Bill Mitchell

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Journalists can learn how to use Medicare surveys of their local hospitals to develop stories about the quality of the care they provide. (Depositphotos)

How to tap into patient reviews of local hospitals

If you haven’t examined how your local hospitals performed in the latest Medicare surveys, you’re missing out on some important stories with high likely readership.

Jordan Rau of Kaiser Health News joined us for a chat on how journalists can use the surveys.

The surveys, one of the first parts of the Affordable Care Act, probe patient attitudes on such questions as how carefully doctors and nurses listened to them, how often they were treated with courtesy and respect, how well their pain was controlled and, among other things, where they’d rate the hospital on a scale from “worst hospital possible” to “best hospital possible.”

The results of the surveys are used to provide more than 2,500 hospitals nationwide with federal government bonuses or penalties, depending on the survey results.

Rau, a senior correspondent for Kaiser Health News, covered the surveys extensively last month from the national perspective, accompanied by useful charts and spreadsheets. Read more

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online money

How two small family-owned newspapers in Vermont had success with a paywall

(This case study, the first of an occasional series, was underwritten by a grant from the Stibo Foundation. Poynter affiliate Bill Mitchell did the reporting for the article in 2012, and it has been updated and edited by Media Business Analyst Rick Edmonds, who is general editor of the project.)

Most discussion about online paywalls has focused on the big guys, and more recently, on big chains. The New York Times boasts of dramatic results from the wall it erected in March 2011 and its subsequent success selling all-digital subscriptions and print + digital bundles. Gannett is the largest of the many chains that have followed suit and seen growth in circulation revenues, up in 2012 industry-wide for the first time in years.

More and more smaller and mid-sized news organizations are investigating ways to charge for content online, but it is a more daunting task for small papers, especially independents. Read more

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NY newspapers follow story of cop, boots and barefoot man

(Updated Monday morning with NYT interview of the homeless man.)

Some stories break. Others, as legendary editor Gene Roberts famously observed, ooze. The story of a New York City police officer’s kindness to a homeless man broke last week, went viral on social media and attracted widespread coverage from the established media. It began oozing on Friday.

[<a href="//storify.com/bmitch/next-chapter-in-story-of-cop-boots-and-barefoot-ma" target="_blank">View the story "Next chapter in story of cop, boots and barefoot man" on Storify</a>]<br /> <h1>Next chapter in story of cop, boots and barefoot man</h1> <h2>Some stories break. Others, as legendary editor Gene Roberts famously observed, ooze. The story of a New York City police officer’s kindness to a homeless man broke last week, went viral on social media and attracted widespread coverage from the established media. It began oozing on Friday.</h2> <p>Storified by Bill Mitchell · Sun, Dec 02 2012 03:37:38</p> <div>I was prompted to check back in on this story by <a href=”http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/making-sense-of-news/196737/how-a-photo-of-nypd-officer-helping-homeless-man-spread/#comment-725272783″ class=””>a skeptical comment</a> attached early this morning to my <a href=”http://www.poynter.org/latest-news/making-sense-of-news/196737/how-a-photo-of-nypd-officer-helping-homeless-man-spread/” class=””>tracking of the first 24 hours in the tale</a> of Arizona tourist Jennifer Foster’s cell phone photo of officer Lawrence DePrimo providing new boots to a barefoot man near Times Square. Read more
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nypdbootshomelessman

How a photo spread of NYPD officer helping homeless man

During a visit to New York’s Times Square this week, tourist Jennifer Foster snapped a cell phone photo of a police officer helping a homeless man. That photo became a story that unfolded for me like this. Read more

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New York Times creates new story form for ‘Watching Syria’s War’

Watching the video is almost unbearable.

But grasping the horror of what’s happening in Syria without watching it is almost unthinkable.

A Father’s Farewell,” posted Oct. 12 to a curation site maintained by The New York Times, appears to tell the story of a father clinging to – and praying for – a child killed during shelling in the city of Hammuria.

The post is among about 85 published by the Times on its “Watching Syria’s War” site, which the paper launched four months ago.

Videos shot by non-journalists have become an important source of information about fighting waged mostly beyond the reach of an international press corps barred from entering the country by Syrian officials.

The problem with the videos, of course, is the difficulty in verifying exactly what they show.

I’ve been researching the verification issue for a seminar in Cairo and consider myself a pretty close reader of The Times. Read more

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morsi

Arab Spring journalism advances with Morsi Meter

There’s no doubt that social media played a big role in the Arab Spring’s toppling of oppressive regimes. But now that Twitter and Facebook have helped ordinary citizens get rid of leaders they despise, how might they put social media to work shaping the sort of leadership they want? A new site created by a couple of twenty-something Egyptians is about to shed early light on the question.

