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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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
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As Jason Rezaian goes free, press freedom worldwide remains imperiled

For good reason, we're celebrating the release of five Iranian-Americans freed on Saturday by the government of Iran. But they should never have been in prison to begin with. Washington Post journalist Jason Rezaian had the muscle of American media behind him, and it still took 18 months to get free. Christian pastor Saeed Abedini had been in … Read More
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WRAL drops CBS affiliation as networks put the squeeze on local markets

Once again, CBS has sent a strong message that it will be tough in negotiations to extract money from its local affiliates. WRAL, which touts itself as "the No. 1 CBS affiliate sign on to sign off in the top 25 markets," announced on Friday it will soon become the NBC station in Raleigh, North Carolina. CBS will change its … Read More
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Media circus in San Bernardino distracts from mass shooting story

Journalists — keep your eyes on the serious story playing out in San Bernardino. On Friday, a jaw-dropping distraction derailed important reporting when dozens of journalists invaded the apartment where the San Bernardino shooters used to live. A Sunday Times reporter, Toby Harnden, says he used the landlord's crowbar and screwdriver to detach plywood that blocked the residence's front entrance. Read More
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New York Times publishes front-page editorial advocating gun control

(Courtesy The New York Times) For the first time in many decades, The New York Times has taken the rare step of running an editorial on its front page. Calling the availability of deadly weapons "a moral outrage" and "a national disgrace," the editorial calls for an outright ban on some weapons: Certain kinds of weapons, like the slightly modified … Read More
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What it's like to report from inside ISIS training camps

"I love my job, I love journalism- I want to tell the top stories in the world," Afghan-born journalist Najibullah Quraishi told me, by phone. I have heard plenty of journalists around the globe say such things. But he isn't just saying it. He risked his life to get to the core of the most important story in the world right … Read More
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Using cross-examination, CNBC moderators invite attacks against media

There is an old saying among lawyers that when your client is not guilty, fight the facts. When he or she is guilty, fight the law. Politicians have adopted that tactic in political debates. When they can't cleanly answer a question, they attack the questioner. CNBC moderators asked some legitimate questions that deserve forthright answers. But those questions were overshadowed … Read More
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After more than 40 years on air, WFAA's Byron Harris is retiring today.

WFAA WFAA Dallas investigative reporter Byron Harris is retiring Friday after more than 40 years on the air. While nobody I know of keeps such records, Byron may well be the most honored investigative reporter in local TV news. He won two Peabody Awards, four Edward R. Murrow Awards and six duPont-Columbia batons. For you print folks, the duPont … Read More
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Lessons from the WDBJ newsroom on covering your own story

WDBJ's Kim McBroom, Jeffrey Marks and Kelly Zuber The president and general manager of WDBJ in Roanoke, Virginia hopes the murders of his two employees don't scare journalists away from doing their jobs. In a live conversation with Poynter's News University, Jeffrey Marks looked into the camera and said he wanted to get on his "high horse" for … Read More