bills to homeless people.

But staff at the TV station was suspicious. “This guy said he wanted to be anonymous but still he wanted attention,” Post said.

“I am skeptical of everyone,” said Melissa Luck, the station’s Executive Producer. Read more

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What journalists covering Ferguson need to know about grand juries

A high school graduation photo of Michael Brown rests on top of a snow-covered memorial Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, more than three months after the black teen was shot and killed nearby by a white policeman in Ferguson, Mo. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Monday as a grand jury deliberates on whether to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

A high school graduation photo of Michael Brown rests on top of a snow-covered memorial Monday, Nov. 17, 2014, more than three months after the black teen was shot and killed nearby by a white policeman in Ferguson, Mo. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon declared a state of emergency on Monday as a grand jury deliberates on whether to charge Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson in the death. (AP Photo/St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Robert Cohen)

While we await word from the St. Louis County, Missouri grand jury investigating the shooting death of Michael Brown, this would be a good time to remind the public how the grand jury system works, what grand juries are and what they are not.

  • Grand juries are usually not sequestered.
  • Grand jurors don’t have to swear they have no opinions about whatever they are investigating.
  • Defense lawyers and judges are not allowed in the grand jury room.
  • It is more difficult for a person being investigated to challenge or “strike” a grand juror from hearing a case.
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Photo Sphere, a free and simple tool, gives interactivity and depth to stories

I have tried many programs and apps over the years to capture 360-degree interactive photographs. None has been as easy to use as Google’s Photo Sphere Camera app. Android users have had this at their fingertips for more than a year but the iPhone app is fairly new.

This is PhotoSphere’s instructional video. It really is as easy as it looks.

Photo Sphere tells me to aim my iPhone camera at an orange dot (the dot is blue on Android phones) on the screen. When I get it aligned, the camera snaps, and I do this over and over as I turn in a 360-degree motion. Once I get all the way around, I tilt up to capture the ceiling and down to capture the floor. In all, I captured a 18 images. I knew I was done when there were no white spaces left on my screen to fill with a photo. Read more

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Weather Channel’s Mike Seidel was not caught with his pants down

The Weather Channel’s Mike Seidel has taken a lot of ribbing about what he was doing live on network TV this weekend.  But he didn’t do what online news sites and YouTubers suggest he did.

Seidel was reporting from Sugar Mountain, North Carolina Saturday where an early season storm dropped 10 inches of snow. NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt introduced Seidel while the meteorologist’s back was turned to the camera. Seidel was hunched over fiddling with something. To an awful lot of people who saw Holt dump out of the live shot, it appeared Seidel was zipping up his pants, having answered nature’s call.

The NY Daily news headline taunted, “NBC meteorologist Mike Seidel appears to relieve himself during broadcast.”

But that is not what happened at all, said Shirley Powell, the Weather Channel’s spokesperson. Seidel, she said, was using his cell phone as an IFB (that is short for interruptible feedback) which is how reporters in the field get their cues from the control room. Read more

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Bergantino issues sharp letter to Putin after detention in Russia

Joe Bergantino, New England Center for Investigative Reporting

Joe Bergantino, New England Center for Investigative Reporting

Joe Bergantino is safely back home in Boston but he is still steaming over being detained in Russia and fired off a letter to Russian President Valdimir Putin. “Was it really necessary to replay a scene from a tired, old cold war movie?” the letter said.

Bergantino, the head of the New England Center for Investigative Reporting was invited by the U.S. State Department to Moscow and St. Petersburg to teach investigative reporting techniques to Russian journalists.