Morsi Meter, a watchdog service modeled on Politifact’s Obameter, is tracking 64 promises by the new Egyptian president, Mohamed Morsi. “This was a very unplanned project,” one of the founders, Amr Sobhy, told me in a Skype interview last week.

“When I saw Morsi being declared the president of Egypt I was really excited because, finally, we have a civil president. It was an historic moment. From that moment, I was all over this project!”

A friend had suggested the meter to Sobhy, 24, and his co-founder, Abbas Adel, 28, a couple of days earlier. Read more

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sullivan

New York Times Public Editor Margaret Sullivan signs on for 4 years

The new public editor of the New York Times pitched the paper on two main roles in her application for the job: “smart aggregator” and “forum organizer.”

Margaret M. Sullivan, editor of the Buffalo News since 1999, credits “Blur,” the 2010 book by Tom Rosenstiel and Bill Kovach, for highlighting those roles as essential to journalism in the digital era.

“The criticism and commentary is already going on,” Sullivan said in a telephone interview Monday afternoon. “I want to centralize it in the [public editor’s] blog.” She said she’ll play the role of “forum organizer” by “inviting commentary and letting people use the [public editor’s online] space as a place to come and discuss. And we’ll use multimedia tools to make that happen.”

Unlike the paper’s previous public editors, who worked under variations of two-year contracts, Sullivan has signed on for four years.

“There’s a possible out after two years for both parties,” she said, but added that there’s also the possibility of extending for a total run of six years if things go well. Read more

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It’s time: 5 reasons to put up a metered paywall

For media executives awaiting reassuring evidence before experimenting with digital subscriptions, the time has arrived.

Simply put, their more adventurous colleagues at other companies have discovered multiple paths around the biggest risk attached to the pursuit of subscription revenue: diminished audience reach.

Here’s how they’ve navigating that tricky challenge:

  • They’ve adjusted their paywall meters to permit whatever number of monthly free visits makes the most sense in their balance of reach and revenue. The trend, by the way, is definitely toward leaky walls rather than hard ones.
  • They’ve recognized that, financially, their sites could afford to lose substantial traffic because their “sell-through” of online ads rarely approached their inventory anyway.
  • They’ve made smart decisions, journalistically, about what content should remain outside the wall.

Companies big and small are discovering that their pre-wall fears of precipitous drops in traffic just haven’t materialized. Metered walls are not the only paths into paid content, of course. Read more

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jimcoffee

How the Romenesko Years have changed journalism and Poynter

It was the summer of 1999, still early days on the Web, and former Poynter president Jim Naughton and I were scheming ways of creating a site that journalists would find useful to the point of habit-forming.

Just how we would do that, we weren’t quite sure.

We did know that, in addition to faculty tips about reporting, ethics and the various journalism crafts, we needed news about news.

Even though the business was still enjoying relative calm before the storm that would disrupt the next decade, it was clear that big change was afoot in journalism. We wanted to chronicle it on a daily basis.

But how to round it all up? How to serve it up? How to stand out amid the growing clutter of the Web?

We found our answer in a New York Times story headlined “Cutting Through the On-Line Clutter.” The story by Andy Wang began like this:

While most of his readers are still asleep, James Romenesko is up at 5 a.m.

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Casey Anthony, front right, walks out of the Orange County Jail with her attorney Jose Baez, left, during her release in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday, July 17, 2011. Anthony was acquitted last week of murder in the death of her daughter, Caylee. (AP Photo/Red Huber, Pool)

Be ready for Casey Anthony to show up in your coverage area

The tip could come anytime: Casey Anthony has been spotted in the neighborhood.

Once confirmed, do you tweet or post a bulletin on your website? Hold for the evening news or morning edition? Include her address or withhold some details? In light of death threats against Anthony, do you just sit on the information? How will you decide?

My questions were prompted by a Sunday night email from Kurt Luedtke, screenwriter of that classic of journalism ethics, “Absence of Malice,” and former executive editor of the Detroit Free Press (where he was my boss in the ’70s).

“If your newspaper learns that Casey Anthony is living in your area… what of that information, if any, do you print?” Luedtke asked, “Why? Why not?”

Casey Anthony, front right, walks out of the Orange County Jail with her attorney Jose Baez, left, during her release in Orlando, Fla., early Sunday, July 17, 2011.
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