Scott Libin


Scott Libin is news director at WCCO-TV, the CBS-owned-and-operated station in Minneapolis. He joined the station in the fall of 2007 from The Poynter Institute, where he was managing editor of Poynter Online and a faculty member specializing in the areas of leadership and ethical decision-making. A broadcast journalist for many years, he also teaches newsgathering, writing and producing.


Collector pays newspapers millions to digitize vintage photos

For many newspapers, digitizing decades of photo archives is important, but not urgent; always a goal, but never a priority; a great idea, but a huge expense. That’s why so many editors over the last few years have been so eager to do business with John Rogers, a collector from Little Rock, Arkansas.

In 2008, Rogers paid $1.62 million for a Honus Wagner baseball card.  The next year, he began proving to the newspaper industry that he was equally serious about acquiring vintage photographs when he struck a deal to buy up the archives of the Detroit News. It was the first of several agreements Rogers would reach with newspapers over the coming couple of years, and he appears to be ready to do much more such business. Read more


WJLA General Manager Bill Lord on future of ‘We need to be more cost conscious, and we need more page views’

In retrospect, maybe choosing the name TBD was prophetic.

Six months after its birth, the fate of the Washington, D.C., metro news site now appears to be determined — and it isn’t at all what the founding force behind the site had in mind.

That first general manager, Jim Brady, was gone three months after launch. The site he left behind now falls under the control of Bill Lord, general manager and news director of WJLA-TV, the ABC affiliate co-owned by parent company Allbritton Communications.

Upon launch last summer, the innovative TBD swallowed whole WJLA’s online presence. It simultaneously absorbed and changed the on-air name of Allbritton’s all-news local cable outlet, rebranding the 19-year-old channel as TBD-TV. But and NewsChannel 8 will be back — and soon. Read more

Egyptian anti-Mubarak protesters march in Alexandria, Egypt with an Arabic sign that reads "Egypt, one nation, one blood."  (Tarek Fawzy/AP)

Egypt coverage breaks records for international news, while snow comes in a distant second nationally

Turns out a guy on a camel charging through Cairo’s crowded Tahrir Square is a more compelling story to mainstream American news media than hundreds of snow-swamped cars stalled on Chicago’s Lake Shore Drive. At least that’s one implication of the latest Project for Excellence in Journalism’s weekly News Coverage Index.

It’s been a year of wild winter weather in this country, with clever copy writers nearly exhausting the available supply of over-the-top terms for the next big event: Snowmageddon.  Snowpocalypse. Snowmygod. Snowinthetowel. And it may feel, especially to those not caught up in the storm of the moment, that such stories get more than their share of attention. But it turns out that, during a week when Oklahoma looked like Minnesota, the story setting record levels for coverage was the continuing unrest in the Middle East, especially Egypt. Read more

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Digitizing Dad: Voices from the Analog Age

A week and a half ago, I heard my father’s voice for the first time in more than 20 years.  That would have been extraordinary enough if only because my dad died in 1983, but the words I heard so recently were spoken long before that — more than a decade before my birth. 

In the years since his death, I have heard from my father many times, figuratively if not literally.  He still appears occasionally in my dreams.  He influences me in all sorts of ways.  I have his handwriting and hairline, or soon will. He left me his love of language, his sense of humor and his appetite for news.  But actual voices from beyond the grave are generally beyond me, except when technology assists, as it did in this case. 

Going through my dad’s office soon after he died, I found a stack of strange records.  Unlike the slick, flexible vinyl LPs I had known in the ’60s and ’70s, these were heavy, thick and brittle, with grooves on only one side.  Most were also much bigger than the music albums I had grown up with, way too wide to fit on a standard turntable — and even in 1983, turntables were becoming not-so-standard equipment.  Because of the diameter of these discs, I had no easy way to listen to them, but I could see from their yellowed labels what they were:  recordings from my father’s radio days in the late 1940s and early ’50s, before magnetic audio tape became the standard recording medium for such programming. Read more


Minn. Bridge Collapse: Tracking Local Coverage from Afar

My mother-in-law called from Minneapolis just minutes after live coverage on local television there began. Here in Florida, my wife and I went online even before we turned on the TV — a first for me, as a longtime TV journalist — on the assumption it would take the national cable networks a little while to catch up. 

We went first to the Web site of KSTP-TV, where I was news director for five years, then to the sites of its competitors. All were streaming live video that we found difficult to process. We knew the voices of the anchors, we knew the neighborhood, we’d been over the 35W bridge many times. 

My wife, Michelle, reminded me of a time we crossed it twice on a trip to buy a coffee table.

Read more

Update: TV News Helicopter Coverage Examined

Update:  Al Tompkins reports on developments in the aftermath of Friday’s Phoenix crash.  See Tuesday’s Morning Meeting

Also, Jill Geisler proposes an unorthodox approach to minimizing risks and maximizing resources.  See this week’s Leading Lines.

