Benjamin Mullin

I write, edit, report and produce media for Poynter.org as one of the institute's first Google Journalism Fellows. Before that, I was the editor in chief of my college newspaper, The Orion, a freelancer for USA Today and an intern at a variety of publications throughout Northern California. I love to talk media and journalism! Tweet me @benmullin or email at bmullin@poynter.org.


Internships cause plenty of hardship and woe

Bad internships are like ill-fated summer romances: You go into them with an open heart and all the hope in the world, only to find out after three sizzling months they were using you the whole time.

I’ve been fortunate in my fledgling career — and my love life — to steer clear of these summertime abusers. But like almost everyone working in journalism, I endured my fair share of harrowing situations while I was still figuring out which end of the pencil was up.

In the hopes of finding comfort in shared misery, I sent out a few tweets yesterday looking to hear about your worst internship stories. Here’s what you wrote back, on Twitter and through email:

Steve Rhodes wrote in with this story about receiving a cold welcome when he arrived for his first day of work:

When I arrived from Minnesota for an internship at the New Haven Register in the summer of 1988, I did as instructed and walked up the city desk on my first day to introduce myself. “Hi, I’m the new summer intern,” I said. The editors looked at me and each other and then one said, “What intern?” Apparently the managing editor of the paper, who hired me, hadn’t told anyone I’d be arriving. I was dispatched to a bureau in the middle of nowhere to basically rot for the summer. At least I survived longer than the managing editor, who was fired midway through my stay there.

Poynter reader Robin Roger sent these stories from her business reporting internship at the Atlanta Journal-Constitution:

I was so nervous/excited on my first day, that I got to the parking garage 30 minutes early. I walked around the building a bit before realizing that I was supposed to park in another garage to get reimbursed. When I made it back to the original garage, I realized I had locked my keys in the car, and my car had been blocking the entrance to the parking garage for 15 or 20 minutes! Needless to say the guys at the garage weren’t happy with me. I called a locksmith, and they were there in minutes to extricate my key. I ended up being only 5 minutes late to my first day on the job, but I was a sweaty, nervous mess, not the calm, cool collected intern I was when I first arrived.

This one is more directly related to reporting:

I was sent out to interview customers of a locally owned pharmacy that was being bought by the Eckerd chain. The Eckerd folks didn’t want me interviewing in the store, so I was approaching people in the parking lot. I didn’t get a lot of cooperation, and one woman who seemed very suspicious even asked me “How do I even know you’re with the newspaper?!” I realized at that point I had rushed out the door, forgetting to bring my hangtag ID, so I had no proof that I worked for the paper. I never left the office again without it.

And one more:

When China changed the way it links its currency to the U.S. dollar, I was sent to a Walmart parking lot to interview customers about how this might affect them. I had to take this very complex economic concept, explain it to people in a Walmart parking lot and then ask them how it might affect their purchasing decisions. It was a longshot at best. I got comments like “I buy all my underwear at Walmart, and I guess I’ll have to go somewhere else.” I got stuck in rush hour traffic for hours, and ended up having to call in the quotes I had gathered. I was also asked to purchase items made in China for a photo to go with the article, and when I came back with a wide variety of items, I was told by the editor that that’s not what he was looking for. He wanted me to bring back the “cheap plastic crap” that they make. I had to tell him they make a lot more than that! I ended up getting to share a byline on the front page for the story, so that made it all worthwhile.

Former Buffalo News intern Brandon Schlager wrote in with this stemwinder about driving through a blizzard to interview for his internship:

My story takes place in January 2014. To appreciate the importance of the setting in relation to the narrative, you must first understand that January in Buffalo inherently means lots of ice, plenty of cold and, well, you know … snow. Buffalo sometimes gets a worse rap for its weather than it deserves, but this particular winter lived up to (and probably exceeded) the stereotypes — two blizzards in a two-month span, the first of which made its way into town late on Jan. 6.

The next morning, Jan. 7, is when I was scheduled to interview for an intern position. I remember waking up, ignorant to the warnings heeded by weathermen the night before. And with no one having called to postpone the interview, I stubbornly set out on my trek to the newsroom in downtown Buffalo (I am from a Buffalo suburb about 15 minutes away), paying no mind to the 30-50 mph winds and the minus 28 degree wind chill that came along with it.

