Vicki Krueger


How to recognize, manage stress when covering traumatic events like Japan earthquake, tsunami

Covering traumatic events such as the earthquake in Japan and tsunami can affect journalists in the field and in the newsroom.

It can be important and deeply rewarding to cover these events — but it can also personally affect journalists, says Heather Forbes, national manager, staff development, for the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s (ABC) news division.

It’s essential for journalists, whether they’re covering the event in person, editing the coverage from a newsroom, or managing those who are producing the coverage, to prepare for the emotional toll these events take.

Understanding the effects of trauma makes for healthier journalism and healthier journalists, she says. She offered these reminders and tips in a Webinar at Poynter’s NewsU, “Trauma Awareness: What Every Journalist Needs to Know.”

Risk factors for trauma include exposure to a greater number of traumatic assignments; time in field covering the event; personal trauma; low perceived social support.

Trauma reactions are normal human responses. Usually they pass after four weeks, and the first week or two are the most difficult.

Reaction to trauma can take several forms: sleeplessness, intrusive images of the event, anger, being easily startled, self-medicating with drugs and alcohol, and numbing/isolation/loss of empathy.

Warning signs of trauma include shutting yourself away or, conversely, not being able to stop talking about the event; intense and sometimes irrational anger; guilt and confusion; uncharacteristically missing deadlines or obsessing about work; or other atypical behavior.

The impact of trauma can result in a disconnection with family and friends or colleagues, declining health and inability to do your job as well.

She offers these suggestions.

Take care of yourself. People often overlook the basics of life when they are stressed. This includes:

  • Exercise
  • Sleep
  • Drink water
  • Eat well & regularly
  • Find things that make you laugh
  • Enjoy music/art/books
  • Allow yourself to cry

Establish peer support in your organization:

  • Make contact with other staffers
  • Clarify what sort of support is needed
  • Listen
  • Help brainstorm or problem solve
  • Educate about trauma responses
  • Ensure social supports are in place
  • Refer
  • Follow up

Key points for peer supporters include:

  • Be discreet and keep confidentiality
  • Stay open minded
  • Act as an educated listener, NOT a counselor
  • Check back in 3-4 weeks with your colleague

One set of guidelines for a structured conversation with peer support follows this acronym: FINE

  • Facts: Talk it through. What happened? When, where, how — not why
  • Impact: Focus on thoughts & feelings
  • Now: How have you been? How are you doing now?
  • Education: It’s not unusual, remind each other of likely responses

For more on how to recognize and manage stress and trauma, as well as how news organizations can develop an action plan to help staffers who are experiencing trauma, go to “Trauma Awareness: What Every Journalist Needs to Know,” a Webinar replay at Poynter’s NewsU and “Journalism and Trauma,” a self-directed course. Read more


How to publish credible information online while news is breaking

In the aftermath of mistakes made while covering the shootings in Arizona, media organizations may re-examine their practices and policies for ensuring accuracy. Does your news org have updated guidelines, standards or policies for making decisions during breaking news? A 2009 study by the Associated Press Managing Editors (APME) found that many newsrooms have standards for their print reports, but few policies address digital delivery.

Sioux City Journal Editor Mitch Pugh led an APME Online Journalism Credibility Project that explored issues in publishing breaking news online. Here are some of the questions he encourages every newsroom to ask before making information public.

Ethics questions

  • “Official” information vs. independent reporting: When do you go with either?
  • Scanner traffic: Do you report what you hear on a scanner?
  • When do you name someone? How do you source the name? Do you name them before “official” sources have released the name(s) and, if so, under what circumstances? Does it matter if the person is a juvenile?
  • What kind of video/photos are appropriate in a breaking news setting? How do you handle juveniles, crime victims and others in those media?
  • What are the expectations for how we will treat juveniles involved in breaking news, especially in the age of Google?
  • How do we handle corrections to breaking news or changing information in breaking news reports? How prominently do we correct and in what manner? Do you correct if information is simply changing? What’s the threshold?

Credibility questions

  • How quickly do you report information that may change?
  • How transparent/explicit should you be with readers that a story is “developing”?
  • What kinds of sources are credible in a breaking news setting? Is that different than reporting for print? What do readers think?
  • What does accuracy mean in a breaking news setting? Is it what you know to be true now?
  • Does being first have an impact on your credibility? Do readers find you more credible if you are first or is being “right” more important?

