Sandra Oshiro

Pulitzer board’s no-award in feature writing goes unexplained

International Business Times When the Pulitzer board on Monday announced the 2014 recipients of journalism's highest honor, a major category lacked a winner. No one had won for feature writing.

Since three finalists were chosen by the nominating jury for that category, why was one not selected by the board? Pulitzer Prizes administrator Sig Gissler told IBT's Christopher Zara:
“It’s not a statement on the quality of feature writing in America,” he said in a phone interview. “They were thoroughly discussed and carefully considered.”
But that doesn't explain the reason for the decision not to award the prize, and Gissler was not providing an answer: “We don’t get into explaining what the deliberations entail,” he said. (more...)

Greenwald, Poitras enter U.S., collect Polk awards

The Huffington Post |The Associated Press
Laura Poitras and Glenn Greenwald, who first reported the U.S. government's massive surveillance program, received the George Polk Awards for National Security Reporting at New York's Roosevelt Hotel on Friday. (AP Photo/Richard Drew)
Journalists Glenn Greenwald and Laura Poitras returned to the U.S. Friday and received George Polk Awards for their stories based on documents leaked by Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency contractor.

While it seemed unlikely that the federal government would impede their travel through John F. Kennedy International Airport, their arrival from Germany was closely watched by the media and civil rights activists. (more...)

Investigation launches into AP photographer’s death

Associated Press | San Jose Mercury News
The Afghanistan government has begun questioning the police commander who shot and killed AP photographer Anja Niedringhaus and wounded correspondent Kathy Gannon on Friday, AP reported.

The wire service said on Thursday:
Local security officials who spoke with the suspect after he was first detained said he seemed a calm, pious man who may have come under the influence of Islamic extremists calling for vengeance against foreigners over drone strikes. Witness and official accounts so far have suggested the shooting was not planned.
Gannon remains in stable condition at a Frankfurt, Germany, medical facility, said Paul Colford, AP director of media relations. "We are heartened by her progress," he said by email.

A funeral service for Niedringhaus is planned for Saturday at Corvey Abbey, a Benedictine monastery near where she was born in Hoxter, Germany.

On Wednesday, the San Jose Mercury News and other publications in the Bay Area News Group ran a frontpage tribute to Niedringhaus, an award-winning photographer whose work ranged from the violence of foreign wars to tranquil photos of a woman taking a dip in Lake Geneva.

In an editorial on Niedringhaus' career, the Mercury News wrote:
Her calling was to capture the humanity of the moment: joyous, tragic or that vast space of life in between. How much better might we appreciate our own culture had she turned her lens on us? But her work for the Associated Press was in Bosnia, Iraq, Afghanistan -- the places where the most violent history of our age has unfolded. Her work in Iraq won a Pulitzer Prize.

Now one fewer set of eyes is watching.
Related: Anja Niedringhaus: Covering war ‘is the essence of journalism’ | AP photographer killed in Afghanistan | War zone photographers a breed apart
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PoynterVision: War zone photographers a breed apart

Associated Press photographer Anja Niedringhaus’ death in Afghanistan serves as another reminder of the deadly calling that war photography can be. Recently, Afghanistan has become a dangerous assignment “on par with the height of the Iraq war or the current … Read more


Alaska bill restricting access to court documents among efforts to limit open records