The snow is hardly a deterrent for Buffalonians when it comes to driving. Navigating the flurries becomes second nature in time. So no big deal. The drive was a bit trickier than usual, but I made it to One News Plaza with 15 minutes to spare, proud of my punctuality. I won’t soon forget the look I received when I told the receptionist I had arrived to interview for an internship.

She said something along the lines of, “You could have been two hours late and I don’t think anyone would have blamed you for it.”

When I met with my interviewer, he was quick to share that the newsroom was particularly hectic because many of the reporters couldn’t make it into the office that day. They were stuck at home.

Twelve to 18 inches of snow fell before Jan. 7 ran its course. The Sabres-Hurricanes hockey game scheduled for that night was cancelled. It was the first technical blizzard in Buffalo in 20 years, since 1993. Another one followed in March. We had a great run.

Long story short, the interviews went well, I got the position and enjoyed a great (and sunny) summer with The Buffalo News.

Do you have any terrible internship stories you’d like to be included here? Send me an email at bmullin@poynter.org, and I’ll add it to the article. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

The Globe rolls out red carpet for documentary film

This year, editors at The Boston Globe noticed that they shared something important with Hollywood’s biggest night: three directors, all trained at nearby Harvard University, each got Oscar nods for documentary filmmaking.

That got the paper’s attention. Globe editors had known for awhile that New England was a hotbed for documentarians, with big names like Ken Burns and Errol Morris calling the region home. The arts staff, under film editor Janice Page, had long discussed expanding the paper’s coverage of documentary filmmaking; now they had a newspeg.

Now, a few months later, The Boston Globe is rolling out a red carpet of its own for the region’s filmmakers and cinephiles. On Thursday, the paper announced GlobeDocs, a bid to celebrate the city’s nonfiction film scene. The initiative, headed up by Page, will include a series of free screenings (at least one every month) at independent theaters throughout Boston that will include panel discussions with filmmakers and industry experts. The paper is currently working to identify advertisers to sponsor the screenings, said Boston Globe CEO Mike Sheehan.

In an effort to become a hub for the film community, The Globe is also planning to put on a film festival sometime in 2015 and has begun a fund “to support up-and-coming filmmakers,” according to a release announcing GlobeDocs.

In the weeks leading up to Thursday’s announcement, the paper was already beefing up its documentary coverage. Earlier this month, The Globe began devoting a full page of its Sunday arts section to nonfiction film. The paper brought aboard Peter Keough, the former film editor of the now-defunct Boston Phoenix, to anchor the section; he writes a weekly roundup of the region’s documentary news called “Doc Talk” and asks a prominent movie-lover for recommendations in a feature called “Documania.”

Close watchers of The Globe will notice this isn’t the first time the paper has invested in specialized coverage of the city. This year, the paper rolled out two standalone sites — BetaBoston and Crux — to chronicle the startup and Catholic communities, respectively. In June, the paper added a Friday print section, “Capital,” dedicated exclusively to politics coverage. And there will likely be more specialized verticals to follow, Sheehan said.

The homepage of Crux, The Boston Globe's new vertical for Catholic news.

The homepage of Crux, The Boston Globe’s new vertical for Catholic news.

And as with the other new initiatives, The Globe is planning to kick off GlobeDocs with a live event — in this case, a screening of “The Irish Pub,” featuring a discussion with director Alex Fegan moderated by Globe columnist Kevin Cullen. This echoes other launch events held for verticals like Crux and Capital.

The business thinking behind these live meetups — from next year’s film festival to events the paper’s has been putting on for years — is to position The Globe to become a convener of the community in addition to its chronicler, Sheehan said. The events, which build and showcase the verticals’ respective audiences, have the potential to indirectly drive revenue by making them more attractive to advertisers.