Social media and digital delivery questions

  • What do readers think of reporting what others are reporting? How does this apply to re-tweeting?
  • What expectations do readers have for crowdsourcing? How credible is the information gathered?
  • How credible is user-submitted breaking news, especially photos and video? What are the expectations or rules?
  • Is information gathered from social media sites about individuals or groups considered credible and/or relevant?

This material was drawn from the NewsU Webinar, “Ethics and Credibility of Breaking News Online,” where you can learn more about how to develop and refine your news organization’s guidelines. It’s part of a Webinar series about online credibility in partnership with APME. Read more


News University Launches Training Initiative with the Online News Association

The Poynter Institute’s News University (NewsU) announced Thursday that it is partnering with the Online News Association (ONA) to deliver a series of Webinars in 2009 that will focus on applying cutting-edge technology innovations to journalism. This innovative training initiative combines ONA’s expert membership with NewsU’s training expertise and unique e-learning site. ONA and NewsU plan to create engaging training sessions that address topics important to anyone producing news for the Internet.

“Now more than ever, journalists need focused, inexpensive and accessible help using new technologies that add depth and scope to their online storytelling,” said ONA President Jonathan Dube. “Our goal in partnering with NewsU is to leave journalists inspired and empowered to try something new.”

“ONA and NewsU are both critical resources for journalists, journalism educators, journalism students and anyone else looking to advance their skills in the rapidly changing world of digital media,” said Howard Finberg, director of interactive learning at The Poynter Institute. “By bringing together NewsU’s technology with ONA’s thought leadership, we have an opportunity to create tremendous training for journalists and others interested in online news.”
Rather than looking at today’s tools, such as Twitter or Facebook, the training sessions will focus on the very latest technologies and how they can be used in everyday journalism. The first Webinar, scheduled for Jan. 28, 2009, covers Semantic Web, which is the extension of the World Wide Web that enables people to share content beyond the boundaries of applications and Web sites.

In addition to January’s Webinar, three others are planned for March, May and September. Webinars are free for ONA members and feature a nominal charge for non-members. Replays of the Webinars will also be available on NewsU. 

About Poynter’s News University
NewsU is committed to providing interactive, inexpensive courses that appeal to journalists at all levels of experience and in all types of media. Officially launched in April 2005, NewsU offers an innovative approach to helping journalists enhance their skills. News University is the e-learning project of The Poynter Institute, and is supported by a grant from the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation.

About the Online News Association
The Online News Association is the world’s largest association of online journalists, with more than 1,700 members. ONA’s mission is to inspire innovation and excellence among digital journalists to better serve the public. The membership includes news writers, producers, designers, editors, bloggers, photographers, technologists and others who produce news for the Internet or other digital delivery systems, as well as academic members and others interested in the development of online journalism. ONA also administers the prestigious Online Journalism Awards at its annual conference, held this year Oct. 1-3 at the Hilton San Francisco.
Read more


On the Linkage of Profitability and Usefulness

By Bennie L. Ivory
Executive editor
Louisville (Ky.) Courier-Journal

…There must be adjustments on both the business side and news side.

sides need to find a happy medium where they can come together and
produce the type of news and information that will be both profitable
and useful for readers.

The business side must realize that it
takes time and resources to produce the kind of journalism that we
should be providing. The deep newsroom cuts over that past few years
threaten to undercut that goal and chase away some of the profession’s
best and brightest.

The news side must realize that:

  • It must adjust to changes in reading habits.
  • It must work hand-in-hand with the business and technology departments to develop new platforms to deliver news and information.
  • It will need to work closer with the business side to develop new
    print products that not only produce new revenue streams but also serve
    the reader’s need to quality news and information. We must be careful
    not to cross the lines of advertising and news in pursuit of more
  • More resources will have to be shifted to Web sites because it is
    clear that more and more people are going to the Internet for their
    news and information. But we must apply the same standards to
    information we put on the Web as we apply to our print products.

We must explain to editors and reporters why it is important that we must invest in our Websites.

must train them to break news on the Web and to explain it in more
depth and detail in the next day’s print product; train them that we
want to be first with the news and information of the day.

must train editors on all desks to post stories on the Web, train
photographers to post stories on the Web from the field and train them
to shoot video and to produce high-quality multi-media packages.

should look for more and more ways to connect with readers and to allow
their voices to be heard in print and online. Many of us are engaging
in citizen journalism, which can be a good thing. However, we must
establish some system of monitoring and verifying the information that
we allow people to post on our Websites.