Journalists and members of the public would no longer have access to court documents in cases where the defendant avoided conviction under a measure passed 18-1 by the Alaska Senate. The bill is among the latest attempts by state lawmakers to restrict access to court case records, particularly electronic documents, in balancing the rights of those charged with crimes against the free flow of information in a democracy. The Alaska bill, now pending in the House, would bar access by the public to court records in criminal cases in which defendants are acquitted or charges are dismissed. The records are now open to anyone in an online database called CourtView and at Alaska's courthouses, said Andrew Sheeler, a board member of the Alaska Press Club and a police, courts and city beat reporter for the Ketchikan Daily News. Speaking for himself as an "angry reporter," Sheeler told Poynter by phone that the measure would make it difficult for both journalists and the public to get information on cases that ended short of a conviction. The restriction would further complicate access in Alaska, Sheeler said, where courthouse records are already difficult to retrieve given the isolation of many rural communities. Sen. Fred Dyson, a conservative Republican representing the Eagle River district, introduced the bill. Alexandra Gutierrez of APRN in Juneau reported that Dyson framed the measure as one designed to protect defendants' privacy and due process rights. Citing state Department of Law numbers that roughly one-third of misdemeanor charges and one-fifth of felonies do not reach trial, Dyson said many defendants who are not convicted are unfairly affected by open criminal records when applying for jobs or an apartment. Poynter asked for further comment from Dyson and will update this story if he responds. One senator, Democrat Hollis French, voted alone against the measure, APRN reported. Given the high rate of sexual assault and domestic violence in Alaska — "crimes that are difficult to convict — the Legislature should err on the side of transparency in criminal cases," French said. In almost every state, the public can still access court records if they show up physically at a courthouse, said Gregg Leslie, legal defense director for the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press. But state legislatures have been examining or limiting access to electronic criminal case records as concerns arise about the impact on defendants' employment, housing and credit, he said. When access to records is closed off, however, the public can't learn if the legal system is working properly: why aren't prosecutors winning convictions in sexual assault cases? Are particular repeat offenders getting off because of flaws in law enforcement investigations? What other patterns can be seen from criminal cases that don't result in conviction? Since defendants' rights can be jeopardized if information is misinterpreted, having open access to criminal case records does require trust in the public, Leslie said. "It becomes tricky, but you really have to allow as much access to this information with the assumption that most people will know that you are not necessarily guilty if brought into court," Leslie said. The public, he adds, usually gets it right. (Disclosure: RCFP is working with Poynter on a series of columns on legal issues affecting journalists.)

ONA names winners of j-school Challenge Fund grants

Gun control, public housing conditions, rising sea levels and air quality are among the topics that 12 university journalism schools plan to tackle with micro-grants provided by the Challenge Fund. Four foundations that sponsor the fund put out a call last October seeking project proposals from journalism programs that would promote innovation in community news coverage and experimentation in digital technology. The Online News Association, which administers the grants, announced the winners Friday, along with descriptions of the projects as they might be distilled down to a tweet:
  • Arizona State University: "Public engagement tools can influence coverage and change the conversation – even on an issue as contentious as guns."
  • CUNY Graduate School of Journalism: ".@cunyjschool & @NYDailyNews crowdsource mold scourge in public housing to bring action/#accountability"
  • Florida International University: "Always live hyperlocal sea level rise news and mobile info. How does SLR impact where you live? #SLRSoFla #crowdhydrology"
  • Georgia Collaborative -- Clark Atlanta University, Georgia State University, Morehouse College, and University of Georgia: "New partnership will train students in investigative reporting & data journalism, diversify newsrooms, engage community & #hackcurriculum"
  • San Diego State University: "What’s in the air in San Diego? SDSU students collaborate with local media to find out. Help us collect the data!"
  • San Francisco State University: "#Newspoints guides, organizes and maps your #reporting, interviews and #multimedia. Put your reporting on the map."
  • Texas State University: "Music tells the stories of a community, it’s history, culture, economy and social interaction. Share your story."
  • University of Illinois: "See how social media intersects with your life every day and in every way even if you don’t see it – whether events, policies, ideas, opinions or decisions."
  • University of Missouri: "Citizens have their say as experts, deciders & reporters listen."
  • University of New Mexico: "Strange bedfellows? News & Strat Comm students launch start-up. “We make local news go viral!” #UNM"
  • University of Oklahoma: "Our @ONA grant proposal: conversation on poverty in Oklahoma City with mobile video, GIS #hackcurriculum"
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison: "Who watches Wisconsin water? @WisWatch & @UWMadison students reporting on quality & supply. Join us at & @waterwatchwi"
Honorable mentions went to: American University, Columbia College, DePaul University, El Paso Community College, Emerson College, Howard University, Mercer University, Middle Tennessee State University, University of Kansas, University of Minnesota, USC-Annenberg, Virginia Commonwealth University and West Virginia University. Each of the winners receive $35,000 grants funded by the Knight Foundation, McCormick Foundation, Democracy Fund and Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation.

Craig Newmark, founder of Craigslist and Poynter donor, writes on the Poynter ethics site about a New Republic article that asserts, using anecdotes, that ageism is rampant in Silicon Valley.

Newmark says he was taken aback, and that as far as he could tell, discrimination against older people is no different in SV than elsewhere in business.

But he also says: “If somebody asserts something factual, I want them to back it up with more than anecdotes, so that readers can trust it.”

So he turned to friends in the journalism world, including Dan Gilmor and Liz Spayd, for their take on the subject and asked: “When is anecdotal reporting enough to support broad conclusions without concrete data? This recent article on ageism in Silicon Valley seemed to paint an entire group of people based [on] a handful of examples. Is that fair?”

