Sandra Oshiro


After nailing ‘stichomythia’ and ‘feuilleton,’ two National Spelling Bee winners emerge

Watching Sriram Hathwar of New York and Ansun Sujoe from Texas duke it out in the National Spelling Bee championship last night made me think: I call myself a writer but I’m unworthy.

On their way to a confetti storm, the two spelled almost impossibly complex words, including “terreplein” (the level space behind the parapet of a rampart), “encaenia” (an annual university ceremony), “stichomythia” (dramatic dialogue, usually used for altercations) and “feuilleton” (a part of a European newspaper or magazine). With those two last words, Sriram and Ansun sealed a double win for themselves.

“The competition was against the dictionary, not against each other,” Sriram said after the two were declared champions — practiced, perhaps, but still a good quote. Read more

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virtual newsroom _ depositphotos

Virtual Newsroom: getting journalism done in a digital age

At this moment, I am at my dining room table in Los Angeles with two laptops, a cellphone and an iPad. I work with staff writers who live in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and just outside of Tampa. I also talk virtually with Poynter faculty, adjunct faculty and freelancers who write for us, some of whom live in Florida, but some who do not.

As the future of news is still inventing itself and the nature of news remains in transition, there’s one thing we can say definitively: We’re no longer working the way we did 10, 5 or even 2 years ago.

With technology, we can — and do — report on the news at greater speeds and larger volume. The Web, cell phones, tablets, wearables, and other devices allow us to give audiences what they want, when they want it, and how they want it.

Downsizing of staff, added work duties, reduction and relocation of workspaces and other expense cuts are also contributing to the upheaval that thousands of journalists have endured in recent years.

This all has led to the era of the virtual newsroom. By working virtually, I mean journalists can function outside the office, perhaps in their home or in a coffee shop or in a shared space, and produce work for a news organization or website that operates at a distance.

As I prepare to transition out of my interim role as editor, I’m writing what I hope will be the first of several posts on the virtual newsroom, a guide and conversation with you about the challenges of working remotely for a news organization.

For decades, journalists have worked in bureaus far from the main newsroom or they freelanced from home, sometimes thousands of miles from their editors and colleagues. But today more journalists are working independently or, even if they remain on payroll, outside of the typical newsroom. Technology makes it possible.

Working virtually is also expanding in part because digital news jobs are growing. Pew Research Center estimates in its report on digital reporting that news outlets born as digital-only operations have created nearly 5,000 full-time editorial jobs. Often these are small and lean operations run by fewer than four people. And, those journalists may all work in different locations.

In a virtual news operation, all of the advantages that an editor can draw on by walking across the room disappear: the face-to-face contact, reading of body language, and connections that form when we share a physical space.

If you’re a writer, similar conveniences are gone if you work remotely. When you have a question about a change in your story, you can’t simply sidle over to an editor’s desk to have a chat. Or if you need the phone number for a source, your colleague who can help may be in another state rather than at the next desk.

For editors, the tasks of giving out assignments, negotiating story lengths and deadlines, arranging visuals, editing and fact-checking all take on another level of difficulty when communicating virtually. For those who do the work, there’s the challenge of fully understanding what’s expected, dealing with unforeseen events, electronically delivering their stories or images, and getting feedback on their work. On some days, communication goes awry and there’s little one can do to fix things from afar.

But there are practices and approaches that can take some of the pain out of the process. I communicate with my Poynter colleagues, for example, by ways that are most efficient or most comfortable for the writers, and it generally works well.

Still, I only occasionally see the staffers in person, and I can’t attend staff meetings at Poynter regularly. Instead we hold Google Hangouts or I listen in to meetings via conference phone.

I don’t get to know all of my colleagues as I well as I would like. Rather we learn about each other by email or phone calls and during my infrequent visits to St. Petersburg.

On the other hand, I don’t spend hours commuting each week and can use the time to work instead. I take my coffee breaks by walking five feet to the kitchen and I’m back in a flash, available for any requests for edits. In my ongoing quest for work-life balance, I can take care of home chores without impacting my work production.

I’m convinced after working on news websites for over a decade, that journalists with certain skills and personalities best adapt to working this way. Hiring and coaching for a virtual newsroom take on added considerations, but I’ll get more into this subject in a future post.

If you work virtually or manage those who do, tell me about your experiences and concerns. Jump into the comment box below or email me at and let’s talk. You can also catch me on Twitter: @sandraoshiro. Read more


Snowden held crypto party in Hawaii before his great reveal


Edward Snowden “introduced himself as Ed” at a crypto party he led in Hawaii several months before his world-rattling leaks of national surveillance documents to journalist Glenn Greenwald, Kevin Poulsen reports in Wired.

The parties, which feature tutorials on hard drive encryption and how-tos on using the Internet anonymously, are the brainchild of Australian activist Asher Wolf, Poulsen writes:

The idea was for technologists versed in software like Tor and PGP to get together with activists, journalists, and anyone else with a real-life need for those tools and show them the ropes. By the end of 2012, there’d been more than 1,000 such parties in countries around the world, by Wolf’s count. They were non-political and open to anyone.