Background:  Two pilots and two reporters died in Phoenix Friday afternoon when their television news helicopters collided in the air during coverage of a police chase on the ground.  The helicopters belonged to KNXV-TV and KTVK-TV. 

The Associated Press reported that at least one of the helicopters was transmitting a live report at the time of the collision.  At least one pilot representing another Phoenix TV station, also covering the police chase, reported seeing the crash.
KTVK reported that its pilot Scott Bowerbank and photojournalist Jim Cox were killed.  KNXV said its pilot Craig Smith and photojournalist Rick Krolack died. 
The Arizona Republic had this account of the crash:
Here is background on Craig Smith:
Jim Cox remembered: 

Background on Scott Bowerbank:
Click here to link to the condolence book for Bowerbank:

Feedback for Thought: Did We Do the Right Thing?

By Scott Libin
Poynter Online Managing Editor

Where I work, the legendary status
of Eugene Patterson is perhaps second only to that of Nelson Poynter
himself. Patterson won a Pulitzer Prize
for his Atlanta Constitution columns
on civil rights during the 1960s. He
became editor of the St. Petersburg (Fla.) Times
in 1972 and, upon Poynter’s death in 1978, became chairman of the board of the
Modern Media Institute, now known as The Poynter Institute.

A more-revered figure around here
would be hard to name. So, when someone
said on this site last week
that Patterson should have been shot for those
civil rights columns,
well, those would be fightin’ words — if we at the Institute weren’t such a
collegial group.

The comment came from Bill White,
commander of the American National Socialist Workers’ Party, whose magazine
cover for April features a swastika and the huge headline reading “Happy
Birthday Hitler.” White was responding
to a piece by Poynter’s Roy Peter Clark titled “They Shot His Dog: Historical
Lessons on Incivility,”

which drew a parallel between the racist hate letters that appeared on op-ed
pages in the South during the ’60s and some of the online user comments causing
concern among journalists across the country today. Read more


When Big News Breaks and the Boss is Gone

By Scott Libin

When an event like Monday’s massacre at Virginia Tech occurs close to home, journalists and newsroom leaders confront extraordinary challenges. When it happens across the country, the decisions to be made are somewhat different. And when the boss is far away from the newsroom, those decisions can become even trickier.

That was the situation for many television news directors this week. Gathered in Las Vegas for the annual RTNDA convention when the news broke, some broke for home to oversee coverage from the newsroom. Others, including some from markets close to the crime scene, decided for a number of reasons to stay at the convention.

Not one news director I talked with Monday took what was once the industry-standard approach of letting the networks handle national news, while devoting local resources to local stories. Read more


News: The Source That Blogs Are Made Of

During the first hour of the RTNDA convention’s opening panel discussion Sunday night, the only mention of news came during an online video chat moderator Miles O’Brien had with his 14-year-old son and 13-year-old daughter back in their rooms at home in New York.  They are cute, personable kids, and, as the children of a network news reporter, they watch more TV and care more about current events than we can safely assume their classmates do.
But it did seem odd that two teenagers not even physically present in the room would be the only ones to address journalism until the session was about two-thirds over.  (That doesn’t count Eric Newton of the Knight Foundation, who made a few opening remarks before the panel discussion started.  Newton announced a $1.2-million grant to RTNDF’s high school journalism program.)
Representing the new media generation on stage were videobloggers Zadi Diaz, of, and Amanda Congdon, formerly of Rocketboom.  She now works ABC News , but insisted –- when the J-word actually entered the conversation after more than an hour –- that she has “never claimed to be a journalist.”
O’Brien took the crowd to visit both sites, first watching Diaz do a clever shtick about her pesky, persnickety, inexpensive equipment.  She’s charming and comfortable enough on camera to captivate 40- to 50,000 viewers a day, by her count, most of them teens.  Then came Congdon’s work, which focused mostly on some unusual video of a backhoe – “or is that a front-hoe?” she asked, adding, “I know ‘ho’ is a bad word.”  The footage may have come from an actual newscast somewhere, but that’s about as close as Congdon came to connecting with any actual journalism. Read more


Covering Colleagues and Tragedy

When journalists report on the death of a colleague or a competitor, it’s fair to compare their work with the way they’d handle such a story involving someone with whom they had no such close connection. Do they seem more sensitive to the feelings of family and friends? Are they as aggressive as they would be otherwise? More aggressive? Do they omit elements of the story that they might pursue if it were about a stranger? How do they handle the story of tragedy that touches them personally?

About 14 hours after the apparent suicide of WFLA-TV meteorologist John Winter, I tuned in to the newscast he appeared on for 12 years. It’s one I have watched many mornings since I first moved to the Tampa Bay area in 1995. Read more

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