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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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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Storytelling lessons from Budweiser puppy commercial

Budweiser strikes again.

Once again, with the help of a puppy, the beer maker created another viral commercial. Earlier this year, it aired a Super Bowl commercial titled “Puppy Love” that I deconstructed for Poynter.org readers.

The new ad, “Friends are Waiting” comes with this cutline:

Next time you go out, be sure to make a plan to get home safely. Your friends are counting on you. Enjoy Budweiser responsibly. #FriendsAreWaiting

Watch the ad then let’s pull it apart to see what video storytelling lessons we can adapt to news writing:

The story uses a story frame I call:
Once Upon a Time — Suddenly — Fortunately — As it turns out

The playful pup falls in love with the man and the man adores the dog.
There are some interesting tensions along the way. The dog runs away with the leash, he chews on a shoe and at nine seconds in, even when the man is sick, the dog is there on the sofa comforting him. Read more

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Ray Rice, Janay Palmer

How the media can and does help domestic abuse victims

The Executive Director of CASA, the St. Petersburg, Florida domestic violence center told me “not a single word” of Janay Rice’s Instagram post surprised her.

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After 30 years of working with domestic violence victims, Linda Osmundson says the Ray Rice case is typical of the 6,000 cases a year that flow through the victim support system, including a small shelter she oversees in Pinellas County. The big difference is most abuse cases don’t make the news. Most abuse happens behind closed doors, not in front of casino elevator cameras.

“Victims stand by their man,” Osmundson said. They will stand by him and stand by him and stand by him until they can’t stand by any longer. Why? Because they love him. They have children together, a house together, a life together. Battered women leave five to seven times before they finally leave for good. The batterer does not batter all the time. Read more

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SPJ Approves New Code of Ethics

The Society of Professional Journalists approved a new Code of Ethics at the Excellence in Journalism 2014 convention in Nashville Saturday afternoon.

SPJ’s code of ethics attempts to speak to all media, and all who consider themselves to be journalists:

Members of the Society of Professional Journalists believe that democracy, a just society and good government require an informed public. Ethical journalism strives to ensure the free exchange of information that is accurate, fair and thorough. An ethical journalist acts with integrity.

The Society declares these four principles as the foundation of ethical journalism and encourages their use in its practice by all people in all media.

The newly approved code attempts to address using anonymous sources in stories:

Identify sources clearly. The public is entitled to as much information as possible to judge the reliability and motivations of sources.

Question sources’ motives before promising anonymity, reserving it for those who may face danger, retribution or other harm.

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9 under-the-radar ONA finalist’s projects you need to see

The Online News Association’s contest finalist list is always a source of inspiration for me. When it arrived in my email Monday I started scouring it to find great projects that I would use in my Poynter teaching.

Some of the more highly publicized projects you may have already seen, but if you haven’t, you should check these out:

I was delighted to find some other magnificent reporting I had not seen before the finalist list came out and wanted to share some of my favorites. (Disclosure: I have no inside information of who will win the ONA awards and I have not gone through everything on the finalist list so don’t feel left out if your project is not mentioned here.)

Sex Predators Unleashed, South Florida Sun Sentinel: Pulitzer-winner Sally Keston and Dana Williams wrote a stunning report on “Rapists and pedophiles freed by the state went on to molest 460 children, rape 121 women and kill 14.” The project prompted state lawmakers to change Florida’s sex offender laws. Read more

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APTOPIX Police Shooting Missouri

Local TV journalists say police encounters are mixed in Ferguson

Local television journalists from St. Louis covering the protests in Ferguson, Missouri tell Poynter.org there is a version of the story unfolding that has not been widely told. These journalists say it’s true that some officers have come at them with weapons drawn but others have shown remarkable restraint.

KTVI photojournalist Dave Sharp was hit in the thigh by a rubber bullet Wednesday night. “It’s no big deal,” the 26-year news veteran said. “Look, the police gave everyone a lot of warning to get out of there.” Sharp captured video of a young man tossing a lit firebomb toward police. “He tried to throw it over a building and it landed on a car wash. The car wash caught fire. If it had gone further, the molotov cocktail would have landed on a group of police gathered nearby. That is what started things Wednesday night. Just imagine what would have happened if that guy had thrown that thing a little further, it would have set a lot of officers on fire.”

 

Police fire tear gas canisters at Al Jazeera America TV crew.

Police fire tear gas canisters at Al Jazeera America TV crew.

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Reporting under fire: CNN’s Ivan Watson stays calm

Photo courtesy CNN

Photo courtesy CNN

In the months ahead, as I show journalists examples of excellent reporting, I will use a story that CNN’s senior international correspondent Ivan Watson filed this week.

Watson and his CNN crew flew in a helicopter with the Iraqi air force and fighters with the Kurdish peshmerga to drop supplies and rescue 20 or so Iraqis from Mount Sinjar, where they had fled attacks from the Sunni extremists of the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria.

“We landed on several short occasions, and that’s where — amid this explosion of dust and chaos — these desperate civilians came racing towards the helicopter, throwing their children on board the aircraft. The crew was just trying to pull up as many people as possible,” Watson said.

Watson said in his story he worried that some of the boxes the crew had tossed out may have hit some of the rushing crowd. Read more

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