As we ponder this new
world, we must not lose sight of the importance of diversity in our
newsrooms. There is a great danger that the importance of diversity
will be lost in this rush to change. Let us not make the mistakes that
were made by our early predecessors and forget — or ignore — the
importance of having different voices in our newsrooms.

may all sound like a bold, daunting new world, and it is in many ways.
But as we  go down this road, we must maintain the high standards
that have made this industry what it is today — the greatest business
in the world. Read more


The College Search

By Christine Dellert

Senior year. The last high school homecoming week, the last prom, and the best yearbook. It’s supposed to be the most fun you’ve had in four years, except for those darn college applications.

Applying to universities is stressful, with hundreds of schools across the country from which to choose. Which one is right for you?

Public or private? In-state or out? The choice is linked to how much you want to spend, what you want to study, and where you feel the most comfortable. There is no wrong answer.

For me, the right answer was the University of Central Florida in Orlando. Its campus is newer, its news reporting classes are smaller, and its journalism program is full of potential for any student who’s willing to work hard.

Before deciding on UCF, I made a list of my top five colleges and visited each one. I talked to students and professors and toured the campuses.

Tours are just one way, though, to get a feel for a program. If you’re leaning toward a major in journalism, you also can read through the school’s newspaper or listen to a radio or TV broadcast. Most can be accessed on the Internet.

Remember, it doesn’t matter where you decide to go to school, as long as you know what you want out of your college experience and strive to achieve it.

UCF’s journalism school is still fairly small, and it’s not yet nationally known. But its professors are dedicated to teaching and mentoring students who show an interest in a journalism career. They encourage students to get clips published and apply for internships. In the end, though, it’s really up to you to mold your future.

I started working for the school’s independent newspaper the first day I got to town. College papers are great training grounds and probably will provide you with the stories and experience to apply for a professional internship.

Getting those internships early is important. It shows your dedication and interest in a journalism career. Out of high school or as a college freshman, try freelancing or working for hometown or local media outlets.

Being involved in student journalism organizations also can open up opportunities. Because UCF’s program is still growing, its students are helping to shape the school. Last semester, an adviser and a group of print students reactivated a university chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. As president of the chapter, I’m organizing internship and writing workshops, planning newsroom tours, and bringing in guest speakers. All of these events are designed to help aspiring journalists land experience — and that first job after graduation.

Christine Dellert participated in Poynter’s High School Program in 2001 and 2002. She expects to graduate from UCF in 2006. You can reach her at

CLARIFICATION: A previous version of this article said the SPJ chapter at the University of Central Florida started this year. However, the chapter had previously been inactive and was reactived this year. Read more


Make Plans, But Keep Your Options Open

By Lee Ettleman

The first step in applying to college is to buy a tape deck.

Record a quick message with all the details about your search. Then, whenever anyone asks, you’ll have an answer. Just press play.

You know the routine. Relatives or neighbors edge up beside you, maybe put an arm around your shoulders. Their eyes sparkle, like they’re about to launch into a deep conversation or finally reveal some great secret. Then they pop the question.

“Where are you going to college?”

Click, goes the tape deck. “I’m applying to colleges X, Y, and Z. I really want to get into X. No, I don’t know what I want to major in.”

Rewind. Click. Play. Repeat.

As all high school seniors looking to go to college know, applying to schools is nerve-wracking. What they don’t tell you is how annoying it can be. The mail carrier really doesn’t need to know what you’re going to be doing with your life 10 years from now. And guess what — neither do you.

Well, not exactly.

For me, high school was basically a high-powered rifle, and I was the ammunition. I’d curl up in a ball and wait in a dark compartment for someone to launch me at a target in the distance. The bull’s-eye wasn’t anything concrete but, rather, a vaguely defined future that glowed with someone else’s vision of success.

Don’t let that concern you. If what your parents, teachers, guidance counselors, and mail carriers want isn’t what you want — tough for them.

And don’t feel you have to know exactly where you’re going, either. Every college I visited touted some degree of liberal arts-ism, letting applicants choose from any range of majors and courses. Pick a college now and a future, well, whenever that future arrives.

At the same time, a sense of purpose doesn’t hurt. No, you don’t need to know your exact career path, where you’re going to live at age 32, or what your dog’s name and favorite brand of pet food will be, but there’s a definite bonus in having a plan. With a plan, you can draw up a list of tasks and check them off.

I didn’t have a plan. After all my acceptances (and, yes, rejections) were in, I was flipping coins over three schools until the May 1 deadline. If I accepted an invitation to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., I would emerge four years later as an engineer. At Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., I had applied to journalism school. At Duke University in Durham, N.C., I would be an undecided liberal arts student.