“Newspapers were traditionally experienced in someone’s hand, something someone read,” Sheehan said. “At their best today, newspapers are something that bring people together.” Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Career Beat: Callie Schweitzer is editorial director for Time Inc., Time magazine

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Callie Schweitzer has been named editorial director of audience strategy for Time Magazine and Time Inc. Previously, she was director of digital innovation at Time magazine. (Poynter)
  • Peter Lattman will be deputy business editor at The New York Times. Previously, he was media editor there. (The New York Times)
  • Paul Greenberg is chief executive officer at Nylon Media. Previously, he was CEO of CollegeHumor.com. (prnewswire.com)
  • Stefano Fusaro is now a sports anchor for WTVJ in Miami. Previously, he was sports director at KXLN in Houston. (TV Spy)
  • Roxane Gay is a columnist at Guardian U.S. She is the author of “An Untamed State” and “Bad Feminist”. Jeb Lund is a columnist at Guardian U.S. He has written for Rolling Stone, GQ and The New Republic. Trevor Timm is a columnist at Guardian U.S. He is executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Steven Thrasher is a columnist at Guardian U.S. He is a contributing editor at BuzzFeed. Jess Zimmerman is a columnist at Guardian U.S. She is a technology essayist. (Email)

Job of the day: Euclid Media Group is looking for an editor-in-chief for the San Antonio Current. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org Read more

Tools:
0 Comments
Mitt Romney

5 journalism tips from Mark Leibovich

Leibovich. Credit: Ralph Alswang

Leibovich. Credit: Ralph Alswang

Mark Leibovich says his 2013 book, “This Town: Two Parties and a Funeral — Plus, Plenty of Valet Parking! — in America’s Gilded Capital,” did not make his job harder.

“Its actually been easier,” The New York Times Magazine’s chief national correspondent said in a recent phone interview. “One of the interesting things about the book is everybody seems to think it’s about everybody else.”

The book certainly didn’t seem to affect his relationship with former GOP nominee Mitt Romney. In fact, Romney — who himself gets 11 mentions in “This Town” — recently invited Leibovich into his summer home for a nearly 2,500-word profile that ran Sept. 30.

So how does Leibovich maintain access to contacts like Romney in a town he spends his professional life turning upside down? Liebovich offered tips on running a precarious beat, conducting productive interviews and holding onto his outsider status while chasing insider information.

  1. To get access, think carefully about your pitches
  2. Leibovich still remembers scoring an interview with Sen. Marco Rubio in 2012, when rumors abounded he was mulling a run for president. Rubio was a highly courted interview subject back then, due in part to the presidential hype, and so was stubbornly “resisting a blitz of news media interest“. Like the rest of D.C.’s press corps, Leibovich wanted access. But unlike them, he had an edge.

    “I knew he loved football,” Leibovich said. “And not only did he love football, but he had this incredible, obsessive interest with the Miami Dolphins.”

    So, Leibovich reached out to Rubio’s camp and asked: Would the senator be interested in attending a Dolphins game with him? To sweeten the deal, Leibovich agreed to a ground rule not to ask questions about politics. Rubio agreed, and the trip resulted in a 2,500-word takeout that added personal dimensions to a national political figure.

    When Leibovich snagged an interview with Romney for his recent profile, the strategy was similar. Knowing that he and the former GOP nominee shared a sense of amusement over the unforeseen demand he’d found himself in as the election creeped closer, he reached out to Romney’s people with a pitch along those lines and got a green light.

    The lesson? When crafting pitches for sought-after subjects, do your research and think of an angle they’ll be receptive to, Leibovich said. They might not agree, but there’s a chance you’ll get lucky.

    “It’s hit or miss,” he said. “Many, many people say no. And I’m always surprised that as many people say yes as they do.”

  3. During interviews, keep your options open
  4. When Leibovich agreed to take politics off the table during his interview with Rubio, he was making a rare exception, he said. Leibovich tries to go into interviews with as much freedom as possible.

    When handlers or press people ask him whether he can submit questions in advance, Leibovich demurs, preferring to see where the interview goes. Though he researches his subjects in advance and has some idea of what he wants to ask, Leibovich leaves his conversations open-ended in the hopes he’ll find something to seize upon.

    “I’ve always been, for better or worse, a big proponent of winging it and sort of trusting that your experience or your holy terror will lead to something that’s worthwhile,” Leibovich said.