Read their answers.


Scripps logo

Poynter, Scripps announce tailored training partnership

The Poynter Institute and the E.W. Scripps Co. today announced a long-term agreement that will provide customized training for staff members in the Scripps newspaper division. “As a longtime participant in Poynter programs, I can say with confidence that its team represents the gold standard in providing continuing education for journalists,” said Mizell Stewart III, vice president/content for the Scripps newspaper division. “Investment in learning and staff development are critical as our newsrooms transform into multi-platform local news organizations. Scripps is pleased to expand its relationship with Poynter as a key partner in building our capacity to provide readers with quality local storytelling on smartphone, tablet, web and print platforms.” The Scripps training will include in-person workshops, online seminars and webinars led by Poynter's faculty and industry experts. Employees can earn certificates in programs targeting specific gaps in skills. “The E.W. Scripps Co. is one of the most respected brands in American journalism, and it has been for more than a century. So we’re honored that Scripps has entrusted The Poynter Institute with helping its journalists learn and thrive in this era of digital journalism,” said Tim Franklin, Poynter president. “I applaud Scripps for making a significant investment in its people and its future through this training partnership with Poynter." Poynter will create a Scripps-branded area on News University, the institute's e-learning site. Many of the Scripps e-learning programs will be hosted on NewsU and its technology will be available to assess the value of the training. "The media industry is being transformed before our eyes, and training for journalists has never been more important than it is today," said Franklin. "Scripps recognizes that, and we worked with the company to tailor a training program that meets its strategic goals. This represents yet another example of how Poynter can help media companies and their journalists succeed through efficient and cost-effective training programs.” In February, Poynter and the McClatchy Co. announced an expansion of a custom training program begun last year. The expanded training includes classes for McClatchy employees in video, database reporting and other aspects of digital publishing.

Al-Jazeera reporters denied bail in Egypt again

ABC | Committee to Protect Journalists
Peter Greste, Mohamed Fahmy and Baher Mohamed were again denied bail in an Egyptian court, where the three Al-Jazeera journalists face charges of spreading falsehoods and maintaining ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, ABC reported Monday.

Greste was allowed to approach the judge and argue for his freedom. Greste had only been in Egypt for two weeks when he was arrested Dec. 29 along with Fahmy and Mohamed. But the court denied bail for all three.

In February, Al Jazeera held a social media campaign calling for a "Global Day of Action," in support of the three defendants. Journalists from around the world participated.

On Friday, Mayada Ashraf, a reporter for the daily newspaper Al-Dustour, was shot and killed in Cairo while covering demonstrations by the Muslim Brotherhood. Al-Dustour has been critical of the Brotherhood and Ashraf referred to it as a terrorist group in her last report, the Committee to Protect Journalists said.

However, who killed her and why remains unconfirmed. The Committee to Protect Journalists has called for a government probe into her death:
"We call on the Egyptian government to open an independent and impartial investigation into Mayada Ashraf's killing," said Sherif Mansour, CPJ's Middle East and North Africa program coordinator. "A journalist's death should not be used to settle political scores--the focus should be on journalists' right to safely cover events in Egypt."
Spanish reporter Javier Espinosa, reacts as his son Yerai runs towards him upon his arrival at the military airport of Torrejon in Madrid, Spain, Sunday, March 30, 2014. Two Spanish journalists who were freed after being kidnapped for more than six months in Syria by a rogue al-Qaida group returned home Sunday. The El Mundo newspaper reported earlier that its correspondent Javier Espinosa made contact late Saturday from Turkey, where he and photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova were under military protection. (AP Photo/Paco Campos, Pool)

Spanish journalists held in Syria for six months have been freed

El Mundo | CNN
Two Spanish journalists arrived home Sunday after their captors in Syria released them to Turkish officials following six months in captivity, Alberto Rojas reported for El Mundo.

Veteran El Mundo staff correspondent Javier Espinosa and freelance photographer Ricardo Garcia Vilanova were captured on Sept. 16 by a group called the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria. The two were captured near the Syrian-Turkey border. They were greeted at a Madrid military airport by family and friends, Brian Walker and Elwyn Lopez reported for CNN:
"We want to thank everyone who has worried about us and who has made it possible for us to return home, and as you can see, we are perfectly well," Espinosa told those gathered at the airport.
Reporters Without Borders ranks Syria as the most dangerous country for journalists. An estimated 130 news and information providers have been killed since March 2011 when the violence in the country began, according to the organization's numbers. (more...)