From that experience, I learned the value of a sense of direction. Because I applied to radically different programs — engineering, journalism, and liberal arts — whichever I chose would, no matter what the friendly admissions officer told me, dictate the rest of my life.

I finally chose the journalism program at Northwestern. I enjoyed science but considered myself better at writing, and I still have the option of law school or a second major. Plus, reporting is like a survey course in life itself. While working for The Daily Northwestern, our campus newspaper, I’ve been able to write about hospitals, housing programs, astrophysics, and churches — getting a liberal arts education 600 words at a time.

So don’t worry too much. Have an idea about what you want to be doing for the next few years, but make sure it’s your own idea. Don’t be afraid of committing to one path.

And if you do change your mind, rest assured, the questions will come back. Just have your tape deck ready. You’ll be fine.

Rewind. Click. Play. Repeat.

Lee Ettleman completed Poynter’s High School Journalism Program in 2004 and enrolled in Northwestern University’s Medill School of Journalism that fall. You can reach him at
Read more


Rules for 2006 ASNE Awards

  • Distinguished Writing Awards

  • Jesse Laventhol Prizes for Deadline News Reporting

  • Freedom Forum/ASNE Award for Distinguished Writing on Diversity

  • Community Service Photojournalism Award

The American Society of Newspaper Editors annually recognizes excellence in the journalistic crafts of writing and photography. ASNE is the premier organization of editors in the Americas and its activities concentrate on improving the diversity, readership, and credibility of newspapers.

ASNE will present eight awards for work done in 2005. Descriptions of the awards follow, along with the rules for submissions.

Four Distinguished Writing Awards
Cash Prizes: $2,500. These awards are funded by the ASNE Foundation, with the support of the Society members. Entries are judged on the basis of style, precision of word usage, structure, descriptive power, narrative skill, and the like. Credibility and attribution will be valued, and credit will be given to concise and efficient writing.

Non-Deadline Writing: Any writing by an individual (except commentary or editorials) that is not accomplished on deadline. The submission may be drawn from any section of the newspaper and may include investigative and news-related material as well as features such as profiles, interviews, trend stories, lifestyle, travel, etc. Minimum of 3 articles, maximum of 5. A nominating letter may accompany the entry but is not required.

Commentary/Column Writing: Any writing by an individual that expresses a personal point of view, including columns and other journalistic forms of opinion, but not editorials. Minimum of 3 articles, maximum of 5. A nominating letter may accompany the entry but is not required.

Editorial Writing: Editorials, signed or unsigned, written by one individual, that speak for the newspaper. Minimum of 3 editorials, maximum of 5. A nominating letter may accompany the entry but is not required.

Local Watchdog Reporting: Outstanding work done by newspapers that holds important local institutions accountable for their actions. The reporting should be investigative in nature, and judges will give preference to work that made a documentable difference in the newspaper’s community. The work must be anchored within the community — reports from overseas or national reporting does not qualify. Individual or team work will be accepted for this category. Minimum of 3 articles, maximum of 5. Each story in a series will count as one of the — as will sidebars. Two supplemental sources may be included beyond the five entered stories to provide context and must be labeled as such. A nominating letter explaining the work and its impact is welcome.

Two Jesse Laventhol Prizes for Deadline News Reporting
Cash Prizes: $10,000. The Laventhol Prizes are endowed with a generous gift from David Laventhol in honor of his father, Jesse Laventhol, a reporter for newspapers in Philadelphia in the 1920s and 1930s.

Entries are judged for writing and substance in covering breaking news events under deadline pressure. Descriptive power, literary style, depth and breadth of reporting, timeliness, completeness, and perspective will be evaluated.

Deadline Reporting by an Individual: Newspapers are urged to consider entering deadline stories from sports, metro, national, and foreign desks. This category should not be confined to the big local story. Minimum of 1 article, maximum of 3. A nominating letter no longer than one page must accompany the entry.

Deadline Reporting by a Team: The submission should consist of a single day’s published work by the team. Minimum of 1 article, maximum of 3. A nominating letter no longer than one page must accompany the entry. NOTE: A writer nominated for individual deadline reporting cannot be entered for the team award.

One Freedom Forum/ASNE Award for Distinguished Writing on Diversity
Cash Prize: $2,500. This award is funded by a gift from The Freedom Forum.

The Diversity Award: News and feature writing by an individual that helps readers understand how racial and ethnic diversity are changing their communities. Columns and editorials are not eligible in this category. Minimum of 3 articles, maximum of 5. A nominating letter may accompany the entry but is not required.