    Take, for example, the time he was watching the Dolphins game with Rubio. Right before an important play began, Leibovich decided to ask the senator point-blank whether he was running for president, clearly flouting the one ground rule for their conversation: No questions about politics. Although Rubio didn’t announce his electoral plans then and there, he didn’t abort the interview, either.

    “Trust your inner wiseass if it feels right,” Leibovich said. “Because you never know what it’s going to yield.”

  5. When writing, ‘keep your ass in the chair’
  6. Leibovich’s writing process — if it could be called that — goes something like this: he sits down to a blank screen without an outline, confronted by the empty space in front of him. Then, he writes the top of the story, something he’s perfectionistic about. After that, he pounds away at the keyboard until he has a draft.

    Although he prefers to be immersed in a busy newsroom while reporting, Leibovich says he likes to be left alone while writing. And he resists giving his editors a sneak peak at his work before it’s ready because early feedback will “stick in his head” and make turning out a draft more difficult.

    “Don’t be afraid of a really really shitty draft because it’s always preferable to empty space,” Leibovich said.

    When writing, he tries to cut down on distractions, leaving only dictionary.com and an online thesaurus open on his browser, rewarding himself with the occasional peek at Twitter or ESPN.com. This simple act — “keeping your ass in the chair” and gutting out a story — has “never been more important from a pure, getting-over-procrastination standpoint,” Leibovich said.

  7. Hold on to your independence
  8. Leibovich frequently acknowledges that he belongs to the media-political class he’s made his professional bones dissecting. In his 2010 profile of Mike Allen, Politico’s chief White House correspondent, Leibovich fesses up to being part of the insider-y Playbook community, having once alerted Allen that he “spotted” former Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner at an organic Chinese restaurant.

    And in the beginning of “This Town,” Leibovich writes that he is “part of this culture” that “reinforces my worst tendencies at times — vanity, opportunism, pettiness.”

    Journalists everywhere battle to separate their own values and allegiances from those held by the people on their beat, and that battle can be particularly difficult in D.C., where there’s “so much cross-pollination between the media class and the political class and the PR class and the business class,” Leibovich said.

    The solution? Struggle against it, Leibovich said. Yes, there are basic rules: Don’t accept outrageously valuable gifts you can’t pay for and avoid conflicts of interest. But ultimately, remaining independent is “more a matter of psychic discipline than anything else.”

  9. Focus on the next story
  10. One of the most common myths of reporting is that the work is easier for the journalist in the cubicle next to you, Leibovich said. In fact, it’s a slog for nearly everyone.

    Even with a well-received book, a portfolio of trenchant profiles and a job at The New York Times, Leibovich says he constantly fears doing crummy work. And that — combined with an appreciation for the fun he gets to have — gets him into the office every day.

    “What gets me out of bed is the next story,” Leibovich said. “I live very much in fear of not doing good stories. So I guess there will always be that.”

    The best journalists are restless, never satisfied, and thirsty to prove that their record of accomplishments isn’t just dumb luck, he said.

    “On some level, all of us tend to believe that every success we’ve ever had in the field has been a fluke,” Leibovich said in an email to Poynter. “We need to work even harder the next time to prevent this fraud we’re perpetrating on the world from being exposed.”

    Mark Leibovich is the author of the forthcoming book “Citizens of the Green Room,” due out Nov. 13

Read more
Tools:
0 Comments

Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, Anders Gyllenhaal, Alexandra Zayas among additions to Poynter’s National Advisory Board

The Poynter Institute announced Thursday the addition of five journalism leaders to its National Advisory Board, including Arthur Gregg Sulzberger, senior editor for strategy at The New York Times and Anders Gyllenhaal, vice president of news at the McClatchy Company.

Each of the board members have gained widespread recognition for their work and developed reputations as journalism innovators, Poynter president Tim Franklin said in a release accompanying the announcement.

“They’ll be invaluable partners for Poynter as we transform the institute to make it even more relevant and useful for media executives, practitioners, educators and students,” Franklin said. “We’ll benefit greatly from having their expertise and knowledge on the advisory board.”