As Bergantino told Poynter.org last week, he had just started teaching the class when Russian immigration officers walked into his classroom and demanded to see his passport and visa. A few minutes later, they came back to the classroom and ordered Bergantino and colleague Randy Covington, director of Newsplex to come with them. After hours of questioning and being hauled before a judge, the two Americans were told they had the wrong visas and would have to shut their journalism workshop down. Read more

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Journalists struggle to balance reporting on Ebola with HIPAA

A medical staff member, right, watches as others in protective gear escort Nina Pham, left, from an ambulance to a nearby aircraft at Love Field, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, in Dallas. Pham, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, was diagnosed with the Ebola virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan who died of the same virus. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

A medical staff member, right, watches as others in protective gear escort Nina Pham, left, from an ambulance to a nearby aircraft at Love Field, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2014, in Dallas. Pham, a nurse at Texas Health Presbyterian Hospital Dallas, was diagnosed with the Ebola virus after caring for Thomas Eric Duncan who died of the same virus. (AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

Journalists covering the Ebola story are struggling to find a balance between patients’ rights, the public’s need to know what is going on and the uncomfortable feeling that innocent people caught up in this story will be “marked” for life.

A little more than a week ago, Nina Pham was a nurse who was helping to care for a Liberian man who was dying from Ebola in a Dallas hospital. This week, she showed up on a YouTube video, lying in a hospital bed recovering from the virus herself. 

Carolyn Mungo, WFAA-Dallas News Director

Carolyn Mungo, WFAA-Dallas News Director

WFAA-TV News Director Carolyn Mungo, a frequent guest faculty member at Poynter, told me that she worries about the long-term effect being linked to the Ebola story will have on Pham and so many others. Read more

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While in Russia, two U.S. journalism teachers were hauled before a judge

Joe Bergantino, New England Center for Investigative Reporting

Joe Bergantino, New England Center for Investigative Reporting

Veteran Boston TV investigative reporter Joe Bergantino spent several hours in Russian police custody Thursday after authorities barged in on a journalism training session he and the Newsplex’s Randy Covington were leading in St. Petersburg, Russia. The two were teaching investigative reporting skills to 14 Russian TV, print and online reporters at the time.

Bergantino said in a phone interview that he and Covington had been contracted by the U.S. State Department to teach how to interview, report and think critically.

“We had finished teaching a workshop in Moscow and were just starting a second session in St. Petersburg, Russia when agents from the immigration service walked in,” Bergantino said from Paris. “We were taken to an adjacent room and surrounded by people asking us questions for about an hour.”

He said the officials demanded the two Americans write and sign a statement saying what they were doing in Russia. Read more

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Here’s a peek behind the curtain of a televised debate

In the next two weeks, candidates from 11 hotly contested elections will face each other in statewide debates. Candidates in nine other states faced each other in debates already this month. In these days of the tightly scripted message-of-the-day campaigning, debates might be the closest voters get to hearing unscripted viewpoints.

Screen shot 2014-10-12 at 8.24.44 PMMy Poynter colleague Jill Geisler, a veteran journalist in her home state of Wisconsin, moderated one of those high-profile TV debates last week. Republican Gov. Scott Walker faced Democrat Mary Burke. Walker is sometimes mentioned as a 2016 presidential possibility, but he has to get past Burke first and the polls show it is a tight race. The debate focused on typical fare; jobs, increasing minimum wage, social issues including abortion and health care, especially involving health care for women.

Geisler said a key to a successful debate lies in part to holding the candidates to strict time limits and even having the power to cut a long-winded candidate’s microphone off (which happened in the Wisconsin debate.) The Wisconsin debate also included a rule that can allow the moderator and journalists to try to force the candidates to deliver specific answers. Read more

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CBC’s effort to uncover bodies in an alleged 58-year-old triple murder

On Wednesday, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation’s flagship evening newscast dedicated 15-and-a-half minutes to a single jaw-dropping story.  It is the story of a horror that a woman said she witnessed 58 years ago and spent decades trying to get someone to care.

Courtesy CBC

Courtesy CBC

Three years ago, my church pastor called to say he knew a woman who desperately needed a journalist to help her. The pastor said her story might seem to be outlandish and unbelievable, but asked me to give the woman a chance. He believed her, he said, beyond the shadow of a doubt. In more than 40 years of working in journalism I have come to understand that the most unbelievable stories can be true and when they are, they can be blockbusters.

Glenna Mae Breckenridge: From CBC

Glenna Mae Breckenridge: From CBC

 

So I sat down with Glenna Mae Breckenridge, who lives in Ontario during the summers and, like lots of Canadians, lives in St. Read more

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