Presentation for Writing Awards
• Submit entries on 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheets. Each article should be cut into columns and pasted onto 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheets with no fold-overs.
• Do not photographically reduce articles.
• Original tear sheets, rather than photocopies, are preferred for the cut-and-paste mounting.
• If tear sheets are not available, computer printouts of copy are acceptable, but must be presented on 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheets.
• Headline and date of publication must be included and may be typed at the head of individual sheets.
• Articles for submission must be placed inside a letter-size file folder, with an official entry form stapled to the front of the folder.
• A nominating letter must accompany entries for the Laventhol Deadline Reporting awards. Letters are optional for the other writing award categories. All letters should be limited to one page.

One Community Service Photojournalism Award
Cash Prize: $2,500. The award is funded by the ASNE Foundation.
• Photojournalism Award: For compelling work by an individual. This contest will reward a photographer who has an understanding of his/ her community and captures the sense of that community with powerful and meaningful images.
• A maximum of 15 prints.
• A letter no longer than one page must accompany the entry, and it must be specific in explaining the photojournalism’s effect on the community.

Presentation for Photojournalism Award
• Photos should be on 8-1/2″ x 11″ or 8″ x 11″ glossy paper. (Good quality computer printouts are acceptable.) Do not send prints larger than 8-1/2″ x 11″.
• Send no more than 15 prints from the project. All photos submitted must have been published in the newspaper or on the newspaper’s Web site.
• To establish context, tearsheets must be submitted for the entire project, even if they show more than the 15 best or most telling pictures selected.
• The photographic prints may be submitted in color or black and white, regardless of how they originally appeared.

About the Competition
The ASNE awards are designed to recognize, foster, and reward the finest writing in daily newspapers and wire services and the most outstanding community service photojournalism. Content may be great events or small happenings.
• In ALL categories except Deadline Reporting by a Team and Local Watchdog Reporting, entries must be the work of one person.
• All entries must have been published in 2005 and must be postmarked no later than Feb. 1, 2006.

General Rules and Procedures
Please follow the outlined rules and procedures carefully to ensure that your entry is accepted. Entries that do not conform to these rules may be disqualified.

• Eligibility: All daily newspapers and wire services (that serve daily newspapers) in the United States are eligible to enter. Outside the United States, daily newspapers that are headed by an active member of ASNE are also eligible. All entries must be submitted in English.

• The work of full-time or part-time employees is eligible. The work of free-lancers is not.

• A ranking editor of the organization must sign and submit the entry.

• Deadline: Entries must be submitted by Feb. 1, 2006. Only work published in 2005 is eligible. The awards will be presented at the April 2006 ASNE Convention in Seattle.

• Team Entries: Team entries are eligible only for two categories this year: Deadline Reporting by a Team and Local Watchdog Reporting. All other categories accept only work by an individual.

• No Multiple Entries: A news organization can make only one entry in each of the eight categories. An individual cannot be entered in more than one category, with this single exception: A writer nominated for the team award in deadline reporting can also be nominated in one of the distinguished writing categories (but not in the individual deadline reporting category).

• Reprint Rights : Reprint rights are granted to The Poynter Institute, ASNE, and the publisher of “Best Newspaper Writing” by virtue of entry in this contest.

• Entry Forms: Entry forms may be filled out online at, then printed out and sent in with the items you mail. If you cannot complete the form online, you may request a paper copy from ASNE’s Suzanne Martin at (703) 453-1124 or

• No Fees: There is no entry fee for the competitions.

• Submission: Entries must be postmarked no later than Feb. 1, 2006.

Send articles, photos, and printed entry forms by mail or carrier (not by fax or e-mail) to:

ASNE Awards/Jesse Laventhol Prizes
The Poynter Institute
801 Third Street South
St. Petersburg, FL 33701-4920
Phone: (727) 821-9494

The Poynter Institute handles administrative aspects of the contest.

Questions: Please see Frequently Asked Questions or contact ASNE’s Suzanne Martin at (703) 453-1124 or Read more


“Journalism Without Scandal” Poynter Report Available

Newsrooms across the country are still grappling with the fallout from the ethical scandals of 2003. This special issue of the Poynter Report offers ways your newspaper can evaluate its values, culture, and standards and will help you move the conversation from the coffee room to the newsroom.

You’ll read what Poynter faculty and participants in the recent “Journalism Without Scandal” conference have to say about values and culture. And you’ll find guidelines to help you evaluate and apply your newspaper’s standards and practices.

To order your free copy, send me an e-mail and I’ll ship one off right away.

Vicki Krueger

P.S. In the meantime, you can read articles from the issue online here. Read more


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