The new members will each serve two-year terms on the 10-person board, which advises Poynter’s faculty and staff on trends shaping various media industries. They replace current board members whose terms expire at the beginning of the year.

Here’s the full list of new board members:

  • Arthur Gregg Sulzberger: Sulzberger is the primary author of The New York Times innovation report and the senior editor for strategy at The New York Times.
  • Anders Gyllenhaal: Gyllenhaal is the vice president of news at the McClatchy Company and former editor of the Miami Herald (2007 to 2010) and the Minnseapolis Star Tribune (2002 to 2007).
  • Lori Bergen: Bergen is the dean of the J. William and Mary Diederich College of Communication at Marquette University and was named 2014 Journalism and Mass Communication Administrator of the Year by the Scripps Howard Foundation. She is also the incoming president of the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication.
  • Emilio Garcia-Ruiz: As managing editor of digital at The Washington Post, Garcia-Ruiz is The Post’s chief strategist for digital execution and the newsroom’s top liaison with business operations for digital programs.
  • Alexandra Zayas: Zayas, a reporter for The Tampa Bay Times, has won several prizes for her investigative reporting, including the Selden Ring Award for Investigative Reporting, the Livingston Award for Young Journalists and the Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism. She was a 2013 Pulitzer finalist for a series of stories that investigated abusive conditions at unlicensed religious group homes.

The following members are leaving Poynter’s National Advisory Board at the beginning of the year:

  • Philip Bennett, director of the DeWitt Wallace Center for Media and Democracy at Duke University.
  • David Boardman, dean of Temple University’s School of Media and Communication.
  • Mónica Guzmán, a columnist at The Seattle Times.
  • David Nordfors, president and co-founder of IIIJ.
  • Tom Rosenstiel, executive director of the American Press Institute.
Read more
Tools:
0 Comments

Peter Lattman named deputy business editor at The New York Times

New York Times media editor Peter Lattman will be deputy business editor at the paper, according to a memo from New York Times Business editor Dean Murphy:

Peter will come back to the 2nd floor wearing two hats. He will direct our media coverage along with Bill Brink and Craig Hunter, while also applying his smarts and journalistic skills as deputy editor to our broader business report.

Here’s the full memo:

About a year ago, Peter moved upstairs to become media editor. He quickly combined a hotshot crew of Times veterans and newcomers who have continued to make the media report essential reading across the paper. None of that is changing, except for the upstairs part.

Peter will come back to the 2nd floor wearing two hats. He will direct our media coverage along with Bill Brink and Craig Hunter, while also applying his smarts and journalistic skills as deputy editor to our broader business report. Peter’s knowledge of business, Wall Street and beyond is deep, having been a reporter for DealBook, The Wall Street Journal and, back in the day, a money guy at Goldman Sachs (and even a lawyer before that).

Media reporters will continue to write for BizDay, Culture and other sections, with Mr. Media himself, David Carr, anchoring the Monday business report. More broadly, the media team will benefit from greater interaction and crosspollination with reporters and editors from tech, DealBook and the other clusters — and vice versa. In short, we’ll see collaboration, elevation and innovation among a whole new mix of talented reporters and editors.

I’m very excited to have Peter at my side as we think ambitiously and creatively about how best to tell the story of business and the economy in our changing media landscape. Equally important, we both feel great responsibility as stewards of our storied media report, ensuring that it grows only stronger, more vibrant and remains central to the journalistic mission of The Times.