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Live coverage of Jill Abramson’s speech at Wake Forest commencement

Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., Chairman and Publisher of the New York Times, speaks at the New York Forum, Wednesday, June 23, 2010 in New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

Sulzberger: Abramson ouster about management, not unequal pay

New York Times Publisher Arthur Sulzberger Jr. issued a statement Saturday aimed at quashing reports that ousted editor Jill Abramson earned less than her male counterparts.

In doing so, Sulzberger elaborated on why Abramson was fired, and the language is a bit startling:

During her tenure, I heard repeatedly from her newsroom colleagues, women and men, about a series of issues, including arbitrary decision-making, a failure to consult and bring colleagues with her, inadequate communication and the public mistreatment of colleagues.  I discussed these issues with Jill herself several times and warned her that, unless they were addressed, she risked losing the trust of both masthead and newsroom.  She acknowledged that there were issues and agreed to try to overcome them.  We all wanted her to succeed.  It became clear, however, that the gap was too big to bridge and ultimately I concluded that she had lost the support of her masthead colleagues and could not win it back.

Abramson could not be reached for immediate comment. Read more


San Diego fires: where to go for coverage

Media large and small are covering the multiple wildfires in San Diego County that have burned homes, closed schools, forced thousands to flee, and prompted a state of emergency declaration by California Gov. Jerry Brown this week.

Temperatures reached 106 in some areas on Thursday, contributing to conditions that have given firefighters little relief since the first wildfire was sparked on Tuesday. As of Thursday evening, the fires had burned more than 10,000 acres, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Here are some news sites to follow and the coverage features to look for. Some of the latest and best coverage has been appearing on social media:

U-T San Diego (short, digestible stories; photo galleries; video; information for residents; curation of emergency agency tweets)

Los Angeles Times (analysis of drought-linked fires; latest on fire investigation; photos and videos; explanation of “firenados”)

CBS8 (live streams, video of multiple fire locations, displaced pet information)


KTLA5 (firenado video)

Fox5 (live blog)

Add your suggestions for notable fire coverage in the comments below or email Read more


AP, Fox Sports to sell sports stats company

The Associated Press and Fox Sports announced plans Thursday to sell their sports data company STATS LLC to Vista Equity Partners, a private equity firm.

STATS provides clients with scores, content and technology to track and analyze sports. The companies said in a news release: Read more

ergey Brin wears Google Glass glasses at an announcement for the Breakthrough Prize in Life Sciences at Genentech Hall on UCSF’s Mission Bay campus in San Francisco, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013.

Live chat replay: Glass journalism and teaching when we don’t have all the answers

Robert Hernandez, one of Web journalism’s earliest, most influential innovators, joined us for a live chat Wednesday on Google Glass and a class he will be leading in the fall on “Glass journalism.”

Robert Hernandez

Hernandez teaches at the USC Annenberg School for Communications and Journalism as assistant professor of professional practice. He took questions on Google Glass as an emerging tool for newsgathering and storytelling. He also discussed how educators can grapple with a subject that generates more questions than answers — one of the challenges in teaching new technologies and evolving concepts.

This chat was a lead-up to Teachapalooza, Poynter’s college educator seminar scheduled for June 20-22 at our St. Petersburg institute. Hernandez will be among the teaching faculty. The deadline to register is Friday, May 16.

You can replay this chat at any time and visit to find an archive of all past chats.

Read more


10 most popular Poynter posts this week

Just in case you missed these, we present the 10 most hit-on stories for the week:

1. Why these are the 10 best sentences Read more

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Former Time Warner CEO tapped as interim head of Clippers

Richard Parsons, the former chief executive officer of Time Warner and ex-chairman of Citigroup, has been picked to operate the Los Angeles Clippers in the wake of the Donald Sterling uproar, David Aldridge of NBA News reported.

Parsons will oversee the Clippers’ business affairs pending the appointment of a replacement owner for the Los Angeles basketball team. The NBA is in the process of moving Sterling out as owner of the Clippers, action that follows the posting and airing of audio on TMZ last month in which Sterling is heard making racist remarks.

Aldridge reported:

The league settled on Parsons in the last few days, with the 66-year-old executive’s background at the highest levels of the business world making him a favored choice for the position. The league announced last week that Clippers president Andy Roeser would be taking an indefinite leave of absence to clear room for the new CEO, which the NBA believes is necessary to bring “stability” to the team in the wake of Sterling’s remarks.

The NBA banned Sterling from involvement in the league for life, Commissioner Adam Silver announced on April 29. TMZ and NBC News, rushing to be first with the news, bobbled details of the decision.

Parsons, whose appointment takes effect immediately, is a senior advisor at Providence Equity Partners and serves on the board of the Commission on Presidential Debates, according to a NBA press release. The release quotes Parsons:

“Like most Americans, I have been deeply troubled by the pain the Clippers’ team, fans and partners have endured,” said Parsons. “A lifelong fan of the NBA, I am firmly committed to the values and principles it is defending, and I completely support Adam’s leadership in navigating the challenges facing the team and the league.

Parsons played on the University of Hawaii basketball team before attending Albany Law School and earning a law degree in 1971. Read more

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