Dean

Read more
Tools:
0 Comments

Career Beat: Rachel Zarrell named news editor at BuzzFeed News

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Rachel Zarrell is now news editor at BuzzFeed News. Previously, she was a weekend editor there. (‏@rachelzarrell)
  • Ben Calhoun is now director of content and programming at WBEZ in Chicago. Previously, he was a producer for “This American Life.” (Robert Feder)
  • Ada Guerin is now creative director at The Wrap. Previously, she was design director and associate art director at The Hollywood Reporter. (The Wrap)
  • Jose Zamora is now on the board of directors of the Online News Association. He is director of strategic communications at Univision Network. (ONA)
  • Carla Zanoni will be global audience development director at The Wall Street Journal. Previously, she was director of social media and engagement at DNAinfo.com. (Carla Zanoni)
  • Tara Adiseshan is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at The New York Times and The Washington Post. Previously, she worked on search design at Autodesk and conducted research focused on harvesting rainwater in India. Juan Elosua is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at La Nacion. He is a telecommunications engineer and data journalist. Livia Labate is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at NPR. Previously, she led Marriott’s digital standards and practices group. Linda Sandvik is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at The Guardian. Previously, she worked in local government. Julia Smith is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at the Center for Investigative Reporting. Previously, she was a designer and developer on news sites and mobile applications. Francis Tseng is now a Knight-Mozilla fellow at The New York Times and The Washington Post He currently teaches at the New School’s Design + Journalism program. (dansinker.com)
  • Jon Garinn is now medical editor of the Radiology Administration department at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center. Previously, he was managing editor of CURE Magazine. (email)

Job of the day: Politico is looking for a lobbying reporter. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Billy Penn launches desktop, mobile sites

Billy Penn

Jim Brady’s new local-news startup, Billy Penn, launched Wednesday, carrying a note saying its site is still in beta.

The homepage currently features Philadelphia stories mostly drawn from other news outlets, although there are two stories reported by Billy Penn reporters and curators.

The homepage of Billy Penn's desktop site.

The homepage of Billy Penn’s desktop site.

Although the site debuted Wednesday, Billy Penn has been building a following on email and social media in advance of the launch. The news organization has been on Twitter and Facebook for a couple months and has been delivering a weekday newsletter to subscribers for the past five weeks, according to an introductory letter from Billy Penn Editor Chris Krewson and Brady.

RELATED: Brady takes another shot at local journalism with new venture

The letter also lays out a few fundamental guiding principles for the site. Among them: the staff will link out to stories rather than over-aggregating the work of others; the site will allow audience members to track specific stories using a “follow” button that will send out relevant email alerts; and that it will eschew comments for the time being (“It’s our opinion that interaction is moving into a ‘post-comments’ period”). The site’s advertising section notes that Billy Penn will offer native advertising as well as “in moment” ads and themed sponsorships.

This is Brady’s second attempt at starting up a local news site in a large metropolitan city. He presided over the creation of TBD in 2010, but that venture did not last very long. Read more

Tools:
0 Comments

Hotel hiring reporter for ‘long hours, bad pay’

Any takers? The Wells Inn in Sistersville, West Virginia, is hiring a business and political reporter for its twice-monthly paper for “long hours” and “bad pay,” according to a listing on JournalismJobs.com.

Screen Shot 2014-10-22 at 8.13.15 AM

The listing, which boasts salary somewhere between $15,000 to $20,000, says the job would be “great for someone who is looking to get back in the game after being ‘downsized,’ needs a change of pace or simply wants to hide from their ex or other people they have pissed off.”

The job requires the ideal candidate to balance reporting and writing with being stationed at the hotel’s front desk and assisting in “in minimal guest services”. Oh, and no drinking on the job “without prior permission”.

The hotel has a history of humorous ads. When it was starting a newsletter last year, it listed a position for a reporter who was OK with checking in guests and dealing with “self promoting ‘pillars of society.’” Read more

Tools:
1 Comment

Career Beat: Joe Weisenthal heads to Bloomberg

Good morning! Here are some career updates from the journalism community:

  • Joe Weisenthal will host a TV show and develop a market-focused website for Bloomberg. He is executive editor at Business Insider. (Business Insider)
  • Ashkan Soltani will be chief technologist at the Federal Trade Commission. Previously, he was an independent privacy researcher who helped The Washington Post cover the National Security Agency. (WP)
  • Mick Greenwood is head of video at Time Inc. UK. Previously, he was managing editor of video at MSN. Richard Giddings is now head of mobile at Time Inc. UK. Previously, he was digital editions program manager there. (Time Inc.)

Job of the day: Vice News is looking for an associate producer. Get your résumés in! (Journalism Jobs)

Send Ben your job moves: bmullin@poynter.org Read more

Tools:
0 Comments